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RAD Ballet Grades and Levels

Confused about the RAD - Royal Academy of Dance ballet levels? Here is some of the information decoded for adults who are interested in learning the RAD syllabus and exams.

The Royal Academy of Dance is an organization which focuses on dance training and education. In lay-man terms, it is simply a method of educating people on how to dance ballet.

There are many different methods in ballet training, such as Vaganova, Cecchetti, French Paris Opera ballet style, Balanchine etc. The Royal Academy of Dance originated in Britain.

As my Beijing-Dance-Academy-ex-professional-dancers-now-turned-dance-teachers scoffed, "RAD is simply a method to train recreational dancers", the Royal Academy of dance provides a sufficient syllabus for learning to dance recreationally as well as opportunities for the dancer to turn professional.

Since the readers of this website are adults and I assume, who is mainly interested to take ballet exams for personal achievement reasons, I've watered down the explanation of the RAD syllabus.

There are 2 general syllabus in Royal Academy of Dance, the graded and the vocational as follows:

RAD Graded Syllabus



Grade 1
Grade 2
Grade 3
Grade 4
Grade 5
Grade 6
Grade 7
Grade 8

RAD Vocational Syllabus



Intermediate Foundation
Intermediate
Advance Foundation
Advance 1
Advance 2
Solo Seal

Graded Syllabus (focused on dance)

The graded syllabus is often described as a 'dance-y' syllabus. It focuses more on the expression and joy of dancing and performing, rather than on technique. Not to say that technique is not important, but teachers and examiners focus more on inculcating the joy of learning and dancing ballet.

Frankly, I'm often shocked to hear about the high scores that some students (mainly kids and early teens) achieved in their graded examinations class....especially when I've seen them in class. I then realize that the teachers and examiners recognize that these students are not perfect, and that ballet is a long journey, thus they grade them according to the progress, instead of how technically perfect their execution is.

I've studied the graded syllabus from grade 4 - 8 loosely and it is true, the variations (dance numbers) are not as complex and very 'dance-y' with lots of room for expression and artistry. The variations are very pretty and you'll probably enjoy them even as an adult.

Young children from the age of six or seven generally start at grade 1 and progress upwards accordingly. The age difference in each classes from grade 1 to 6 may vary from four to five years in age gap. It doesn't quite matter.

Vocational Syllabus (focused on technique)

The vocational syllabus is focused on technique. That doesn't mean musicality and performance is not important. You are assessed at every corner! This is a more in-depth study of ballet.

The vocational syllabus was designed to prepare dancers who want to turn professional. That means, it would serve as a good foundation for dancers to audition for vocational ballet schools.

How RAD Exams apply to adults

About a decade ago, the Royal Academy of Dance did away with upper age limits for ballet examinations.

Truthfully, there is no real need for ballet exams for children or adults UNLESS they want to pursue a career in dance. Even so, children who want to go to be professional dancers simply have to audition to get into a school/dance company, regardless of whether they have a dance certificate or not.

Nevertheless, it is always nice to have something to show for your efforts.

For adults who have no ballet background, but want to try for ballet exams may start with Grade 5 or Grade 6 from the graded syllabus, or Intermediate Foundation from the vocational syllabus.

Traditionally, most adult beginners start from Grade 6 all around the world, because in the past, that was the only grade where there was no upper age limit for exams.

Though it has been more than 10 years since RAD removed the upper age limit, studios around the world have difficulty adjusting to it. The upper age limit was such a downer, it made me unable to go back to ballet class when I was a child, and many other people who had to stop ballet classes for a while like me.

There is a group of seniors (age 50 to 70) who wanted to learn ballet and the ballet teacher started them off from Grade 2, and eventually after a few years, helped them enter for Intermediate Foundation exams (September 2013).  Check out the video about them here!


Interested in taking RAD exams as an adult?


Are you interested in taking RAD exams as an adult?

You may read about my experience in taking RAD exams as an adult here.

Read this article on how you may find a school or teacher who will help you.





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