This is my story about how I took my Advanced One ballet exams by the Royal Academy of Dance.
I took my Advanced one exams about 1.5 years after my Intermediate exam. It was a big jump for me because I had skipped Advanced foundation. I went straight to training for Advanced one because the majority of my classmates are pre-professional students and that was the way my ballet class was progressing.
I had to make a decision, more importantly, I had to convince my teacher to let me take the exam, and of course, train very hard for it.
Preparing for ballet exam
I made preparations and calculated the amount of time, effort and money I would need to do this. I knew I had about 1.5 years. That would seem like a long time but not quite enough for the complexity of learning ballet, Even though I passed my Intermediate exam, I wouldn’t say it was perfect nor was I comfortable with every ballet step in it.
First thing I did was to let my teacher know my intentions. To be honest, she’s not one of those beloved ballet teachers that we love to read about – who believed in me etc. She was very blunt and told me I would probably fail the exam. If you haven’t read my story, I’m one of the rare adults in pre-professional program. I’m nowhere nearly as good as her other students.
I told her that I will work very hard and try to pass the exam. And from there on, I worked very hard and I also took private lessons whenever I could afford.
The second thing I did was to buy the DVD and rip the music (couldn’t afford both). I sat down and watched it over and over, and got up and tried to mark/do the steps required of me. I wrote down all the things I haven’t learned or not quite manage. As much as I could, I would practice them after class. Renting a studio is expensive, so I would just use the 15-20 minutes after my open classes to practice in the large studio
One of these steps were my fouettes pirouettes. I have long admired them and I seriously never thought that I could do them one day. I remember my teacher first teaching them to me on the barre. I did the fouette action without turning at the barre for a few weeks. My teacher wouldn’t let me do it like the others, so I remained at the barre for a long time.
One day, a relief teacher came in and we started practicing fouettes. She didn’t know who was good, so we did them all together. I gathered courage and attempted 3 wobbly ones at the back. No matter how technically wrong it may have been, it gave me the courage to try it again.
The next time we did this in my regular teacher’s class, I just did my awful fouettes without the barre at the back. It caught the attention of my regular teacher, and she finally agreed to work on it in the center with me.
I didn’t stop there, waiting for my teacher to schedule them into her classes. After all, I’m not like the rest of her students. I knew that I couldn’t rely just on my twice a week class to get them solid. I had about 6-8 months to my exam. I practiced an additional time of twice a week, after my two adult ballet classes. I even had my friends video me and I replayed them in slow motion.
I had managed to do them comfortably by then, but about 3 months to my exam, I realized I had to do them on both sides. So I started practicing my other side at least 4 times a week (after my ballet classes using the ‘free’ studio).
The end result is that I felt very comfortable and confident doing both sides. Though I worked hard everyday, I still feel surprised at myself. I mean it’s not perfect, but it’s more than I ever thought I could achieve.
Important ballet lesson: Conscious Consistency
This really taught me a lesson – about how powerful CONSCIOUS CONSISTENCY in learning to dance ballet. Why ‘conscious’? I feel that’s because we sometimes fall into a trap of just taking lots of ballet classes without really thinking or talking to yourself about what you want to improve.
There were so many other things I had worked on, fouettes in the end weren’t my greatest hurdles but the battus were – the beats. I watched in awe of how my teachers and some of my classmates execute them so effortlessly. I always felt it was ‘cest impossible’! (Please excuse my french). At the end I managed, but not with as much ease, control and beauty as I hoped. That made me want to work on them now for the future!
Pointe was hard for me too – I had needed to build up lots of strength. Free enchainment was quite hard, because I had skipped advanced foundation, I hurriedly went back to study the syllabus in case I had missed something.
On exam day, I managed everything with as much performance as I could but I think I danced my variation (dance number) the best. It was also my favourite of the whole syllabus. The free enchainement part was the worst, because my teachers never used the proper RAD terms anyway. Thankfully I managed to pass that. I now feel it was important to just keep going and try your very best even though I felt like I was going to die.
My results came out, and surprise surprise, I did better than my Intermediate exams. It doesn’t matter because examiners sometimes have different marking standards and my Intermediate examiner was quite the killer. I wasn’t elated but I felt fulfilled. I won’t say results don’t matter to me because knowing me, I always feel that I could have done better. What truly what is important is that I did the exam and I’ve improved my technique and expression by so much.
Improvement is really what matters
Looking back at where I’ve come, from Intermediate exams to now, I have definitely improved and that’s what matters. 🙂
I no longer struggle with double pirouettes and I can do them both en dehor and en dedan to an open position (which was required for RAD advanced one exams). I go back to Intermediate class sometimes and now the whole syllabus seems easy. I’m a lot stronger on pointe. My arch improved and so has my flexibility! There has been some growth in my my expressions and artistic consciousness. Sure, in my opinion I still look stiff and I still have artistic coordination to work on but if I compared it to my old self, I am dancing better now.
Now in my spare time, I’m doing some ballet teaching for the lower grades, helping out my other ballet teacher with her classes. She is quite impressed by how I’ve cleaned up the children’s variations. One mother, whom I’m privately tutoring as a favor came up to me and said she can see how her daughter dances more beautifully now. I think it is through my exams and performances which have forced me to work with “how can I make this more beautiful?” I credit that to all the hard work I’ve put in for exams and private coaching.
Yes, I paid an arm and a leg learning to dance ballet, but truly I feel more fulfilled than when I bought a Chanel bag. It was truly hard work trying to get as much time in the studio. I won’t lie, I had to sacrifice lots of other things to make the time and commitment to be in the studio.
The future – Taking Advanced two ballet exam?
As for pursuing the next RAD ballet exam – the Advanced two? They have changed the syllabus now, making it more difficult. I went to watch an Advanced two class the other day. I’m very sure I’ve maxed out my abilities for now!
Pointe is way much harder and strength does not come within a few days or weeks. I’ve still got to work on my battus (and a host of other things). I will probably take my Advanced two, but not just yet, I want to build a solid foundation for my basics. I want to work on the quality of each step for now.
Thank you for reading my story of my Advanced One Ballet exams!