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ISTD Cecchetti and standards/grades confusion


taxi4ballet

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Hi all, I wonder if anybody can help with this please and clear up a bit of confusion for us.

 

I've been having a conversation with another mum whose dd has recently changed dance schools and is playing ballet catch-up, having spent several years at a dance school which didn't really do ballet, but concentrated on other dance styles/competitions etc.

 

She's now very keen on ballet and dancing at a Cecchetti school, and her mum has asked my advice. But we are both confused by the whole grade/standard thing, and aren't sure whether she's on the right track or doing enough classes at the right grade/standard in order to progress quickly enough to catch up. My dd always did RAD and I know that the grades aren't comparable so it's hard for me to gauge what advice to give.

 

I am hoping that someone can explain:

 

* The major differences between a 'standard' and a 'grade'; 

 

* and also whether you have any knowledge/experience of whereabouts in the grade/standard that dc's with ability and potential would usually be at this age (nearly 11) and studying the ISTD Cecchetti syllabus.

 

This would be a big help to my friend, as she's not sure whether her dd needs to increase the amount of ballet she does, and because my knowledge of Cecchetti is nil, I'm not being much use when she picks my brains! 

 

Please can anyone help with this one?

 

Many thanks :)  

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I'm not familiar with cechetti but I always thought that ISTD Standards known in ISTD as Class Examinations were class exams with slightly less content designed for more recreational dancers who can't fit in the hours to cover the full content of the graded exam, or they can be used as an interim grade for those not quite ready yet for the full grade.

 

The teacher takes the exam in the form of a class & is allowed to encourage the candidate but not to give corrections.

 

They are not accredited by Ofqual on the Quslifications framework like graded exams are.

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The reason I'm asking is that my friend's dd was recently accepted onto an associate programme, and it has become apparent that others the same age are a lot further along in their training. We are trying to figure out whether she should stay where she is with a lovely teacher (but who likes to take things slowly!), or find another school with more available classes and where she can hopefully progress more quickly and catch up with the other associates.

 

What ISTD grade/standard would associates aged 10/11 normally be in?

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It depends on how much ballet she has done before though. If she hasn't done much she will be behind the other associates? The standards are designed for students who only take one class a week and/or who don't have a perfect physique for ballet. They are the same 'level' as the grade but less exercises I think and there is more emphasis on dance quality in the marking. You still need to have good technique to get a good mark though. The teacher goes in to the exam room and teaches the class but they pretty much just say the name of each exercise and that's it, it's reassurring for them to have the teacher in the room though! They are also not asked questions and don't have to do free enchainements. In the grades they do both from grade 1.

What level is she in? and how many classes is she doing? Some schools only do standards and then do vocationals afterwards, it doesn't preclude that and most teachers will be doing non syllabus work as well (maybe more if they only have to learn a standard). The content of a cecchetti grade is quite a bit more than the equivalent RAD and a lot of things seem to be introduced earlier (eg grand jete en tournant is in standard and grade 6 onwards) . You also take all 6 grades or standards before doing vocationals (or senior certificate which is the standard equivalent). If a dancer had done ballet for a few years and had potential I think you'd expect around grade 4/5/ standard 5 as average at that age. My daughter does 2 classes and takes a grade every year. She could get higher marks if she stayed in each grade longer Ive no doubt, but personally I don't like that approach and she never gets bored as they also do non syllabus work. I love the cecchetti syllabus and think it builds beautiful dancers, have they spoken to the teacher about progression?

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and aren't sure whether she's on the right track or doing enough classes at the right grade/standard in order to progress quickly enough to catch up. 

 

You would do your friend's DD a favour by (gently) suggesting to your friend that she shouldn't be thinking about "quick" progress. Putting a child into a grade too high so that they "catch up" is a recipe for skimping on the basics and acquiring bad habits. Slow & steady ... she'll catch up eventually.

 

Is there a confusion between graded exams and actual dance standards? Exams/grades are not the be all & end all of  ballet - they are only set syllabi by organisations who bring together expertise to develop an age appropriate & progressive plan for teaching ballet. So if you did the training from the start, at age 11, a young girl would be ready for around about Pre-Elementary or Elementary - which I think is Intermediate Foundation now?

 

But not if she hasn't done the basics properly! Please, try to tactfully stop her thinking about "progressing quickly" amd "catching up" - it may be quick, but it won't be real solid progress.

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Whilst to a certain extent I agree Kate dd used to go to a dance school where they took the grades very slowly. She started age 6 & took grade 1 aged 8. The teacher was excellent but by age 11 almost 12 dd still hadn't taken RAD grade 3 (her class had been studying at that grade for almost 18 months by that point) & dd did feel very behind.

