Teacher assisting ballet students at the barre

Exam Season is almost here!

It is exam season at Peninsula School of Dance and many of our students are busy learning and refining syllabus work. If you are wondering what on earth exams are all about, and whether or not your child should participate in one, then read on!

What Exam Syllabi do we use at Peninsula School of Dance?

Our classical ballet classes are taught using the Cecchetti method. It is an internationally recognised system of training and offers many benefits including sound technique and artistic qualities. More information can be found on the Cecchetti Ballet Australia here: www.cecchettiballet.org

Jazz, Tap, Hip Hop, Contemporary, Song and Dance are all taught utilising the Australian Teachers of Dance (ATOD) Syllabi. ATOD have sound systems across all these genres and ATOD are leaders in the field of dance education. More information can be found on ATOD here: https://www.atod.net.au/

Our Acro classes are delivered using the Acrobatic Arts system of training. The program is based on safe and effective progressions with proven results in five divisions on AcroDance: Flexibility, Strength, Balancing, Limbering and Tumbling. More information can be found on Acrobatic Arts here: https://www.acrobaticarts.com

How will I know if my child ready is ready for an Exam?

Examinations and assessments are not compulsory but provide an important goal for students to work towards and a sense of achievement. If your teacher approaches you about your child participating in an exam it is because we believe they are ready and will benefit from the experience.

What will the exam experience be like?

Ballet teacher trainingWipe away your own pre-conceived ideas and perhaps your own memories of exams!

They are not like the exams of days gone by! Examiners from Cecchetti Ballet, ATOD and Acrobatics Arts are all professional, encouraging and friendly. The structure of the exam is designed to be a positive experience and help build your child’s confidence.

Students are well prepared and rehearsed by PSD staff and go into the exam room in groups. The numbers will vary according to the level and age of the participants but is generally between 4-8

If exams are not compulsory, why bother?

Exams provide an important bench mark for teachers as well as students but the mark on the bottom of the sheet is not our sole definition of success. We emphasize with the students that it is all about the process of improvement, having a goal to work towards and striving to be the best versions of ourselves.

ATOD examiner and former president, Karen Malek explains…..

We find that children who participate in examinations gain confidence and learn important life skills such as learning to concentrate in an examination environment which assists with their school examinations and other similar situations.  Participating in examinations also gives them a goal to work towards and an opportunity to receive an independent assessment of how they are progressing technically.  Ultimately, the higher levels can lead to examinations for Teaching Diplomas.

What if the teacher says my child is not ready to participate in an exam?

Sometimes children are not quite ready to progress onto the next level and teaching staff will recommend the child takes another year in the same class. There are variety of reasons for this including physical strength, maturity, coordination and confidence. Children all develop at very different rates. Our sound teaching philosophy and knowledge of safe dance practice, along with years of experience guides us in making decisions about a child’s readiness for exams.

I recently asked two PSD parents to reflect on their experience of holding their child at a particular level for an extra 12 months. It was a process which we tackled collaboratively and with the interests of the child at the forefront of our minds.

Case Study 1

Melanie approached me well in advance of “exam season”, for a private chat.  She expressed that she thought it would be best for my daughter to not do her ballet exam this particular year, but spend another year in the same grade.   Personally I thought this was a great idea, but I was certainly concerned at how my daughter would take this news.  Another of my daughter’s teachers joined the discussion and we were able to discuss together the teacher’s concerns and reasons why this was the recommendation. We also discussed together my concerns such as my daughter feeling like she wasn’t a “good enough” dancer, her feeling like she’d failed the grade, her feeling like her teachers were not happy with her, and my concern that other kids might not be so sensitive to the situation.

All of these concerns were discussed openly and honestly and with a genuine concern and care for my daughter’s self-esteem.Thank goodness that at PSD, it’s never about who’s the best, and so our children don’t learn to rank themselves against their peers.   

Teacher helping young ballet studentAfter talking with her teachers, my daughter knew that they cared so much for her that they wanted to make sure she could dance forever, and therefore it was really important that she didn’t do things that her muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments were not ready for.    After talking to her teachers, she knew she was doing all of the right things, and together they would just wait for her body to catch up.

We were able to place this situation among broader conversations about respecting one’s own body, doing what’s right for you rather than going along with the crowd, and the joy we feel from not just learning things but gaining a sense of mastery.  She now knows that changing grades is not about how “good” you are at dancing, but just which class will support your development best.

As a result of this consolidating time, my daughter has had a confidence explosion that I see when she is dancing but also when she is not.  She stands confidently in the front row when it’s her turn, and she knows that she knows what to do.  There’s no need to look sideways at the next person.

She is dancing more with her heart now, where she used to dance with her brain in overdrive trying to keep up and not make a mistake.  There is visibly more joy in her dancing.  She is putting her hand up for every new opportunity that comes her way both in dance and in life.

And as far as I know, the only comments from other kids have been the celebrating cheers and hugs from the kids in her new class upon realising she was joining them.

Case Study 2

My daughter had been dancing for two years at a different dance school when we decided to attend Peninsula School of Dance. The teaching staff were so welcoming. She had already completed grade 1 ballet exam therefore, she was placed in grade 2 ballet class. My daughter enjoyed this class however I wasn’t sure if she was “exam ready”. Not only is Miss Mel a great teacher, she is a mind reader as well! Mel approached me and explained that my daughter would benefit from another year in grade 2 before attempting this exam.  Reasons being she wanted my daughter to feel confident and happy with her exam work, not anxious and worried.Teacher assisting ballet student

Mel made a fuss over the girls doing grade 2 for the second year by giving them more responsibility. This was the right decision as my daughter’s confidence flourished. She made new friends and passed her exam with a great result. Now in grade 3 ballet she is so excited about her upcoming exam. Holding her back has helped her mature and feel confident for exams. She didn’t miss out on anything.

This was confirmed at open viewing last night. My daughter’s teacher asked a question and my daughter answered. Her teacher then said “this student always knows the answer!” I could tell by her dancing she was confident and enjoying every minute.

There isn’t any reason to push for exams if the child is not ready. I have 100% faith in Mel and her teaching team. Remember this is a non-competitive dance school that encourages students to be the best they can be.

Talk to us, our door is always open!

So if the time is not right for your child then that is ok! We are here to assist your child flourish and run their own race. As always my door is open and I am more than happy to discuss your child’s progress and whether or not the time is right for an exam.