How long to do RAD ballet exams?

(72 Posts)
agenvoca Thu 22-May-14 12:22:33

A dance school my DC goes to seem to take approx two years before they do an exam, and that includes the early pre and pre primary exams. Some parents with older girls complained that their children are behind other similar aged children, in terms of technique when doing auditions. Also seem to delay exams while waiting for newly joined people to reach standard, so as to take the exam together (very small class sizes).

When queried have been told that their children are not ready and so on. I wonder if this is normal, as I'm considering looking elsewhere if this is really the case.

JulieMichelleRobinson Thu 22-May-14 12:43:29

Depends on child, depends on standards expected (pass or distinction?). Our local place is ISTD, but it's normal to expect two years per grade after at least grade 2 if the child is only having one lesson a week, at least for ballet.

They used to do exams every year, but alternating between RAD and ISTD, with the RAD exams coming first (technique) followed by the ISTD equivalent grade (more individual steps and free work).

agenvoca Thu 22-May-14 13:00:03

Yes agree, more understandable after grade 2, esp. if only doing one lesson a week. Two years to do primary or pre primary seems a bit much, though, looking at the content etc?

It's quite a difficult one. It could just be general grumbling. Also mixed classes (age and grade for early grades) were complained about (though I remember my own ballet classes being like that, with some of us at the barre, some elsewhere doing something else, and that worked ok)

sunshinecity17 Thu 22-May-14 13:11:34

DD1 and 2 joined grades 4 and 2 respectively having done no dance before (although they did gymnastics) ans did the exams within a year (one class per week but extra for exams). And children have done primary and pre-primary weeks after starting.

Seeline Thu 22-May-14 13:19:10

My DDs school does ISDT and exams are roughly every 2 years. It is how the school operates though, running a big show every 2 years as well. Exams one year, show the next, although exam prep is about 18 months with show prep 6 months. that works for ballet, tap, modern, and jazz. They do get excellent results with most girls getting merits or distinctions.

agenvoca Thu 22-May-14 13:23:15

It was always yearly when my eldest did exams. She did RAD then changed to an ISTD school. One of my DCs has been doing grade two for almost two years (her work is always praised, so am guessing she's possibly not behind), and I haven't queried this but the complainers got me thinking.
I'm also thinking about summer schools later on, as some of those expect you to have a minimum grade at 'x' age.

agenvoca Thu 22-May-14 13:27:07

One of the summer schools they mentioned required grade 4 (or equivalent) for, I think, 10 year old students.

fluturainpristina Thu 22-May-14 13:48:49

In honestly depends on the child, and how many hours they're doing a week. The dance studio I teach at has a recreational pathway and a company pathway- they all take classes together, but the 'company' children are taking at least two ballet classes a week. My DD is 10 and taking her grade 5 ISTD this term, she took her RAD at Christmas. She started ballet when she was almost 8. If you saw her schedule, you would understand why! Her ballet grade class ranges from 10 year olds to 15 year olds in age, in general the younger ones are all taking 2-4 ballet classes a week and the older ones are just coming once a week.

In contrast, the majority of the recreational ballet children at the same studio started when they were 3/4, and are doing their grade 3 this term. We put them in for the exam when they are ready, regardless of how the rest of the class is doing, and not until they are ready to do it and score well.

JulieMichelleRobinson Thu 22-May-14 23:45:01

ISTD grade 2... I think some children may be technically ready for it a long time before they're mentally ready - unless I'm mixing things up, it's the first exam where there's a lot of free work and they need to know the French names of all their allegro steps as well.

Mixed ages is fairly normal for us (some move ahead, some aren't ready and stay down, some do extra classes) but a class with mixed grades in it is unusual in ballet. It sometimes occurs in modern, jazz or something like Highland.

JulieMichelleRobinson Thu 22-May-14 23:45:20

Though you might have first-year grade 6 and second-year grade 6 in the same class etc.

agenvoca Fri 23-May-14 10:36:11

Pre primary and primary ballet are together, apparently, but the other grades have a class of their own. Modern and tap are mixed grade I think.

