The classical dance form, with its highly specialised form of training works towards a poised upright posture, physical strength, a good sense of balance, coordination, musicality and rhythm and develops mental concentration and discipline. A ballet class means different things at different stages however.
For young children up to the age of six class is play based so that exercises to foster body or musical awareness, straighten backs and feet are masked as stories or games. There is some scope for children to improvise their own movements during class.
For children from six technical exercises at the barre and the French terminology are introduced. Turn-out is introduced initially for some but not all elements of class.
Children start working towards an exam following the syllabus of the RAD which generally entails twice weekly classes, one non-syllabus. Character dance, a theatrical adaptation of folk dance, is also included.
A class for teenage students engages them physically and mentally involving more technically intricate steps and strength work. Some of these see ballet as a leisure activity and some want to train seriously towards a career in the profession. These students are prepared for the vocational graded exams while others take a non-exam class once a week.
Pointe work is introduced for girls although only once they have enough strength in the back and legs to support the feet and ankles on pointe.
Adults taking ballet class have often taken ballet as children and given up along the way. A once weekly class is a good way of getting back into shape and enjoying the fruits of past labour. Beginners may also try their hands and feet at ballet.
Danced to pop music this style is what you would expect to see in a musical or pop video. Class starts with a gradual warm-up, travelling sequences and culminates in a combination which we work on and extend each week. The styles can vary from funky or lyrical to modern jazz.
This gives children from seven to ten years who like action a chance to move and to develop their own ideas. The accent is less on positions and posture and more movement orientated. The class structure includes technical exercises usually with a story theme and the improvisation gives them a chance for input. An eclectic range of music is used for this class.
ABOUT THE RAD
The Royal Academy of Dance exists to promote knowledge, understanding and practice of dance internationally. It is represented in over 70 countries and is both an examining body and a membership organisation for professional dance teachers. It offers teacher training programmes, full or part-time, organises conferences, and further development training courses. There exists a Code of Conduct and Professional Practice which Registered Teachers are bound to uphold.
Founded in 1920 to improve teaching standards in Britain its five founders represented the leading schools of European ballet: Adeline Genee - the Danish school, Tamara Karsavina- the Russian school, Edouard Espinosa - the French school, Phyllis Bedells - the English school and Lucia Cormani - the Italian school. To this day new syllabi are developed by a team of experienced teachers rather than depending on the ideas of one person. It was granted a Royal Charter in 1935.
Students who follow the RAD programme of training will start with the Graded examinations of which there are seven levels: Pre-Primary, Primary and Grades 1 to 5. The progression beyond Grade 5 offers two pathways, the Higher Grades 6, 7 and 8 or the Vocational syllabi for those wishing to study seriously with a view to following a career in dance. The latter comprises five levels: Intermediate Foundation, Intermediate, Advanced Foundation, Advanced 1 and Advanced 2. The Vocational syllabi introduce pointe work for girls.
The Graded work is a syllabus with a predominantly classical content and in addition Character dance which is an adaptation of national or folk dance for the theatre.
From Grade 1 pupils learn Hungarian, Russian and Ukranian national dance steps culminating in a dance which is performed solo.
Examinations are conducted by a trained examiner and successful candidates are awarded one of three pass categories, Pass, Merit or Distinction. They are judged on technical, musical and performance elements of the syllabus of the relevant Grade. The examinations offer a challenge and give students and their teacher a deadline to work to and a concrete goal. Just prior to an exam students make leaps in progress as their knowledge is tested and demands made on their technical prowess. Each candidate receives a report showing weaknesses and strengths and, on passing a certificate.