Ballet exams are an important part of any ballet dancers journey, but they can seem scary to those who are new to the process.
If you or your child are sitting their first ballet exam soon, there are many ways that you can prepare yourselves. Being organised will make the whole process more smooth and reduce the amount of nerves and stress felt.
1. Be prepared
Ballet exams take months to train for, in order to give yourself the best chance, start preparing what you’ll need a couple of weeks before. Most importantly, make sure you’ve got the right dance gear (with spares if necessary).
What You’ll Need
2. Start an Exam Journal
This is an amazing way to track your training progress. Write the name of each exercise on the top of a page, and leave space to make notes. Once you have gone through them in class write down notes from the teacher, this can then be used when you practice them on your own.
You can also jot down the amount of time spent practicing each movement, a great way to keep track of your progress. This leads to the next, most important tip…
This is probably the most important factor before a ballet exam, attending your dance classes won’t be enough and practice really does make perfect.
I’ve always benefited from videos on YouTube or that I’ve purchased online, this is a great way to watch form, outside of class hours.
They should all be available online, but if it’s not, try filming yourself doing the dances in class. You can then watch it back at a later stage.
I’ve always benefitted from making a training schedule. I start this a month before the exam date with designated days for particular dances, this is a great way to manage your time more effectively. It also ensures you’re not focussing too much time on a particular dance, forgetting about others.
4. Take Advice From Your Classmates and Teachers
If this if your first exam there will be plenty of people in your classes that have gone through it before. Ask them questions and take in as much information as possible.
How did they deal with the nerves? Which parts of the exam were particularly stressful or tiring?
5. Take Your Mock Exam Seriously
Mock exams are an amazing way to get feedback from your teacher and be prepared for the real exam. Be prepared as if it was real, practice and ensure you’re ready.
It won’t be helpful to you if you’re planning on learning some of the dances after the mock.
If you’re not attending a mock exam, try getting ready at home and playing through all the exam pieces. Sometimes I’ll get a friend or family member to watch and give feedback on movements and expressions.
6. Getting the Right Nutrients
Ballet dancers need complex carbohydrates and lean protein the night before the exam. Try to avoid takeaways, fast-food or any food that is high in sugar or fat.
Try and stick to nutrient dense food like brown rice or pasta, with roasted vegetables and a lean meat.
Your muscles should be warm before you enter the exam, start by doing some stretches that you’re used to from class.
Exercises such as jazz splits, lunges and pirouettes to improve balance. Aim to stretch all necessary muscles including hamstrings, feet and arms.
Be careful not to push yourself too hard the day of the ballet exam, your muscles should be warm but not over stretched. Stick to stretches you use in class.
8. Your Appearance
Appearance is really important for ballet exams, ensure you look neat and professional by following these tips.
Your clothing should be clean, have a check of it all a couple of nights before the exam. This way if you find any stains, marks or holes you can sort it out before the deadline.
Follow the dress code closely such as no jewelry apart from small studs and definitely no nail varnish.
How to Put Your Hair in a Bun for the Exam
If your hair is long it should be put in a neat bun with no wispy hairs coming down.
To do this, put your hair in a mid ponytail, make sure it is washed and combed. Twist the ponytail and secure it in a bun, you can use hairspray and pins. See the video below.
9. Start Your Day With a Good Breakfast
You shouldn’t be nervous, but if you are, you may not want to eat. Breakfast is an important meal especially when you’ve got a big event coming up.
Look for a breakfast that is rich in carbohydrates such as toast or cereal. This can then be paired with proteins and healthy fats, like greek yoghurt and nuts.
Dancers need to be hydrated throughout the day before the exam, this limits the chance of headaches, nausea and cramps.
10. During the Exam
There are certain rules to follow that will assist you during the exam. These are things that the examiner is used to and expects from each student. Firstly it is important that you smile as you enter and greet the examiner in a friendly but professional way.
Stand in first position as you wait, this shows them that you’re taking it seriously and that you care.
Look at the examiner as you dance, when it suits the movement but try to move freely without too much thought. Practice expressions in the mirror or with a peer, they should suit the mood of the song and the movements.
Most importantly, smile, be polite and enjoy yourself.
Those are of our 10 tips for your first ballet exam, we hope you found them useful. If you have any tips to add, please leave us a comment below.
For more information regarding ballet exams, check out this RAD article
Good luck in your upcoming exam!