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GCSE Dance - any thoughts?


aileen
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My daughter (who is a recreational dancer) has the opportunity to do this as a twilight course at her school. I believe that this is the first time that the school has offered this and I'm a bit ambivalent about it. For years, until last September, my DD has had a ballet lesson on a Friday evening and has had to miss parties and decline invitations and this course will be run on Friday evenings. However, that is a decision for her. My concern is that this will be too much on top of her other 10 academic subjects. My DD is academic but she will need to work hard to get top grades and I see certain risks with GCSE dance ie subjectivity when it comes to assessing performance and choreography, problems with getting other students to practice / agree on choreography and the possibility of my DD getting a partner who is not at the same level as my DD (I hope that this doesn't sound arrogant; there is some doubt as to whether beginner dancers will be allowed to do this course). Can anyone give me any feedback about this course?  In particular, has anyone's DC experienced the problems which I have just listed? How time-consuming is the course? Is the course regarded as worthwhile by university admissions tutors? Most importantly, what type of dance is done? My DD is rather reserved and would not be a natural at modern or jazz (neither of which she does). She does ballet and tap only. Could she do a lyrical type dance? Is it the teacher who decides on the type of dance, certainly for the group number(s)? My fear is that the teacher will choose something a bit jazzy or MT or contemporary which will not suit my DD. Any other thoughts would be welcome.

 

Many thanks,

 

Aileen. 

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Hi aileen, i did gcse dance and now am currently doing a level. Along with dance I also did double art, textiles, Spanish, English, maths, double science and PE gcses and to be honest dance didn't take up a lot of my time in comparison to yhings such as art! I had it 5 hours a week and no more than a few extra hours outside of that when an assessment was coming up or we had a choreography task. If it's an aqa course, there's a set study, solo composition, performance in a group and group choreography spread over two years usually, and seeing as you said your DD was academic, she shouldn't find the theory too taxing. Any specific questions about the course feel free to ask! :)

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I did GCSE dance- it is all contemporary, which I found very hard having only studied ballet before. However, there were several girls in my group who had never danced before- one of whom was very dedicated, and got a B overall, but the others, who didn't seem to care, really didn't do as well.

I found it very time consuming- for example, a month or so before the exams, id be in the studio every day after school for an hour to work on my piece- although of course that wasnt compulsory.

 

I know what you mean regarding very subjective marking- I agree, it is extremely subjective. My teacher was away on maternity leave whilst we were working on our solo choreography mock- the supply teacher, who was an ex-professional who had danced with BRB, gave my piece an A*. However, when the original teacher, who would be marking the exam, got back, she gave it a C- because it "uses too much ballet and doesn't express the stimulus enough"!!!! Extremely frustrating!

I think the hardest thing for me was the musicality; for the first year or so, I simply couldn't hear the timing in contemporary music- which was a problem, as good timing was one of the criteria for a C grade! It took a lot of work (and stress!!!!) but my musicality improved sufficiently for me to get a B at GCSE, and I am now studying A-level. I think that if your DD is willing to put in the work, and knows that she will have to learn contemporary, then she will be successful in GCSE dance.

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It was only offered as a twilight course from my DDs school too. Both of mine chose not to but it was logistics of getting there on time and clashes with ballet as much as anything else. It was not run by the school themselves but in conjunction with a dance school and who is offering it also makes a difference. The teacher changed the year DD would have done it and we already had experience of this teacher and did not want to repeat it. Style seems to always be more akin to contemporary than anything else. The big plus from is being a twilight course rather than in school is that they are perhaps more keen and with some dance experience if they choose to take it on an an extra. Sometimes as one of the options you do get students choosing it as an 'easy' option rather than something they are interested in or good at.

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I think it very much depends on who will be teaching the course.

 

If, on the one hand, the teacher is a trained dancer who is enthusiastic, likes ballet and is keen to support and encourage students who are studying other forms of dance outside school, fine. And if your dd is interested in choreography, interpretation, freedom of expression without too much emphasis on technique and would like to learn contemporary, then go for it.

 

If, on the other hand, it is a PE teacher who can't stand classical dance and goes out of her way to denigrate ballet, is dismissive and unsupportive in your child's ambitions and criticises their dedication, motivation and commitment at every turn, then don't touch it with a bargepole!

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I'm never quite sure what people mean by 'contemporary'. Can anyone explain what it is? My DD is very inflexible and I wonder whether flexibility is an important component of contemporary. Whenever I've seen what I think of as contemporary ballet performed by professional companies it seems to have involved high extensions and a lot of angular movement - or have I got the wrong end of the stick?

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Well there are different "schools" of contemporary dance but basically it is the style of dance influenced by the style & techniques of Cunningham, Graham, Horton etc.

There's another 'school' of contemporary as well. it's taught by my dd's GCSE Dance teacher ;) Sorry, I'm being cynical!!!!

