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Ballet

Dance Examinations

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Dance Examinations

Dance examinations can be a scary thought for some students (and for some parents!) 

However, they can also be the highlight of the year. They are a great opportunity for students to demonstrate their dancing to an independent eye; showing how their hard work and dedication has gone into what they have learnt, as well as how much they enjoy it.

 

Examiners are not always as scary as they might seem.

They want to watch the students enjoying themselves and trying their best: whilst looking at all the technical requirements, in order to give the students the best possible marks. Having the ability to do well in a dance exam is a mixture of hard work, plenty of practice and confidence.

 

Exams require lots of work physically and mentally, and when it is over there is often a huge sense of relief.

Good preparation (and remembering to breathe!) will see you through a successful examination.

Here are some tips to make your examination experience a positive one...

 

 

Practice

Spend some time practicing your exam work at home (with a practice CD if you are given one).  Remember you need to know the names of all the exercises and where you start for each one. From practicing you will feel more confident, helping you to do well in your exam.

 

Attend all classes and rehearsals

Most schools will do extra exam coaching classes and maybe even a mock exam. These may provide the students with some last minute tips as well as helping to familiarise them with the exam process and etiquette.

 

Rest

It is important students are well rested and relaxed in the lead up to an exam. Students should ensure they have a good nights sleep, so they are physically and mentally fresh for their exam.

 

Uniform and Grooming

Presentation is an important part of any dance exam. All jewellery and nail polish should be removed, and hair should be neat as per your teacher's requirements, with no loose bits coming away. Uniforms should be clean and in good condition. Set your uniform out a few days before to ensure you have everything you need.

 

On the Day

Arrive 1 hour before your exam to allow warming up/practicing, a check of your hair and uniform from your teacher, and to have any necessary ribbons and numbers pinned on.

 

Observe Etiquette

Always use your best manners and show respect towards your examiner. Greet the examiner and music operator at the start, and thank them both at the end. Remember not to talk to your friends during the exam.

 

Listen

Make sure you listen carefully to the examiners instructions. This will ensure that you know what movements the examiner wants you to do.

 

Stand Tall

Show the examiner that you care and are serious, by standing up straight and still in the appropriate position whilst waiting for the next instruction. Really try not to fidget, even if you have an itch it will have to wait until after the exam.  Move to the next exercise by walking or running to the correct starting place like a proper dancer.

 

Smile

Show the examiner that you enjoy dancing, even if you're nervous in your exam.  Sometimes smiling can actually make you feel more confident.

 

Stay Calm

It is easy to let one mistake affect the rest of the exam.  Try to remember each exercise is just one small part of the exam; so small mistakes really don't matter. The examiner knows that a lot of students get nervous when it comes to exams and will have seen many mistakes before. If you make a mistake, don't panic, just breathe and move on.

 

Use Expression

Think about the music you are dancing to and the movement you are making is it sharp, smooth, quick or slow? Try to use your feelings to show the difference in the music and these movements.

 

Enjoy

Keep some perspective, remember the examiner is just one person, who for a small part of one day, has come to see you dance. Go in with confidence, try your best and enjoy it! The examiner wants you to do well, this is your chance to show how wonderful you are and what amazing skills you have been learning.

 

 

For an insight into examinations through the eyes of the student, teacher and examiner you can watch a short video about examinations with the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) by clicking here.

 

Good luck to anyone who is about to undertake a dance examination.

 

 

 

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The Perfect Pointe

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The Perfect Pointe

Recently a group of our Emboîté senior students travelled to London, for their first pointe shoe fitting. We went to the Freed of London shop and each student was assessed by the shop assistants, who are specially trained to fit pointe shoes. After trying on many pairs of shoes, all of the girls happily purchased their first pair of pointe shoes.

 

One of our students has written about her first experience of finding the perfect pointe shoes to fit her feet:

 

" When Miss Kelly first informed me and a few of my dance friends that we were ready to have our first pair of pointe shoes, I was so excited. To the point that I counted the days down until the trip to London to purchase them!

 

At first I was confused why we had to go all the way to London to buy our pointes, as I thought we could just order them online. But Miss Kelly said that we don't choose the pointe shoes, the point shoe chooses us. Therefore in the Freed of London dance shop I must have tried on at least 6 or 7 different pairs of pointe shoes, where I would have to do rises and plies. This was so the people fitting our pointe shoes could make sure we went home with the pointes that work best for us.

