Forum: Ballet / Ballet - Adult Dancers

Ballet - Adult Dancers
adult exams?
By Jenerator Comments: 291, member since Fri Jun 04, 2004
On Wed Dec 13, 2017 07:42 PM

I've been doing ballet for about a dozen years (as a now ex-ballet mum). My current teacher has suggested that I might like to do an RAD exam next year and thought that I might be able to do Grade 3... which from the pictures I can see online appears to be for about 10-12 year olds usually. I'm 53.

I don't really want to do an exam on my own (did that once before with a different syllabus, and hated that the exam took all of 10 minutes!) but how do I find other adult students doing the same Grade? The teacher says she would be inclined to put me through on my own as her teaching the syllabus might be slightly different from any other school's teaching... I thought they were all supposed to be the same for RAD?
Advice? Suggestions? (I'm in SE Melbourne, Australia.)

20 Replies to adult exams?

re: adult exams
By Storm_Trouper Comments: 834, member since Mon May 21, 2012
On Thu Dec 14, 2017 01:49 AM
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2017-12-14 01:52:46
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2017-12-14 01:54:57
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2017-12-14 01:56:40
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2017-12-14 02:15:57
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2017-12-14 02:21:53
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2017-12-14 02:22:44
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2017-12-14 02:23:27
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2017-12-14 02:25:14
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2017-12-14 02:30:17
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2017-12-14 02:45:28
www BalletLounge dot com initiated adult RAD grade 3 in the fall. This was trialed at their (new) studio / business, one that is adult oriented and ballet focused, including a fitness-recreational ballet stream and a non-syllabus, multi-level drop in adult ballet stream.

Adult ballet seems to be on the upswing around the world. What is needed is a focal point, leadership, innovation and a critical mass of (mostly) ladies who seek to be involved in ballet. But the KEY to the latter is, I think, a non-traditional, friendly and non-intimidating teaching environment that is Fun, Supportive and Encouraging.

Most teachers of adult beginners use adult language but teach either in a fairly similar approach to that for children or to that of professional dancers, that is, in the usual, conventional way. But adult beginners are rarely auditioned into drop in classes. Consequently, they have a wide varying degrees or ranges of skill, aptitude, facility, musicality, fitness, and natural dance-iness Some return from learning in their youth. Some are late starters. Adult ab initio learning styles are much different from teaching pre-adolescents and youth. But ballet teacher training does not address these cognitive and developmental differences and is hide bound and traditionalist (with a few rare exceptions like Finis Jung in NYC) Sports coaching e.g. tennis, golf, skiing is far more sophisticated and better adapted to addressing the learning differences that exist among kids, teens, early adults, middle aged and retiree learners of neural-motor skills. For example, older adults have short term memory challenges for enchainments that kids seem to breeze through. Traditional Ballet teaching makes rare use of visual, written teaching and learning aids, which adults can benefit from (exception: university dance ballet curriculums that utilize textbooks and other standard adult learning resources.). Most ballet purists are loathe to utilize video recordings, yet students at university dance groups are media savvy and exploit the new technology to advantage and for efficiency (compared to using Benish Movement Notation).

I base my assertions on recent research into adult late starting ballet training, in multiple countries and surveying 3 dozen+ schools/teachers by trialing sample classes, including in Paris, Seattle, NYC.

Existing approaches are terrific for achieving traditional results. But to achieve different results (new markets) you cannot resort to using the same methods and philosophies. You have to innovate and be creative. Otherwise, beginners become frustrated and quit, so a critical mass never forms. There is little revenue so no profit. So enrolments never stabilize. Nor are there opportunities for beginner adults to perform and learn choreography, which is the whole point of wanting to learn ballet for many aspirants. Some are content to stand at the barre and condition themselves and do a meager 10, maybe 15 minutes of allegro and enchainements at the end of a 90 minute class. They never get to actually dance or learn choreo routines. So no wonder they derive minimum satisfaction. They want costumes and performing and applause just like dancers 1/4 of their age. Adults enjoy dress up and make believe just like kids.

