What happens in a Dance exam? A guide for students and parents

Wednesday 20th April 2022

Dance exams do not need to be a stressful time. They are part of the journey of becoming a professional dancer and realising your dreams.

Exams are optional but highly recommended, so we have the perfect guide on how to get through them right here!

How to prep for your exam

Its all about the preparation!! You can never be too prepared for your exams. Whatever you don't think you need, take it with you!

You will need to make sure you have all uniform ready, clean and spotless! Have extra tights with you just in case (ladders last problem!)
Make sure you have all dance shoes with you. Your shoes need to be clean and comfortable. (Wear them in, don't come in new shoes which hurt your feet or limit movement, you want your arch to be shown at its full potential!)

Your hair should be slicked and in a neat, ballet bun (Ballet) or two French plaits (Modern & Tap) No wispy bits of hair! Hairspray is always a good item to take with you as well as a brush. For boys, smart, clean and again no wispy bits!

No jewellery should be worn and no make up unless it is plain/natural.

Don't forget to take a few minutes to warm up before your exam. Stretches, some practise exercises and also some breathing exercises are good if you are a little nervous.

So, what will happen in the exam?

You have been waiting patiently outside the exam room and now it's your time to shine! The examiner will call you in and you will greet them with a confident smile and introduce yourself.

You will be asked to start your exercise either on your own or as a group or in pairs depending on the exercise. The examiner will guide you as to which they want to see and make sure you listen carefully to their instructions. Your exam will usually run in order of the syllabus Grade, but still always listen to what the examiner asks for.

Whilst you are performing, the examiner may take notes. This is normal, so do not worry, just focus on yourself.

Remember that the examiners want you to succeed. They are not looking for you to fail. They want to see that you have spent hours practising and that you are serious about your exercises or performance. So just make sure you breathe and enjoy it.

A bit on dance exam etiquette

Respecting the art is a big thing in the dance industry. It is why we always wear the same uniforms as each other and we are all equal.

The same etiquette applies in an exam.

Don't be late! In the big wide world, no matter what industry you are in, punctuality is important! Dance exams are no different. They wouldn't let you in to a GCSE examination hall if you were late, the same applies here. You also need to make sure you have enough time before hand to get yourself ready and warm up. You cannot do this if you are late, so its good practise to make sure you are early to all aspects of your life to be in the right mind set for this.

Manners are something that we need to remember in all aspects of life, so dance exams are the same. Please, Thank you and making sure you wait your turn are a part of life.

Good body language is also good to show your examiners you are taking it seriously. Slouching and looking disinterested is not something the examiner will be looking for in a dancer. Smile, hold your head up high and show them you belong up there!

What are the examiners looking for?

Technique- How you execute the exercise given and how effortlessly you can move. A good flow from one exercise to another.
Correct Alignment- Making sure your body, arms, legs, head etc are all in the correct places. Also making sure that the body is conditioned enough to execute the movements strongly.
Co-ordination and the ability to travel across the stage.

How are dance exams marked?

All exams have 3 levels on how they are marked.

Pass- A satisfactory standard overall
Merit - A good standard overall
Distinction - An excellent high standard overall

This will be determined by points on each exercise you perform and how well executed it was. This will be what the examiner is noting down as you go.

What will be on your exam report sheet and how to learn from it

It will be very easy to go away from your exam focusing on what you did wrong and worrying if you did enough. Try not to focus on this. Being as positive as you can be before, during and after the exam will stand you in good stead.

The report card is similar to one you will have had from school. It will advise the parts of the performance executed well.
It will also advise on the things you can improve on. This is a good part of the card believe it or not. Remember the examiner wants you to succeed! In order to do this we need to understand the things about our performance and about ourselves we can improve on to build up an even better performance. This is needed in the future so we can be the best we can be! If you want to go up your grades you will need to do better and better each time! Who better to tell us this than the people who are examining us.

The most important thing to remember is to enjoy yourself!! This is your dream and your passion. Enjoy every minute of it. These are the days you will look back on and you will want to know you enjoyed it and tried your best.

Make sure the night before your exam you relax. Take your mind off it. Do anything apart from dance! Watch your favourite film, eat your favourite food, spend time with family and friends or go for a run! By this point, your should be so wonderfully rehearsed, so give yourself some down time.

You have done the work and the practise and you know it! You got this!

And lastly...we are always here for advice guidance and support throughout all exams!