Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Next Step

Royal Academy of Dance, Grades 1-3 Syllabi Launch, Mermaid Conference and Events Centre – reviewed on 3rd January 2012
Over a number of years, the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) are updating their examination syllabi. The latest launch took place at the Mermaid Conference Centre for the new Grades 1-3.
Photo: Elliott Franks
Monica Mason, Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet, was invited to speak. She highlighted “the vital importance of the teacher”, stating “the method matters hugely but the teacher matters more”. She detailed her dance training and the many people that had inspired her, describing how learning dance “can nourish you for your whole life”.
Mason offered teachers some helpful advice. Of most importance was “posture first. If the posture’s not right, you can’t do anything”. She also encouraged teachers never to treat class as routine, to always make it “something special” for their students.
The new Grades 1-3 certainly make dance more engaging and ‘special’ for children. Exercises are fun, with focus on the use of props and story-telling through movement. The RAD have also placed more emphasis on turning and jumping – two vitally important skills – which are made easier if learnt at a young age. For example, sissonnes de côté form part of the new Grade 3.
The grades follow logically from the Pre-Primary and Primary in Dance syllabi which were launched in 2008, and encourage “feeling before form”, so that quality of movement and expression become the primary goal of early training.
Most pleasing is the new syllabi’s wonderful music. Performed by a full orchestra and incorporating many recognisable tunes, it encourages a real sense of performance. Training shouldn’t focus solely on exams because as Mason pointed out, it is about “preparing to dance for an audience”.
I’m certainly looking forward to teaching the new grades and am sure my students will be equally captivated.

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