RAD seems 'behind' other syllabi? In that no barre work until grade two, doesn't seem need to know ballet terminology, and I don't think there's individual free work, or unseen enchainments until much later (in my experience so far, am expecting to be corrected on this)

I think I'm happy for dd (in grade 2 RAD) to continue as she is if it's all above board, as it probably is with her one lesson a week. She doesn't have any ambitions to dance professionally, it's just a hobby for her.

I suppose if you're considering ballet as a career you need to do more than the one lesson a week (I remember we were encouraged to do two lessons for latter grades) as if you did all the grades every two years you'd only be just over half way through at the time of applying for positions post 16.

Nocomet Fri 23-May-14 10:49:56

Exams alternating with a big show on a two year cycle was what DD2 did.

JulieMichelleRobinson Fri 23-May-14 11:10:16

RAD is just different - they have a reputation for being fussier about exactly how you do the steps, classical positioning etc. That's why our dance school used to do both sets of exams. The chances are that a good teacher, for higher grades, would be combining syllabus work with free work anyway in classes; it's just that free work isn't required in the exams. A bit like being able to do a Trinity music diploma without having to do a quick study (you get the music 20min in advance) in the exam, though you'd expect any musician at that level to be able to do it. I'm a musician, not a dancer... ;-)

Most of our once-a-weekers seem to make it to grade 6 ISTD and then some into the intermediate class (grade 6 is the last ISTD grade and covers roughly the same material as interfoundation, but the standard required for the exam isn't so high) - but quite a lot of them do modern or some other form of dance as well as ballet.

fabricassimo Fri 23-May-14 11:30:56

Definitely fussier. I always think RAD exams look more like mini polished performances, rather than ballet classes, when compared to the other grades.

Nocomet Fri 23-May-14 11:39:21

Very, very fussy, DD2 loves performing not being precise, she does not get brilliant marks.

JulieMichelleRobinson Fri 23-May-14 13:04:26

Fabricassimo -

Do you have any experience with the new RAD syllabus for the lower grades? Because it got dropped at our local place for various reasons, but one was that the new (2014) syllabus is less... balletic, for lack of a better word. At least, it's looking less and less classical, which is odd for RAD.

fluturainpristina Fri 23-May-14 13:36:37

I don't think mixed grade classes is necessarily an issue, depending on the age and the class structure. My ten year old has gone from very basic ballet to taking her Grade 5 in 2 1/2 years, she does about 5 hours of ballet a week excluding her associate class but only an hour and a half of that is her Grade 5 class. Her teachers are Vaganova trained and they don't stick to a strict syllabus, but they do group them into their main class according to grade because the majority of children are recreational and just do one class a week, and take RAD/ISTD exams. That's where mixed grade classes can become an issue and exactly why we don't do it, if you're going to take an exam then you do need to know what work the exam covers and what it doesn't.

Julie I really like the new RAD syllabus actually, but I like it within the context in which we teach it at our studio. We have longer classes (1 hour for the younger ones, 1.5 for grade 4 and up) and we use a mix of Vaganova technical exercises and then RAD and ISTD syllabus work. The technical work teaches them exactly how to do it, the new RAD is much more focused on actually teaching them to dance if that makes sense. So for our studio it works. What I do worry is that teachers following strictly the RAD syllabus and not supplementing with Vaganova, pure Cecchetti etc are going to struggle to produce children with proper technique with the new syllabus.

fabricassimo Fri 23-May-14 13:59:06

Very little. I've seen the early stage DVDs and perhaps that's not unfair criticism. The performance aspect I think has improved more still.

I do know of a school who dropped the pre primary since the changes and go straight to primary exam instead.

JulieMichelleRobinson Fri 23-May-14 19:52:09

fluturainpristina -

Yes, I think everyone had noticed that there was more of a performance aspect. That in itself is not a bad thing, it just didn't suit our particular school to carry it on. I'd hope that any decent teacher is providing proper technical exercises, whatever syllabus they follow for exams and wherever they invent those exercises from!