National Ballet School Toronto Canada is a rare professional school with an adult-specific, multi level, traditional (in house) curriculum, whereas RAD is geared to youngsters.

So the short answer to your question is understand the needs and the DESIRES of beginner ballet adults, adopt modern principles of adult education in lieu of //we have only a hammer so you must be a nail-ism// offer choreo from the get go, provide performing opportunities 2X annually (friends and family in audience) and infuse the whole works with FUN, removing the intimidation factor. This is a recipe for revenue generation and profitability, but it takes a teacher with insights into the limitations of hide bound ballet training techniques.

Build it and they will come. Then you will establish a base pool of people potentially interested in tackling RAD exams. You have been doing ballet for quite a while apparently (what a dozen years) and yet are just looking to tackle grade 3 which is attainable by an 8 year old. Quid Est Demonstratum.

If I knew 6 years ago what I have come to realize today about the shortcomings of traditional ballet teaching, I could have saved probably 30% of the time and dollars that I have been investing to get to the advanced beginner level that I am currently working at. Teachers told me ‘open your chest more’ without ever explaining what this actually means and the muscular engagements to do so. It took me years to figure it out by myself, something that a competent, results oriented person well versed in coaching technology could have shown me how to master after a month’s elapsed time probably; 6 weeks at the most. This is not one teacher, this is many. They parrot cue phrases but aren’t able to effectively articulate what it means to ‘open’. So they are speaking in babble, or ballet speak, or jargon or argot. They can not communicate well because they are neither evaluated nor rewarded for these traits. Consequently, students take longer to attain competency than they should; they attend more classes; they pay more fees; the studio generates more revenues a result. Where’s the sense in that?
re: adult exams?
By Storm_Trouper Comments: 834, member since Mon May 21, 2012
On Thu Dec 14, 2017 02:14 AM
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2017-12-14 02:49:39
An observation:
Ballet teachers tend to be successful dancers themselves who mostly started at an early age and experienced success, and didnt quit or wash out of frustration. Otherwise how would they attain a teaching position or status. Consequently I strongly suspect that they mostly posses quite a fair degree of physical co-ordination, facility and cognitive capabilities that make them naturally successful as dancers. If they lack musicality or cannot absorb choreo, how can they be good dancers over the long run? They mighthave �struggled� over some aspects, but very likely not tothe same depth as a a late adult beginner who is not naturally co-ordinated. Some people�s brains are well adapted to musical skills, others are not, This is probably the same as for dance. So how can someone with natural dance abilities possibly understand the struggle experienced by somebody who is not gifted naturally? Some children really struggle. They may well eventually quit dance (natural selection and self selection) and switch to a different physical activity they have more ready success with. Or else leave physical activities altogether and concentrate on non-physical pursuits. If I had a Dollar for every time I saw a beginner adult struggling with figuring out how to ex pecute a simple combination of petite or grand allegro being taught by a garden variety, typical teacher I could retire. Gold medal Olympian sports athletes do not an excellent instructor-teacher-coach necessarily make.

Teachers typically only mark a combination on the right side to save time or because they ar cutting corners and don�t care. For people with well adapted brains they can figure out the symmetrical movements readily, compared to somebody who is confounded. Psychologists understand what is happening (or not happening.) But teachers aren�t well versed in coaching.
re: adult exams?
By Storm_Trouper Comments: 834, member since Mon May 21, 2012
On Thu Dec 14, 2017 02:21 AM
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2017-12-14 02:24:24
The syllabus and the examination standards of the RAD are consistent. How one learns or is taught can vary to some extent however. So long as you achieve the standard you make the grade; how you get there isn’t what is being graded.

You can download both th syllabus for grade 3 as well as videos that demonstrate the prescribed technical requirements for the most part*.

