We have recently had our Dance Exams for this year. Exams are a big deal, in that we spend most of the year, working towards them. In our Dance school, the students only sit for Ballet exams. Having ballet, Jazz, tap etc exams together seemed too much for the students. Therefore I decided to just concentrate on Ballet exams.
Our exams are towards the end of term three and gives us time to learn and work on all the required exercises and dances. Well, it seems to be lots of time, until we get to about 3 weeks out and I always think, “I wish we had 6 weeks more”. It is very satisfying when I know that students are well and truly ready for exams, weeks before they do them. Sometimes, they can get a little bored due to being ready. This takes lots of pressure off. But it isn’t always the case.
I have had students who, one week out from exams, still don’t seem to remember exercises, let alone their theory. Theory – let’s talk about that. I spend all year talking about what the ballet terms mean. I explain over and over again why we do certain exercises and how they help prepare for other things. So when it comes to exam theory, they leave it until the last week before exams to learn!!!! It is as though they have never heard any of it before, ever! Could this be because my voice sounds similar to their Mother’s, that voice that is just white noise in the background, that you never take notice of!
In the exams, I do the music. I am not allowed to watch what the students are doing, but I can hear. This is a very stressful time, for me. We all know that we have our good days and our bad days. Not everything goes perfectly when we really want it to. Sometimes I wonder just what my students are doing when the examiner is watching them. The stories they tell me after their exams are always very interesting.
Dance exams are very formal. There is a certain etiquette and procedures to follow. Students must only speak when spoken to and use their best manners. I drill my students to make sure they know they are to stand still, not fiddle, not scratch, itch and they can not talk to their fellow dancers. They must move quickly and efficiently like ballet dancers from barre to centre, to the corner etc. They are not to stand “waiting for a bus” or saunter around the room! Sometimes this is very difficult for students to understand, especially when you are 5.
This formality is part of our dance tradition and makes for disciplined dancers. It teaches students respect for their art form and for the examiner, teacher and fellow dancers. This is part of what dancers can learn from exams.
A recent post from Claudia Dean https://claudiadeanworld.com/ https://www.instagram.com/claudiadeanworld/?hl=en she gave some great advice about exams. Claudia spoke of exams being a guide and an update on your progress. She talked about using the exam as great experience for learning to cope with high pressure situations. This is such good advice to all students sitting dance exams.
Nerves are part of dance exams. If you can learn to do your best, even though you are really nervous, that is great. If you maybe don’t do as well as you had hoped, you learn to deal with that and hopefully do better next time.
Too often it is all about the mark at the end of the report. I am sure many student only every look at that comment on their dance exam report. How many students go through their reports from last year, to see what they need to work on before the dance year begins? How many take mental notes after their report comes, that they will improve on what the examiner has commented on and needs improving? I would say not that many. Those that do, will improve. How many times do students (or the teachers) see the same thing on the same child’s report every year?
Then comes the comparison. What mark did you get? I think that this is not a good thing. You shouldn’t be worried about what mark anyone else got. You should only be interested in how you went and if you think you improved from the previous year. If you did that is something to be proud of. If you didn’t, you know you need to work harder to do so.
You should be pleased for anyone that got a great mark. Honors etc is something to be congratulated. But someone who has gone from Pass to Highly Commended also should be congratulated on the great improvement. Honors is something to strive for as a goal, but only hardwork and dedication will get you there. Just wishing you could, won’t make it happen. If you know you didn’t put in the effort, you shouldn’t be jealous of someone who did.
I have a student who did an exam for the first time this year. She has never done one before, as she has anxiety. The fact that she actually did the exam is a major achievement. No matter what mark she gets, it will be wonderful.
Dance exams are something to work towards. They are a record of what you have achieved in your year of dance. They give you a medal to show to everyone or pin in a special place. But remember, there will be another one next year. It will be another chance to work hard, improve and achieve a goal. If you want a better mark, work on you and not those around you. Improve those things you need to, listen to your teacher and put in the time to correct those thing they tell you. One day, it just might be you that gets the mark everyone wants.