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My DD is taking GCSE dance alongside all her curriculum subjects, including Maths, English, 3 sciences, history, French PE and RS.  She is a student on the CAT programme at Northern Contemporary and an ex York Scholar, and find they course interesting and pleasurable.  There are pupils at all levels of technique and she can be paired with experienced and non experienced dancers.  She gets additional credit for assisting those who have poor technique and the course is much more about understanding dance, choreography, expression and musicality than it is about technique.

 

Her attitude to those less able is that she can enhance her teaching skills by helping them become better, and as they are assessed individually on ability level shes on for an A* so shes happy.

 

The type of dance they perform tends to be contemporary or lyrical, but I think that is influenced by the teacher, who also takes classes at Northern Contemporary advanced - hence the influence.

 

I would say that I have heard mixed reviews about GCSE Dance, and think it depends on the quality of the teacher to some extent, but also it depends on the attitude of the dancer.  Everyone can learn something from someone - even if your technical level is far above someone else's, they may just have the best choreographic ideas and need assistance to make them come alive - teamwork counts in GCSE dance.

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It's worth checking which exam board the GCSE is with, and then you can check the syllabus. There can be quite a bit of variation. For example, my child and her cousin both did music for GCSE but with different boards. For mine, the composition part was worth 25%, I think, but for the cousin, it was only about 10%.

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I'm not suggesting that the course would be too easy for my DD - quite the reverse. I'm worried that she might be totally unsuited to it because of the style of dance she is expected to perform. I was struck by swanprincess' post in which she said that she found contemporary quite a struggle and the preparation for the performance modules time-consuming The time element particularly worries me if the performance modules are all done in the Spring term of year 11. At my children's school they don't do early modules in any of the academic subjects which my DD will be doing. Apart from a few controlled assessments, all but one in the Spring term, all the exams (it was 24 for my son) are done in May and June of year 11 and so I don't want my DD to be spending hours in the dance studio after school in the Spring term when that time could more usefully be put towards revision for those exams.

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Although most of the vocational lower schools teach GCSE Dance in their curriculum, none of the vocational upper schools have it as a requirement. It is probably really useful though, if you're considering A-levels Dance and/or BTEC performing arts/MT course at college.

 

Perhaps you could find out more about the course from the teacher, and ask about the level of commitment.

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I would ask the question 'why do it?'. If it's necessary for a 6th form course she wants to do than great. If it's for 'fun' then it may be your daughter will get more enjoyment from her regular classes. I agree with your concern about it being time intrusive on her main options. She is unlikely to get useful general 'brownie points' from it if she is already doing a full set of GCSEs.

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Sarahw, my DD would be doing it 'for fun'. I suspect that she's considering it because a lot of her friends are doing one 'creative' subject (mainly drama or art) and I think that she feels left out. Tbh, music is a more obvious choice (and the music department would be very pleased if she did it) but she doesn't seem keen on the syllabus. There is a danger of her spreading herself too thinly and dropping grades in some of her other subjects.

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I think you need to ask the school which syllabus it is and when they do their assessments for it. AQA has a written paper (20%), a solo dance (20%), a group dance (20%) and a choreography piece (40%). I looked at a local schools website to see if they had timings for it and it does warn that extra practice and rehearsal time would be needed for each of the 3 practical components. As you know GCSEs are all now examined at the end of the course (bar a few controlled assessments) - there are no more early module options. The written paper and solo are externally assessed and the other 2 are controlled assessment. The school website I looked at listed all components as examined in year 11. I would be asking further questions off the school before making any decisions. And do check who will be teaching it.

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I really think Aileen that it does depend on what she wants to do down the line.

 

It may be better she concentrates on getting good grades in the subjects that are going to serve her later.....even if she is good academically ...... than doing dance for fun.....if it's not really her thing.

 

What may seem like fun now may not be as pressure increases to wards the exam time.

Why does she not just continue with the dance she likes and is used to and does now anyway ......ballet .....and get further in this.

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I've no experience of GCSE dance as ny DD's school didn't offer it, but from the perspective of a mum whose DD has just done GCSEs I would say be wary of taking on another.If she is doing the full number of GCSEs at school and dancing regularly that will be a big enough strain on her time, if our experience is anything to go by. If she gets good grades in a wide range of subjects, will another GCSE really benefit her? Personally I doubt it.11 vs 10 decent GCSEs probably isn't going to make that much difference. Higher grades in the main dance examining boards all carry UCAS points now and are good things to write about in a personal statement. Through her GCSE years my DD did vocational grades in 3 different genres that personally I think are of more value to her than another GCSE would have been. Obviously that's just a personal view, but our experience is that keeping up a serious interest in dance alongside a full academic programme at school is hard (and harder with A levels as DD is currently finding). I wouldn't make it any harder if I were you.

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One of my DD's chose to do GCSE dance at vocational school, the other did not. Our local secondary school has excellent results for GCSE dance and they have children on that course who haven't had any formal dance training. I feel my DD is benefiting from the syllabus content as well as creating her own choreography. She is of course supported by a fabulous teacher on the faculty at her school. It is timetabled with the same amount of time allocated as any other GCSE so to cover the work as an extra I imagine would be a significant commitment.

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