 

There were lots of different types of pointe shoe and they were made by different makers. In the end I came home with the 'Classic' pointe shoe, made by the 'N maker'. It really was fascinating to think that someone had spent lots of their time handcrafting my shoes and they fit especially to me. Overall this was one of the best experiences I have had.

 

When we came to have our first pointe lesson, everyone wanted to get straight into their pointe shoes. When we finally did, I have to admit it was quite weird as we hadn't properly broken them in yet and they felt a bit like logs! But now after wearing them for a few weeks I am becoming more used to them. To help break them in I have also been wearing them around the house whilst watching TV and stretching.

 

As for exercises in our first lesson we did some rises by the bar, which was nerve-wracking at first, as I didn't really know what to expect. However, after doing quite a few I soon became more confident.

 

Miss Kelly is very good at working with each of us to our individual needs, and I can already feel my own improvement after having my pointe shoes for a couple of weeks.  I think if anyone wanted to learn pointe but were unsure, they should, as it is definitely an accomplishment to be proud of. ”

 

Thank you Kirra for a lovely insight into your experience.

 

 

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What's the Pointe?

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What's the Pointe?

Pointe shoes are specially made shoes that allow ballerinas to dance on the tips of their toes.

 

They create a sense of lightness and give an illusion that the ballerina is floating on air. The fluidity and grace of their movements when dancing on pointe seem so beautiful, simple and effortless. The truth is, most haven't a clue of the blood sweat and tears that go into dancing on pointe.

 

Pointe shoes look dainty, but they really aren't.

 

The tip of the shoe is a rigid box made of densely packed layers of fabric, paper and cardboard hardened by glue. The dancer depends on it to be extremely sturdy: the entire weight of their body is balanced on the small platform of that box! The rest of the shoe is made of leather, cotton and stain. This allows them to be strong enough to support the dancers on pointe, but also malleable enough to allow them to articulate movements through the intrinsic muscles and joints of the foot and ankle.

 

All pointe shoes are hand made and professional ballerinas shoes are custom made to fit each individual perfectly. Click here to watch two Royal Ballet dancers visit the Freed pointe shoe factory to learn more about the making of their pointe shoes.

 

The design of pointe shoes remains a highly skilled art and has not changed much since its inception. The first known ballerina to dance on pointe was Maria Taglioni, in the early 1830's. Her shoes were designed by a cobbler in Paris and were much softer than the pointe shoes you see ballerinas wearing today. Taglioni and her contemporaries would have only gone onto pointe for brief moments during their performances. Soon after, Italian cobblers evolved the original design into the modern pointe shoe, by making the box harder using paper and burlap. This allowed ballerinas to dance on pointe for much longer periods.

 

Click here to watch a short video produced by The Royal Opera House about Maria Taglioni and her first known performance on pointe in La Sylaphide.

 

The decision to go onto pointe is not an easy one; a teacher considers many different factors to determine whether a student is at the right stage of physical and mental development. Factors considered include the students basic ballet technique, core control and turnout, age and maturity, and specific strength and mobility of the feet and ankles. Some students will be invited to a pointe lesson to work on these factors as preparation, but may not be invited to get pointe shoes until their teacher has confirmed they are ready. Going on pointe can be detrimental to students feet if they are not prepared or developed enough before they begin.

 

Pointe shoes have a certain mystique and there is a well-earned sense of accomplishment that goes along with getting that first pair. Young dancers don't usually care that pointe work is sometimes painful and frustrating with slow hard-won rewards.

 

Pointe work begins at a close, steady pace with exercises performed only with the aid of a barre. Due to the uneven sole, even standing in pointe shoes requires ankle strength and can take some getting used to. Eventually dancers will exhibit enough strength to complete some steps in the centre, however expect progress to to be gradual. Students will practice many of the same steps and movements they learned in their regular ballet class, but will execute them on pointe. Some of the specific steps that are practiced regularly on pointe include relevés and courus, ultimately students will accomplish more complex steps such as turning sequences.

 

Click here to watch a short clip from the unusual perspective of the pointe shoe!

 

 

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