My first-year pointe students from last year
On Wednesday I danced my last Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) Graded Ballet Examination. It was the Grade 7 examination, but RAD actually goes until Grade 8. I finished Grade 6 and all the prior examinations by the time I graduated high school. Then, in my first year of university, I was living in Muenster so I took some classes at a studio in Humboldt, SK. Since I didn't have a lot of time to devote to dance, the studio owner (also my instructor) recommended taking Grade 8 instead of Grade 7 because there was less content to learn. It wasn't necessarily easier, but it is definitely structured differently.
So, what made me decide to take my final examination five years later? Well, I was taking some classes this summer from one of my favourite local choreographers and the topic of ballet exams came up so I mentioned I still needed to finish my Grade 7 examination. Long story short, we decided to start this fall and four other ladies joined in!
I have never prepared less for an examination. I wish I had more time to devote to practicing, but we started learning the syllabus mid-September and I danced the examination on December 4, having missed many of the October practices while traveling or attending to other, previously arranged, commitments. Some of the other ladies were able to get together other times between practices, but I was either at work, French class, volunteering, traveling, or teaching my own students.
Being less prepared than I am used to made me extra nervous for this exam. It was in a studio that I have only ever danced the RAD Vocational examinations in (which brings about memories of extremely-heightened nerves) with the pianist that I had been fortunate to have play the examination that I danced in Humboldt. She is from the Humboldt area, so I actually got to practice my Grade 8 exam with a live piano more than I was used to while dancing in Saskatoon throughout my previous grades, but I went into my piano rehearsal not knowing it was her playing for us - it was a shock but a good one. This exam was such a mix of old and new that the whole experience was different from any other dance memory I have.
I made some mistakes, some pretty silly ones actually, but the exam went really well. There were two other ladies dancing with me, so many of the exercises were done 2 people then 1 person, with the examiner rotating through who danced alone. It was nice to have a moment to breathe and let my aching feet relax (only a little!).
Have you ever taken a dance exam? I would love to hear about your experiences!