* some of the examined choreography is set by the teacher so varies (but follows a guideline) whereas some is set by the RAD. The latter is shown in the video you can download. The cost of the video with the syllabus is less than the same cost of one private lesson. But you cannot learn ballet from watching videos as corrections and coaching are also necessary in my experience.
re: adult exams?
By Andy32 Comments: 2, member since Thu Dec 14, 2017
On Thu Dec 14, 2017 11:38 AM
Wow, StormTrouper, you have just expressed my exact thoughts on teaching methods and the desire to actually learn a piece of choreography and perform. I have thought of starting my own blog and/or Youtube channel just to cover the tips and techniques that have helped me, which unfortunately have taken years to finally "get" and understand. I think there is a place for advice from non-natural dancers, from people who didn't grow up winning ballet competitions and so forth. I wish that teachers could break down what I'm doing wrong, and what to start or stop doing to correct it. It's taken me years to get consistent pirouettes (I just did some good doubles the other night), and it's come down to a few things that I wish someone had told me back in 2005! (lol) Most of those things I picked up from slowing down Youtube videos and tutorials to 25% speed and breaking down the sequence of movement, as well as the Finis Jhung video. I want to know if my errors are due to balance, timing and coordination, or raw strength in some cases. Hopefully I get more of that instruction at my next studio.

Even though I'm in a medium-sized city, (St. Louis), I'm having a hard time finding anywhere where adults are allowed to audition or perform in any capacity. It may be because there is little interest among the adult students. I think many of the more serious ones had enough performing growing up, perhaps, and don't care to do it now. I thought I found such a place, a smaller school with company, but unfortunately they opt to using teens with almost no experience in the Nutcracker over motivated adults with some years of experience. So, I'll be looking elsewhere. I hear of so many other studios where men are in demand, and as soon as they walk in the door they are recruited for Nutcracker, partnering, and so forth. But that's never been the case with me. At least I have good schools in the area, even if I never perform. I've even looked into RAD or another formal system, where at least I'd have an "official" achievement of passing exams, but one RAD-based school in the area closed a couple of years ago.
re: adult exams?
By Storm_Trouper Comments: 834, member since Mon May 21, 2012
On Thu Dec 14, 2017 01:15 PM
Double WOW, Andy....
Because I wrote particularly stridently and provocatively, and so expected the first reaction wave to be a backlash contra my heretical assertions and claims, from establishment ballet readers on DDN. You touch on many common points. Mind you, we all ‘figure stuff out’ eventually, most of the time, most of the people.

There is a non traditional learners market or audience (or customer) out there that the conventional ballet industry is not well equipped to understand or deal with. There are a handful of exceptions I have experienced or come across but they are rare and the establishment diesnt venerate them, why should they’re? They stick to their knitting and pirouetting, as they should. They have their focus and face challenges of recruiting and retaining the next YAGP or whatever standout, making ends meet to cover salary and overhead, etc. That is why only a new, innovative business model, featuring adult performance and efficient effective adult-specific training approaches from the 21st century (not the 17th, sorry) will drive the development and grow this untapped potential... who will buy tickets to local, regional and higher level performances, balletomanes who are also practitioners in their own way, in order to connect with those who can demonstrate greater facility and fitness. The NHL has mega sports fans, many of whom play beer league baseball themselves. It is not hard to figure out really, but there is currently very little incentive to branch out and popularize this archaic, exacting art form ‘for the masses’ of enthusiasts.

I hear you about studios yearning and aching for males and casting kids only. A few rare productions involve adults in Nutcracker in other than party scene standing around and waltzing. There are artistic standards to be maintained of course. But friends and family audience performances are do-able.