 

She's now 15 & passed her Intermediate with distinction last year. Her peers at the old school have only just done IF & I think are in about grade 6.

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You would do your friend's DD a favour by (gently) suggesting to your friend that she shouldn't be thinking about "quick" progress. Putting a child into a grade too high so that they "catch up" is a recipe for skimping on the basics and acquiring bad habits. Slow & steady ... she'll catch up eventually.

 

Is there a confusion between graded exams and actual dance standards? Exams/grades are not the be all & end all of  ballet - they are only set syllabi by organisations who bring together expertise to develop an age appropriate & progressive plan for teaching ballet. So if you did the training from the start, at age 11, a young girl would be ready for around about Pre-Elementary or Elementary - which I think is Intermediate Foundation now?

 

But not if she hasn't done the basics properly! Please, try to tactfully stop her thinking about "progressing quickly" amd "catching up" - it may be quick, but it won't be real solid progress.

Whilst I agree with this on the whole, I think she is a long way behind, having been through the system ourselves. Obviously, since I'm posting on behalf of someone else -whose first language isn't English which is why I'm asking - I can't really give out information, but she clearly has potential because she's got on to an associate programme despite her lack of training.

 

The thing that worries me is that I'm not sure whether she will be able to get to where she needs to be if she stays at the school she's currently at - and after all, others won't hang around and wait for her to catch up, they will forge further and further ahead!

 

She has had ballet training from an early age, but the quality of ballet teaching at the original school was (how can I put this politely?) pretty grim, and the new school takes things very slowly indeed (and is a small school with a limited number of classes) which is good from the point of view of correcting technique etc, but not when she is so far behind already.

 

To give you an idea, she is in Standard 2, and she will be 12 by the time her class does the Grade 2 exam. There are also several new beginners in the current class, so progress is going to remain slow. 

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DD started age at a school where Cecchetti was taught, at that time the classes were split, some did the grade others did standard. It was always the weaker, less confident ones who did Standard, they all moved up grades together. Two years ago, for various reasons she moved to a RAD school. It was quiet a shock, after 8 years of Cecchetti. That term she was due to take Grade 6 Cecchetti, her new school put her in RAD Grade 6. It took her a good six months to get used to the change in language and positions of arms. However 2 years on she is about to take her Intermediate in December and hopefully her Grade 8 next term,she is 15.

 

We were always told ( by a friend who teaches both Cecchetti and RAD) that Cecchetti grades 1-4 are harder than RAD grades 1-4 but from grade 5 upwards they even out.

 

DD feels she really benefits from knowing both styles.

 

At the end of the day Grades in dance are like grades in Music ( both my girls are Grade 8 on two instruments) they are guide lines. It's very easy to get swept along with " you are this age, so should be this Grade" we are all different, some will get there much quicker than others. The really important thing is that your child enjoys their classes and gets as much as possible out if them.

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There is pre-primary, primary and grade 1-6 before IF and you can only take exams from 5, grades from 7, so if you took all the exams you'd be quite a bit older than 11 for IF. The minimum age for that exam is 12. I do think they need to speak to the teacher as she probably does need to stay in lower grades for a while to establish technique but you're correct that she is behind. My daughter will take standard 2 at 7, grade 2 the following year. They are all 7or 8 in her once a week class. If children are keen most teachers will find extra classes whether that be at their school or another, or other associates schemes though. If she likes the teacher I wouldnt just leave without exploring options as she may have a plan!

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If she likes the teacher I wouldnt just leave without exploring options as she may have a plan!

I'm not sure the teacher does have a plan though - students at this school spend at least two years in each standard/grade and don't normally start I/F until they are about 15 which is fine for recreational, but not if you have ambitions and your fellow associates are already starting I/F at 10 and 11.

 

When it comes to RAD then I'd think that doing two Grade 4 classes + a non-syllabus class, and thinking about I/F next year would be about right, so my friend's dd really needs to be doing Cecchetti grade 3 on top of standard/grade 2 doesn't she, even if there are technique issues still to be ironed out?

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My dd takes 2 G4 RAD classes a week, plus IF. She also attends a serious regular associate class and 2 monthly associate schemes. This is roughly similar to other girls on her regular associate scheme and she is 10 (year 6). However there are many girls at her local dance school who are 11/12 and just taking their G3 and won't probably start IF for a while, if at all, as every child is different and has different aspirations xx I'd agree and say she needs to openly speak to her teacher about her aspirations and ability as she's the best person to understand the little girls capabilities. It may be worth asking whether she'd allow her to do the grade above whilst also studying the grade she is still in to get the basics of technique whilst getting more hours of ballet in, which can only help.

