It's exam time in my adult ballet learning journey...
The pressure is mounting as my exam date (15 December) looms near. I watch a ballet-specific Pilates DVD and start regularly practising the most useful exercises alongside some floor barre. I’m determined to build my strength as much as possible; I’d really like to get a distinction in the exam.
I film myself performing exercises in class. It’s horrible to watch the videos at first (I don’t look as beautiful and poised as I feel!) but it really helps me to identify problems and make noticeable improvements. I spot (and try to correct) two particularly bad habits – looking at the floor and not pointing my feet on the transitions between steps.
The classes at RAD HQ are going well and it’s lovely practising with a live pianist. On the last session of term, a dance-knowledgeable friend comes to watch and I ask her for feedback. She says I look strong at the barre but need to focus more on my posture in the centre. I also ask her for some tips for improving leg height in developpés to the front and side and she obliges with some super-difficult strengthening exercises that I can barely do! I decide they will be great to work on in preparation for the next exam…
I’ve noticed money has been tighter this year and wasn’t sure why – that is until I calculate the cost of doing ballet again. With classes, exam fees, syllabus materials, leotards, tights and shoes, I’ve spent around £800 in the last 12 months. Ballet is an expensive hobby!
I thought my pirouettes were getting better, but they seem to have disappeared in the final days before the exam. Likewise, I’m being given lots of new corrections for silly things that I wasn’t doing before – such as turning the leg in when lifting it to the side and not curving the elbows in 5th position.
Luckily, everything seems to come together on the exam day (pictured) and I really enjoy the experience. I take the exam with a fellow adult from my Transform classes as well as a girl from another dance school, and we all smile at each other between exercises which is lovely. I make a couple of minor mistakes but am generally pretty pleased with my performance. I even manage – surprisingly and pleasingly – to get round on all of the double pirouettes.
I won’t get the result until late January, but I’m confident I'll pass. I decide I’d rather skip the optional Advanced Foundation level and instead buy the more difficult Advanced 1 syllabus and DVD ready to start learning over Christmas.
One of the unexpected benefits of going back to ballet is also that I’ve made a new friend – Chloe. Over the last few months, we've bonded over our shared difficulties performing pirouettes and love of wearing tutus. She’s decided to go onto Advanced Foundation so we’ll no longer be in the same regular classes but we make a plan to take some free classes together in the new year.