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Importance of dance exams when in the USA


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This may not be the place for my question, but hours of searching have brought me here as my only hope.  :)


How important are RAD examinations (not vocational) worldwide?  


We moved from the UK to the US two years ago.  Although my daughter is young (8), she has been dancing since before she was three years old.  In the UK she did an ADA Posy exam.  Then there were problems with the teacher and she had to retire.  We found another school, but she joined at an odd time.   We then moved to the US.  She has been in Ballet here under a lovely teacher who teaches the French method.  (she also is a former director of a ballet in Germany - many many moons ago).  


Should she be doing the RAD examinations as she goes along, or is it okay to not have those specific exams?


Thanks so much!

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Others will no doubt correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that RAD exams, and dance exams generally, are not important in the US and that dance schools do not follow set syllabi laid down by examination boards as they do in the UK. Instead, individual schools devise their own teaching plans and assess their pupils themseves.

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We have always been encouraged to follow the RAD balletexamination system as opposed to ISTD and BBO and they are lovely for a recreational dancer. 


However at auditions for the tops schools results are not even looked at - they are just something to judge a dancers standard by.


Non syllabus classes have lots going for them.  It probably depends on what your daughter wants to do.  More and more in the uk I am seeing dancers doing non syllabus Russian technique and they are amazing!

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To my mind the advantage of going recognised syllabus exams us that you have sine sort of guarantee that the teacher us qualified & knows what they are doing and that the syllabus has been put together by experts to ensure children are covering the appropriate technique at an appropriate stage in their dance education.


Of course there will be talented teachers who devise their own syllabus but equally there will be many who do not. One common problem I hear of on us based dance forums is children put into advanced classes who are Anything but and when they come to change school are surprised to find they are little more than beginners.


Of course even within the syllabus/exam system there are bound to be schools of varying quality if teaching.

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My DS did RAD grades 1 and 2 at around age 10, then not another exam ever again, as he switched to Vaganova. At 13 he got accepted to summer school by ABT, Houston, Bolshoi NY and Kirov Washington on the strength of a dvd audition (as well as RBS London from photos). So I would say that proves US schools couldn't give 2 hoots about UK grade exams!

I guess if you thought you might at some point return to the UK the RAD grades might be useful to demonstrate what level she was at, but to be honest ballet is such an international discipline with so many different pedagogies I don't think any one set of exams would confer an advantage so I wouldn't get too het up about it- especially if finding an RAD teacher in the US is onerous...

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I think it depends what you mean by "important".

Exams are clearly not important when it comes to getting into vocational school or pursuing a career as a performer. But of course the vast majority of children who take dance classes are not going to do that and for them, doing exams can be a way of demonstrating their attainment to the "outside world".  In the UK, there is a national framework for qualifications which enables Universities, potential employers etc to compare qualifications. As well as academic qualifications, other things including music and dance exams fit into the framework, and the higher exams awarded by some dance organisations (including the RAD) attract "points" that can count towards University entrance requirements. It depends exactly what course you are applying for as to how much bearing this type of qualification will have - having a distinction at Intermediate Ballet isn't likely to do you much good getting in for Medicine if you've only got a D for Alevel Chemistry for instance - but they can be helpful and even for unrelated courses they demonstrate a degree of determination and hard work as well as showing that a student has more than academic achievements to show.

The other value of exams is if a student wants to become a teacher. Most of the dance organisations will expect students to have attained a certain level themselves before they can commence teacher training. I think you have to have passed Intermediate as a minimum requirement to train as an RAD teacher.

And some children do just like doing the exams. My DD has always enjoyed her exam work, likes the structure of moving through a specified programme of learning and gets a lot of satisfaction from achieving each level. That's not to say that she doesn't enjoy free work and other types of class as well of course - it doesn't have to be one or the other.

From what I understand, it is much commoner in the US for teachers not to follow a specific syllabus or be affiliated to a particular dance organisation than it is in the UK so I imagine your DD would be in the majority in attending a school that does not do exams.I wouldn't particularly worry about it. If she is enjoying herself and getting good quality teaching that's what really matters.

If you return to the UK at some point she can always do exams if she wants then. When my DD's teacher gets new pupils who have danced elsewhere she always watches them a few times before deciding for herself which grade/class is appropriate for them, regardless of how long they have been dancing or what exams they have done. I imagine most teachers would do this too, so if you do come back to the UK your daughter would be put into a class suitable to the level she was at then and the lack of exams wouldn't affect that.

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From an American point of view.....


Syllabus teachers and training are the exception here.  In this county - a very large county - there is only one studio which offers RAD as part of a larger schedule.


In my 40 years of taking ballet class, I only came across one Cecchetti teacher (from whom I took class for three years)  and two RAD teachers.  All three studios were not successful.  Two of the teachers grossly inadequate.


As a student, my teachers were from various schools/styles:  Russian (pre-Vaganova), Balanchine, Royal Ballet, French, German, Craske, Eugene Loring, Romania/Hungary, etc.


As a teacher, I quickly learned to see what the student could do, how it was done, rather than putting much - or any - weight on a listing of past education.  What matters is what happens in the classroom.  I generally found that a syllabus educated student who came into my classroom had difficulty acculturating - great difficulty in quickly taking on new work, putting together a constant stream of new dance sequences.  They wanted to be doing the same thing to the same music.  But, every day my class was different as was the music.  They found it frustrating.  If they stuck it out - they were happy with their new found ability to quickly absorb and perform an always changing dance pattern.  For some it took a couple of years of steady work to break through that wall. 


The same I think is true of the teacher - all the certificates hanging on the wall or just that.  It's what is happening between her/him and the students is what is important.


I think that if one went into an American ballet class and listed the RAD (or any other syllabus) exams passed, the teacher would listen politely and then wait to see what happens  when the music starts.

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