I teach for ABRSM music exams, but there's no way I'd only teach the examination syllabus. Reach the technical level, then learn the set work. smile

fluturainpristina Fri 23-May-14 21:32:02

Oh you'd be surprised Julie, I know teachers who just try to rush them through the exams as fast as possible to please the parents and view off-syllabus work as a waste of time. My once a weekers are generally slightly behind grade-wise, as some of their parents have pointed out. However, technically they are better, they have a broader ballet knowledge beyond just the RAD/ISTD syllabus and when they do take the exams they generally all get merits/distinctions.

nonicknameseemsavailable Sat 24-May-14 20:26:29

When I was a child and did ballet - late 70s, early 80s - there wasn't pre-primary exam but people took primary at 5ish. Now almost all the children I know are 6 before they take pre-primary and 7 for primary, whether RAD or ISTD. A couple of exceptions who are a few months younger or older obviously but generally those are the ages. My girls teacher has said what I personally agree with which is there is no point rushing to do them early or young all the time as they need to learn the technique from the start. The school probably also likes always getting high grades because inevitably if the children are older and take longer between the grades then they will do better. I have heard parents complaining that their 5 year old has been doing ballet longer than my 6 year old so should be taking exams before her but having seen the 5 year old along side all the 6 year olds you can really see the difference, not that the child couldn't pass but that the polish, technique, poise etc just isn't there yet, the maturity isn't there yet if that makes sense.

Someone told me that RAD had changed it to being a minimum of 18months between grades? not sure if that is right though.

As for having to wait for new people to reach the required standard that could be very annoying. DD1 has had that a little bit recently, she would have been ready to take her exams last term, now they might even be next term but hopefully will be fitted in this term. BUT I can see where the dance schools have a problem, a day of exams is really expensive for them to arrange so they need to be careful to make sure they maximise it all to make sure costs can be covered and not be prohibitive to any child. It also makes sense for the children to have other people at the same grade as them.

TheAfterDark Sat 24-May-14 20:41:40

My DD (6) has taken RAD pre primary and now primary exams, exactly a year apart. So no need to be 18 months apart - this was last term so not changed. She has 1 lesson a week btw

I know they have minimum ages for the Pre - Primary and Primary, not sure about higher grades.

nonicknameseemsavailable Sat 24-May-14 21:30:23

I thought the time change was only coming in round now - sorry I wasn't clear, I was told by someone the change was 'about to be made' but of course it could be completely wrong. 18months would seem unfair I think, how can you specify how long a child can take especially if they have more lessons a week.

there is something on either RAD or ISTD's website which says the expected number of hours for each grade, obviously goes up as grades get harder. I have a feeling the lower ones are about 80hrs of preparation so at an hour a week 80 weeks, if only half an hour a week (I know some places do an hour but include other dance styles in that) then longer I suppose. At the end of the day I think any good dance teacher should be trusted to decide when a pupil is ready or not and shouldn't really be prescribed to by a board so I do hope I was told wrongly. (mind my kids aren't doing RAD so I am not even sure why it stuck in my mind!)

nonicknameseemsavailable Sat 24-May-14 21:40:06

page 26 of the rules and regs here shows preparation hours for different grades if anyone is interested.
www.rad.org.uk/achieve/exams/teachers-entry-guide/prerequisites-for-candidates

canatavia Sat 24-May-14 21:47:25

No, it hasn't changed to 18 months between RAD exams. It's still pre primary - 5 years, primary 6 years. then grade 1-5 - 7 years. Though I know the ballet school my child attends has managed to get permission for a child a few months off being the correct age to do the exam this summer (well they are the correct age, but you have to reach that age by a particular month to be able to do determine whether you do it in the first or second half of the year). I really didn't think RAD would do that.

I've just asked why my child hasn't done their RAD exam yet (nearly two years doing primary, really? They keep putting it off, twice with excuses, one was fair enough being. Once a weekers, but classes of no more than three or four girls. Would get though the syllabus more quickly, and lots of time for individual corrections I would have thought. More so than a class of 10-15 once a weekers.

I was told one of my children was behind after questioning the last postponement that's why no exam yet, but she's ahead and achieving good marks in IDTA ballet in another school, so that's simply not true, and she has always been the best in her RAD class. The other parents seem to think the teacher is past retirement and is no longer motivated or interested in pushing through the grades as she once was. I don't know how true that is.

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