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Classical Ballet Examinations with the Royal Academy of Dance: Top Pros, Cons and Tips

At the Dance Centre Peregian Springs we take choosing whether or not to enter a ballet student for an assessment with the RAD very seriously. Together with the student and parent we weigh up the many pros and cons and try to tailor the examination type to suit the student so that the classes leading up to the assessment become a joyful and productive journey and the actual examination a wonderful and memorable experience. We do everything possible to ensure a positive outcome.

I have written many blogs on the subject and my thoughts and advice have remained over the years in principle the same. Here are some of my (hopefully) 'Pearls of Wisdom' gathered over many years of experience.

PROS 1) Partaking in examinations can raise student's self esteem and bring an enormous sense of achievement. Practising the syllabus for a tangible outcome raises technical accomplishments, boosts self confidence levels and heightens a feeling of fulfilment unique to dance.

2) After their first assessment experience RAD students are always eager for the next level and approach their ballet classes and learning the new class content with a lot of pleasure and excitement.

3) The RAD offers so many various types of Examinations, Solo Performance Awards, Class Awards and Presentation Classes that there is an assessment option for everyone from the ultra nervous beginner to an elite student. 4) From a parent's point of view ballet examinations can be used as an accountability tool with the overall results reflecting the standard of teaching at their dance school.

5) The RAD is the largest classical ballet organisation world wide offering examinations and guarantees global standardisation. Studios using the syllabus can be found almost everywhere world wide and if a student has to change dance schools for whatever reason they will soon feel at home in a new studio practising the syllabus they know.

6) For all ages of students Examination Day means a chance to rise to the challenge, perform with joy and to finish with a sense of elation and pride. It’s wonderful to observe the young dancers emerge from the exam studio brimming over with excitement, eagerly talking about conquering their nerves and dancing their very best. RAD examiners are very friendly and put everyone at ease so that ballet students can perform to the best of their ability.

7) At The Dance Centre Peregian Springs entry to ballet examinations is not only considered a reward for hard work but an honour and a privilege. On Examination Day our students are treated as special stars. Perfect exam attire, beautiful hair and grooming all go towards making these ballerinas feel very special. The atmosphere is relaxed, excited and happy thereby building confidence for other types of examinations academic or otherwise in the students' future lives.


1) Not every student likes; the idea of being examined and judged on one particular occasion in front of a total stranger, having to learn a syllabus or having the pressure of performing alone. For these students, either a Presentation Class or Class Award where a small group of students accompanied by their teacher perform a class in front of the examiner with the aid of their teacher is a great option in the RAD system.

2) Dancing should be all about the joy of movement and dance examinations can dampen that feeling for some students who may suffer from low confidence levels. Some studios have facilities for audiences at Class Awards and attending as an audience member first can help these students overcome their nervousness as they are able to see the fun and satisfaction side to assessments.

3) The Dates and Times of assessments in Queensland won't be announced until the RAD has entered and processed all entries. We do know that our assessment period here in Peregian Springs will be around the end of the first week of October and will most probably be a weekend but possibly a school day. Please try and plan for your special assessment event in advance and keep the possible dates free.

4) Sadly some studios only teach the set syllabus the whole year round and after a while this can squash the spontaneous uplifting sense of dance for a student in their weekly dance class. At The Dance Centre Peregian Springs, however, we feel examination preparation should form only a small part of the year's class planning and be accompanied by a well rounded classical ballet training. Dance class content should continually be about changing the sequence of steps, learning new combinations and expanding the young dancer's brain.


1) Students all learn movement sequences and dances at varying speeds and it is a juggling act for a ballet teacher not to bore those who already know their syllabus off by heart with those who need a little longer.

The RAD have a wonderful App which can be downloaded for free in the App Store. Type in 'Royal Academy of Dance Enterprises' and the free download takes less than a minute. Once you have opened it choose the Grade / Level you wish to purchase and it can be transferred on up to five devices. Its a wonderful way to refresh memories between classes and is a MUST for all students entering any type of assessment.

2) For the high achievers a Ballet Class Log Book is a great way to note down technical advise and compliments from your teacher in the lead up to assessments. Equip your child with a pretty notebook and pencil and encourage them to write down observations pertinent to their progress during class. Ask the teacher after class for more advise - every good teacher will be happy to further enhance a student's progress. Read through the notes with your child before the next lesson.

3) Having the correct clean uniform, new tights in the right colour, correct ballet shoes with ribbons/elastics firmly sewn on, ironed character skirt and clean character shoes is a MUST if assessment day is going to get off to a good start. Finding out WELL IN ADVANCE of the day and time means peace of mind for all concerned - teacher, student and parent.

Arriving on time with all uniform and hair kit at the ready is a must. Also consider packing water, tissues, any First Aid needs like band aids, creams, gels and aspirin, a light healthy snack, socks to wear over ballet shoes, track suit pants and studio jacket if needed and remember NO NAIL POLISH or FAKE TATTOOS.

4) The final month before the examination should see regular attendance in class so try not to plan any longer holidays when you might miss vital classes. In the final days leading up to the examination it really helps to have early nights, healthy food and if possible no exhausting Sleep Overs.

5) An RAD Workshop is a vital element of assessment preparation. Not only can an enormous amount of progress be made in this intense period but critical information on examination procedure, placing of groups during the exam and the order of exercises and candidates etc is explained. Knowing exactly the procedure of an examination helps calm nerves and heightens student's excitement and expectations for the actual exam day.

6) Take some before and after photos because a RAD assessment day will live on in student's memories as a highlight of their dancing life, and remember to do something extra special after the examination as a reward for all the hard work.

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