Good luck to your friend and her dd xx

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Many schools start their students on IF around the age of 11/12 alongside grades 4/5. IF sits on the qualifications framework as about the same level (but more content & more precise) as Grade 5.

 

The minimum age to take the exam is 11. It's often taken in vocational schools around the end of year 7 (dd was a bit later due to feet issues)

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It may be worth asking whether she'd allow her to do the grade above whilst also studying the grade she is still in to get the basics of technique whilst getting more hours of ballet in, which can only help.

This isn't an option at the moment, availability is part of the problem. 

 

I had already suggested it because overlapping grades was what my dd did and it helped a lot. At one memorable (and exhausting!) point she was doing grade 7, Adv Found, Adv 1 and the barre bit of the Adv 2 class!

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That was the same with my dd.

 

To have done the grade above alongside her usual grade she'd have had to give up her favourite genre- tap.

 

All the teacher could offer was an intermediate class which for an 11 year old on grade 3 wasn't appropriate.

 

I think it sounds like she will have to lol elsewhere. In hindsight I wish dd had - but we didn't because we liked her teacher & knew the teaching itself wAs good.

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IF comes after grade 6 and is minimum of age 12. The problem is that the cecchetti levels are not really directly comparable to RAD. There is no way a grade 4 would start IF because the level is way higher and the work progresses through the grades so they would miss some. For example in IF there are double pirouettes and grande jete (normal and en tournant) and the adage requires an awful lot of strength. I know officially IF is below grade 6 but i think this was designed more with the RAD pathway in mind. I think she must find standard 2 quite easy at 11, perhaps she could just be moved up? Or could she do standard 4 as well if not standard 3? If she's serious she needs to be doing 3 classes.a week I would have thought?

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A lot of things seem to depend on the size of the school it seems as to whether some teachers will put children through for exams.

Do people think that sometimes the slow and steady approach is because there are not enough pupils in some years to,put children forward ....rather than some philosophy or other!!

 

There will be a natural time limit in the end though.... before boredom sets in ....imagine playing the same pieces of grade music for more than two years!! A balance has to be struck.

 

In this case I think a discussion with teacher is inevitable as she may not know that this pupil has suddenly become serious about it all maybe a way can be found with the current teacher but to be honest most really talented students will be taking Adv one (RAD) by about 14 years of age so this pupil does need to get a move on!!

I don't know what the equivalent of Adv One is in Cechetti though.

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A lot of things seem to depend on the size of the school it seems as to whether some teachers will put children through for exams.

Do people think that sometimes the slow and steady approach is because there are not enough pupils in some years to,put children forward ....rather than some philosophy or other!!

 

There will be a natural time limit in the end though.... before boredom sets in ....imagine playing the same pieces of grade music for more than two years!! A balance has to be struck.

Someone actually admitted to me that she didn't have room in her timetable for high grade classes with only a couple of students in, and it wasn't economic, so she slowed things down because the students would otherwise get to the end of what she could offer and leave.

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I was in a similar situation earlier this year with DD, she was in a school that had ridiculous amounts of favouritism and essentially if you were not part of their competition team you were held back. When we moved (for other reasons) I hadn't realised how much she was being held back until her new teacher explained how shocked she was that she was in lower grades when her ability to pick up/take corrections etc was amazing.

 

So at age 8.5 she joined the (old) school, she went into RAD g1 ballet, ISTD g1 tap, ISTD g2 modern (and did lots of non syllabus classes as well), fast forward to last xmas at age 10.5 she was in g2 tap, g2 ballet & g3 modern, we changed schools earlier this year. After a lot of hard work, doubling up on classes (and in the case of ballet doing the grade above and also doing 3 hours of IF a week) and private lessons she is now at age 11.5 g4 ballet, g3 tap (exams next term) and g5 modern. She is still working her socks off to improve due to being so behind for so long and is continuing to do the grade above her current ones.

 

So I completely understand the need to get through grades quickly, if DD had of remained at the old school she probably would have ended up being in g3 for everything until she was 13/14, which is fine if it's just a hobby but not if you want to dance professionally. We are really lucky to have such a wonderful teacher now who not only lets DD do as many additional classes as she wants (so she will do 2 x g5 modern, 2 x g4 ballet etc) but also the grade above because she knows DD wants to work hard and catch up to her peers and make a career out of dance. 