Comment #10248432 deleted
Removed by hummingbird (128773) on 2017-12-21 07:12:49 Double post, thank you for the Mod report.

re: adult exams?
By Jenerator Comments: 291, member since Fri Jun 04, 2004
On Thu Dec 14, 2017 11:43 PM
Thank you for your thought provoking answer. Fascinating as, yes my teacher is an ex professional dancer herself. She does make plenty of allowances for my age but still... my question hadn't been answered at all!
re: adult exams?
By Tishwah Comments: 590, member since Sun May 17, 2009
On Fri Dec 15, 2017 04:09 AM
I did a couple of Cecchetti exams as an adult, and did those exams with the kids! I was a good 20-25 years older than the childen I went in with, none of whom came from my school (once you get to a certain grade in Cecchetti it isn't in school groups anymore, you go to a central location and are placed in groups). It is very flattering at that age to be asked if you have taken the day off school to be there (examiner hadn't actually looked closed at me at that point). It didn't matter to me or the kids I went in with, we were all there to do our exams to best of our ability, and that has nothing to do with age. If nothing else i was calmer than the kids because I wasn't aiming at a ballet career and the benefit of age and experience meant that I didn't completely freak out when I made a mistake. I comforted the crying child who thought they stuffed up their bourres. Doing the exam that way meant I did the full exams, an hour and a half, same as everyone else in that grade, and in the end I really earned those Honours. I am in Sydney (Australia), so I understand where you are coming from, dancers who don't come from a country with an exam culture won't.

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re: adult exams?
By Storm_Trouper Comments: 834, member since Mon May 21, 2012
On Mon Dec 18, 2017 10:07 AM
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2017-12-18 10:16:14
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2017-12-18 10:31:28
Jenerator wrote:

Thank you for your thought provoking answer. Fascinating as, yes my teacher is an ex professional dancer herself. She does make plenty of allowances for my age but still... my question hadn't been answered at all!


I mentioned that the exam standards are set, but how one trains to achieve them can vary.

To find other adults of similar mind to want to learn RAD, a community of like-minded dancers needs to be established I think is the only way. For that to happen a new way of thinking about adult ballet training needs to emerge to recognize an 7nder-recognized, non-traditional market of dance ballet consumers. Otherwise there�s no money in it for potential suppliers I don�t imagine.
re: adult exams?
By Storm_Trouper Comments: 834, member since Mon May 21, 2012
On Mon Dec 18, 2017 10:11 AM
Here is an example of an individual who seems to be a ‘natural’ mover / dancer to music. It’s intuitive to her, ingrained, instinctive. Her brain is well suited to the task it would appear.

www.facebook.com . . .
re: adult exams?
By Storm_Trouper Comments: 834, member since Mon May 21, 2012
On Tue Dec 19, 2017 11:45 PM
Article about brain development differences in dancers.

www.helsinki.fi . . .#
re: adult exams?
By Jenerator Comments: 291, member since Fri Jun 04, 2004
On Wed Dec 20, 2017 03:27 PM
so what you're saying is that if I want to do an exam, I need to change the world first?
re: adult exams?
By Storm_Trouper Comments: 834, member since Mon May 21, 2012
On Wed Dec 20, 2017 04:17 PM
Only if you want to pursue ballet fairly economically, taking exam-oriented classes, by sharing the costs for a teacher and studio time among fellow enthusiasts would you need to start a small community of like-minded adults I think. One-on-one private tuition is feasible too, but it could be lonely and expensive I can imagine.
re: adult exams?
By Tishwah Comments: 590, member since Sun May 17, 2009
On Thu Dec 21, 2017 12:44 AM
Storm Trooper, while I understand your passion, this isn't helpful to Jennerator who actually wants to take exam as an adult, HAS taken exams as an adult and lives in a country with an exam taking culture! Other adults in Australia take ballet exams (example - me!), it may be a case of a different ballet school, considering that Melbourne is the second biggest city in tne country, therebhas to be somewhere for you.

You don't need to change the world to do ballet exams (because that is an absurd suggestion), but looking for a supportive ballet school may be the way to go.
re: adult exams?
By Tishwah Comments: 590, member since Sun May 17, 2009
On Thu Dec 21, 2017 12:49 AM
I just reread your original post Jennerator and I see that your teacher has been the one to suggest you doing the exam, that is great, means you are at a supportive ballet school! What if you float the idea of going into the exam with younger students from your school to her? As I said above (before the thread was completely derailed), I did my ballet exams as an adult with the kids and it wasn't a problem.

