This is my story of how I managed to learn the RAD ballet syllabus as an adult and eventually take RAD exams.
My background: I had done a bit of ballet as a child, and learned the RAD syllabus but I had no examination certificate to prove it. A few of my other adult ballet dancer friends managed to ‘pick up where they left off’ and take RAD ballet exams because they had a certificate to prove it. Even if it is 10 years ago.
No RAD adult Ballet class in Singapore
After dancing in adult open classes for a while, I started to notice the difference in adult dancers who were trained in the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance)’s syllabus when they were younger. I felt they had better technique and artistry. Thus, I resolved to look for a class.
I called up a few ballet studios/schools in Singapore and all said that their RAD classes were for children only. Read here to understand learn more about the RAD levels and why it is difficult to find an RAD class for adults in Singapore.
I emailed the Royal Academy of Dance Singapore, for schools and she gave me a list of schools which have RAD registered teachers. RAD registered teachers are considered better than non-registered in general (though not necessarily) because RAD registered teachers have to pass an RAD intermediate exams from the Vocational syllabus at the minimum, and undergo a training program which is an approximate 2 years of study.
Utmost importance: Find a good teacher
There are many not-so-good teachers out there in Singapore teaching ballet. Many of them have poor ballet technique and you or your child will probably not benefit out of their classes.
I once met the boss of Sonata (Singapore’s home-grown ballet brand) when I was buying a pair of pointe toe pads. He asked me where I was dancing at. I said, ‘you know open classes at the Singapore Dance Theatre but I’m training for my RAD Intermediate exams independently.’
He was probably feeling generous and chatty that day, he went into his office and pulled out a really old RAD information guide and proceeded to tell me there’s room for more RAD registered teachers in Singapore.
He seemed passionate in raising the ballet standards in Singapore. He is annoyed that many teachers aren’t qualified and are bad teachers, yet they populate the ballet schools in Singapore. We chatted a bit about ballet. He then tried to convince me to go for my teaching cert once I’m done with exams. He even ended our conversation with an enthusiastic “I hope you become a RAD teacher!” as I left the shop.
First of all, I was very very flattered to be mistaken for a serious ballet student, even though I’m past 30. I’ve come a long way since before my body was more shaped like a ballet dancer now, ballet shop assistants used to eye me suspiciously and then assume that I’m buying for my child. When I tell them that I’m shopping for my leotard, they either don’t have sizes or seemed pretty snobby about it. Nowadays, they just look and me and say, “Looking for pointe shoes?”
Secondly, if only they knew how hard I had tried to get a teacher who was willing to teach me and to enter me for exams!
This was how I did it.
Be prepared to take class with people half your age.
After I called up the list of schools that RAD Singapore gave me, I pretty much received the same response that they don’t take adults. Otherwise, they invited me down for an audition. I was worried that my technique would be insufficient, thus, I decided to watch some classes as though I was a parent, of course as discretely as possible.
Since I am a adult beginner at ballet, my technique wasn’t sufficient. Thus, I wanted to speed up the process and started to engage in private classes. After all, that is how some of my adult ballet dancer friends did it (and Natalie Portman too.)
Prepare for your audition: Learn the syllabus.
I started with a good private teacher. Of course, I had to try different private classes of several ballet teachers before I found the one that I felt was the best. He helped me establish a good foundation before helping me learn the RAD syllabus. After private lessons for a few months, I then had the courage to audition for a few ballet schools.
(At that time, I did not know that my current teacher could have introduced me to his dance contacts, so I didn’t ask him to.)
An audition for a class in Singapore simply meant you took a trial class with the current class. The teacher will then see how you fare and if your technique is sufficient to keep up with the class.
Some schools wouldn’t even take adults, even if I was open to the audition. So I tried this tactic further, saying that I will not be entering for exams. At that time, I only wanted to develop the technique and artistry of syllabus-based learning and had no confidence in myself to take ballet exams.
It worked. Hearing that, some big-name schools then allowed me to do the trial class and possibly join as a student there. Of course, I then had to face the humiliation of dancing with teenagers more than half my age…
Work hard and take private classes
During my private classes, I learned the syllabus and that helped my audition process. I could do the exercises along with the girls in my class and was even leading them in the examination dance during the auditions.
All 3 schools which I did a trial class for accepted me. I even started dancing all 3 schools to figure out which environment was best for me and eventually selected the class I would enter exams with.
However, preparing for the exams took me one year. It would have taken a longer time if I hadn’t to supplemented with private classes. The teachers wouldn’t let me take exams because there was no way my technique would have improved enough. Private classes was the only way to keep up with the class! Then again, that’s me…you, on the other hand, might be a brilliant and talented dancer. I’ve seen some of them in my class!
Read about my diary entry written the day after I took my first RAD exams.
Thoughts about adults pursuing RAD exams?
Lastly, do I recommend taking RAD exams as an adult? Generally, looking back, now that I’ve done it. I would say it depends. Ballet exams are high commitment and hard work, all that would affect your schedule tremendously as an adult.
Also, I’ve recognized that learning the RAD syllabus and taking exams is merely a means to get better at ballet technique.
It is not the only way.
Finding a good teacher and private lessons are some of the other ways.
Taking an examinations does not prove that you’re a better dancer, neither does it means that you’re a serious ballet student. It is also NOT to compare standards or be used as a measurement to compete with others.
So before you work really hard to try to find any teacher who would teach you the RAD syllabus, have a reality check to make sure that teacher is a really good one, and not trying just to earn your money.