Nobody likes exams! Any exam can be very intense and overwhelming but unlike any written test a ballet exam has no right or wrong answer. It’s all about how you prepare for them and present yourself. Instead of thinking ‘this is a ballet exam’, think of them as a performance where the judges are someone familiar, like your parents or teacher, and you are dancing on your lounge room floor.
If you've never been to a ballet exam it's a good idea to know what you are preparing for. So...
What is a ballet exam?
A ballet exam is a way for ballet teachers and schools to grade your progress through the stages of learning ballet. They are practical exams where every dancer gets the opportunity to display their technique and ability. There are a few different syllabi for ballet exams with the most widely followed being The Royal Academy of Dance, The Cecchetti Method and Vaganova Method.
Depending on the syllabus your ballet school follows your exam exercises and grading will vary. The most widely taught syllabus in Australia is RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) and this is my experience of RAD exams.
What happens in a ballet exam?
In pre-primary when you walk into the exam room, you’ll join up to 8 other dancers – much less scary than being alone! The examiners will ask all of you to warm up as you would in ballet class – legs and arms – this is part of the content through all exams.
After the warm-up, you will be asked in pairs or solo to demonstrate techniques such as port de bras, demi-plies, tendus, petit jetes etc which will be selected based on your level of achievement. Then you will be asked to perform your prepared solo – this is your time to perform and shine.
Your ballet teacher will give you excellent guidance on what you’ll need to prepare for, they are your best source of information and reassurance.
My top tips on how to prepare for your ballet exam
- Learn your routine inside out and be very prepared but don’t focus on the result, focus on your performance. If you have practiced and listened to your teacher that is more than enough.
- The examiner is looking forward to seeing you dance, as an audience member would be. It is like a show for them, a chance to see new talent. Try looking forward to performing instead of worrying about the exam.
- Prepare your outfit the night before, making sure it’s your very ballet best (and your most comfortable) - clean shoes, fresh tights, and your favourite leotard and skirt
- Have your hair in a neat ballet bun (If Mum needs some tips on an easy ballet bun, check out our video tutorial here)
- Drink enough water before you go in but not so much that you feel all waterlogged or like you will need the bathroom right before you go in. It’s hard to dance with a full tummy.
- Before you walk in, take a few deep breaths in and out maybe 3 – 5 times. Then calmly walk into the room like you are walking on stage. Remind yourself it is your time to shine.
- Once you are in the studio and have been introduced to the examiner, make eye contact and smile before you start. It’ll help relieve your tension, and engage your examiner for your performance.
- Try to remain confident during the exam and show the examiner that you are engaged throughout.