The Cecchetti method in Australia also used to have a special exam program specifically for adult dancers (over 30 from memory), the category b option, it was basically the same as the kids exam but without the pointe work from memory?
re: adult exams?
By Jenerator Comments: 291, member since Fri Jun 04, 2004
On Fri Dec 22, 2017 03:06 PM
Thank you for your response. I have put out feelers and have found the name of another school that may be willing to put me through an exam with other adults - I will contact them in the new year to ask. I think it would look a little odd for me to do an exam with 10 year old girls, as I'm 53 and somewhat overweight, but I'll see what's out there.
re: adult exams?
By Dancertell Comments: 13, member since Sat Apr 01, 2017
On Sat Dec 23, 2017 01:13 AM
I am 28 and only started this year but my teacher has suggested going for the exams
re: adult exams?
By Storm_Trouper Comments: 834, member since Mon May 21, 2012
On Wed Jan 17, 2018 01:12 PM
Tishwah wrote:

Storm Trooper, while I understand your passion, this isn't helpful to Jennerator who actually wants to take exam as an adult, HAS taken exams as an adult and lives in a country with an exam taking culture! Other adults in Australia take ballet exams (example - me!), it may be a case of a different ballet school, considering that Melbourne is the second biggest city in tne country, therebhas to be somewhere for you.

You don't need to change the world to do ballet exams (because that is an absurd suggestion), but looking for a supportive ballet school may be the way to go.


‘Changing the world’ were not my words.
If one wants to be able to have the option of taking exams as an adult alongside other adults, then the ballet world needs to be altered or adjusted in some small ways in order to facilitate this desire more generally I feel. Otherwise things remain, well, unchanged. I believe this because...
Examinations are a service in a dance educational service industry.
Exam systems were developed and are maintained primarily to serve a market within the industry that is youth focused, not adult oriented.
In order for the industry to offer exams to adults more commonly, there needs to be a steady demand for same, because the suppliers operate as businesses usually. Demand CAN be increased if the service is tailored more to the needs of adults. Firms do this all the time (customize to build new markets), but they don’t try to change the whole world, just a focused part of it. Developing new markets and stimulating demand for innovative products and services is a thing. It’s done all the time. What has to change is one’s way of thinking about and breaking down the ‘problem’ or need that is going unsatisfied. Build it and they will come if the innovative approach addresses a need that people are willing to pay for and receive value and satisfaction. Ballet examination suppliers do not owe it to adult dancers to be there for them.
re: adult exams?
By Storm_Trouper Comments: 834, member since Mon May 21, 2012
On Wed Jan 17, 2018 01:31 PM
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2018-01-17 13:35:59
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2018-01-17 13:39:26
Tishwah wrote:

... to do ballet exams .... looking for a supportive ballet school may be the way to go.


I might have misinterpreted the query, sorry:

Is the desire - to do ballet exams - code for /taking classes/ that follow an examination syllabus in order to be taught the techniques to be eligible and qualified to be entered into an exam opportunity.

Or is the OP simply asking to be able to be registered to undergo an examination?

My understanding is that only a bona fide RAD or Cecchetti teacher may present and register an individual for examination; and that the RAD no longer has an upper age limit for being examined.

(Most adult class offerings are not syllabus following in my experience.)

So if you can find a teacher to take private lessons from (the first need), and then a RAD or Cecchetti teacher willing to register you for examination (as an adult) (the second need) then you should be able to - do an exam - is what I was considering. It is only if you want to take syllabus classes with other adults that opportunities dry up. This was how I was interpreting the OPs query: how can I get into an adult syllabus class situation leading to examination. Some schools uncommonly offer multi-generational inclusive classes (youth with young adults with middle aged and senior adults).

Sorry if I misinterpreted the OPosting.

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