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So I completely understand the need to get through grades quickly, if DD had of remained at the old school she probably would have ended up being in g3 for everything until she was 13/14, which is fine if it's just a hobby but not if you want to dance professionally. We are really lucky to have such a wonderful teacher now who not only lets DD do as many additional classes as she wants (so she will do 2 x g5 modern, 2 x g4 ballet etc) but also the grade above because she knows DD wants to work hard and catch up to her peers and make a career out of dance. 

 

So pleased to hear that your dd has made so much progress so quickly :)

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A lot of things seem to depend on the size of the school it seems as to whether some teachers will put children through for exams.

Do people think that sometimes the slow and steady approach is because there are not enough pupils in some years to,put children forward ....rather than some philosophy or other!!

.

Yes

 

Not just whether there are enough children to put through for exams but also planning ahead for cost effectiveness of running the next grade up

 

It's interesting to see how some schools recognise this by offering to teach two grades combined or allowing students to do the next grade up alongside the current grade.

 

It can be so frustrating if you find yourself trapped and waiting for the next grade class to come along.

 

My DD was "exam ready" for her last ballet grade a year ago and essentially just ticked along waiting for there to be students ready to do the exam and for the next grade class to be introduced to the timetable. Very frustrating as now we aren't expecting very good marks :(

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I really don't understand why teachers in this situation don't offer individual pupils who are exam-ready before the main group the opportunity to do their exam at a regional centre/HQ/another school! If it is ISTD/Cecchetti there should be a regional centre close enough for this to be an option.

 

Yes Standard 2 at that age is WAY behind - if she is good enough to be an Associate, this child should be on the Graded pathway anyway and does not need to bother with the Standard  exams (apart from as a means to get extra classes). She should be aiming to take her G2 exam asap and also allowed to attend G3 classes alongside.

 

I know some teachers do expect pupils to take the Standard exam before the equivalent Grade, but this approach could only possibly work in a very large school where exam sessions are scheduled every term, so that talented pupils can move up quickly.

 

"Someone actually admitted to me that she didn't have room in her timetable for high grade classes with only a couple of students in, and it wasn't economic, so she slowed things down because the students would otherwise get to the end of what she could offer and leave."

 

OMG!!!! - sorry but this is a HUGE red flag - as soon as I read this I thought "get her out of there now!" This is the approach of a purely recreational teacher, and any serious student needs to find a serious teacher who aims to get the best out of each student, not play the numbers game!

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My understanding is that the Cechetti grades are roughly the same in 'level', if slightly different in content, to the ISTD Classical Ballet exams.

 

If so, as an indication, 11 year olds at DD's (good, but non-vocational and with a high proportion of dancers who will never dance more than recreationally) dance school would typically have taken Grade 3 and be working on Grade 4 as a minimum. Working backwards (DD is 13 and working towards Intermediate), I think that she and her cohort of serious recreational dancers (so not Associate level) took Grades 4 and 5 at around 11/12.

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I have a feeling I know which school this child attends & it is my gut instinct that the teacher is very keen on not 'skipping grades' even so far as there is something in the website for advanced students wishing to join having to go back/take additional classes if they have not previously studied cechetti.

 

Some teachers will evaluate new students to determine their current level & place them in an appropriate grade. Some will not & if on paper the child has only passed grade 1 they will not allow them to join a higher grade.

 

This happened to me as a child in ballroom & Latin dancing. Illness meant I studied for bronze ballroom having passed Latin but didn't take the exam as I was ill on exsm day. On my return I joined the silver class but then someone realised I hadn't passed the bronze exam so after 6 months I was put back down to bronze. Needless the day I left.

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This happened to me as a child in ballroom & Latin dancing. Illness meant I studied for bronze ballroom having passed Latin but didn't take the exam as I was ill on exsm day. On my return I joined the silver class but then someone realised I hadn't passed the bronze exam so after 6 months I was put back down to bronze. Needless the day I left.

That was rather badly handled wasn't it? How demoralising, no wonder you quit. If you had to take the bronze exam before doing the silver exam they should have let you stay in silver, and then do a few bronze classes just before the next exam session to refresh your memory.

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Unfortunately in Ballroom/Latin you are not allowed to skip levels - however you are allowed to take Bronze & Silver on the same day on the understanding that the silver result will be void if you fail the bronze (as with ballet vocational grades in RAD). So really not sure why they didn't let you do that?

 

Not allowing the skipping of grades in a school is fine provided that exam sessions are scheduled often enough. So a very strong student could take an exam each term, alternating Grades and Standards, while a weaker one may take a year or more in each level.

 

It is most definitely not fine in the circumstances described here, where the whole class is being held back to what seems like a ridiculous extent.

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