At some stage of your dancing career you may take dance exams or you may have already completed them. Examination in dancing is a fantastic opportunity for you to show what you learnt in your classes and lessons. Everyone who takes the exams, wants to excel in them yet sometimes you may miss the cut for the highest marks.
So, what do you need to do to get honours in your dance exam?
There's no better person to answer this than one of the most accomplished IDTA examiners- Yvonne Saunders. I'd like to summarize the main points that Yvonne made during her workshop.
First of all, there are 3 main criteria you will be assessed on:
This is your look. The way you're dressed, how you walk onto the floor and how you wait for your partner to start. An experienced examiner will have a very good idea of your level of dancing even before you take a step. So make sure you spend some time with your teacher working on it.
It's dancing after all so moving in time with music is a key. Are you confident with counts in your choreographies and hearing beats in the music?
Majority of your final mark depends on your understanding of technique - how you use your feet when you dance and how rhythmical they are. At higher levels of dancing the technique becomes more complex.
FACT about examiners:
We probably think that examiners are these very strict non-humans who don't smile and make you even more terrified of the exam, right? Just remember- examiners are ambassadors for dance profession they represent. They know exactly what you go through and always try to see the best in you. They need to be very professional at all times.
When most examiners mark exams, every student starts at 100% and then as they keep dancing, the points are taken away. So you will start as "PERFECT" and your final mark depends on the performance on that day. Nerves and anxiety sometimes may take over so don't be too harsh on yourself if your dancing wasn't as good as it was a week before.
Every examiner has their "pet-hates" and Yvonne shared with us the things which make her cringe.
1. Cha cha cha and Jive- technique of dancing says that the second step of a chasse is "half closed" (not closed).
2. Rumba- sliding of the feet at the end of each step which shows no foot pressure is a definite no no.
3. Samba- "foot slip" in samba walks (stationary, promenade, side) should be on flat foot (heel on the floor)
4. Paso doble- Appel is not a stomp with flat foot. It's a strong lowering and the footwork is "ball flat"
5. Jive- pressure should be felt towards inside of feet and steps shouldn't be taken outside the body line (keep it compact)
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1. Slow Waltz- most figures in waltz have equal counts so don't snatch 3rd step
2. Foxtrot- in heel turns, don't pick your toes high off the floor
3. Tango- walks are not started from position with 1 leg to side. Feet should be closed with right foot slightly back (man) and left foot slightly forward (lady)
4. Quickstep- when closing feet on 2nd step of a natural figure, the heel shouldn't lower (1 heel off the floor) but both knees are flexed
5. General comment: to get the correct frame think to swing your arms forward and upwards rather than just lifting your arms up
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The examiner adjusts their marking criteria to your level of dancing. A newcomer who started dancing 4 weeks ago will be assessed differently to a dancer taking their Gold level exams or higher. However, the more advanced you are, the fewer of those basic mistakes you should be making.
It would be impossible to write all that Yvonne shared with us at the workshop and verbalize the exercises. However, now you should have a much better picture of what you can work on with your teacher. Remember, technique is there to make us all better and more skilled dancers that we want to be.
Feel free to share this article and don't forget to discuss these points with your teachers and implement them.
Photo Credits: Elena Anashina Photography