Syllabi & Associations

Do you get really nervous at exam time and find it hard to even look at your examiner? Well just like you, your examiners were once a student of dance. We talk to one examiner from each of the major syllabus and associations so you can get to know them and understand how much they really want you to do your best. They understand that mistakes happen, it is how you move on from them that counts.


Jayson Smart
Examiner for CSTD
[email protected]

How do you wish junior students approach their exams?
With joy and excitement! I hope that they enjoy their chance to shine and perform in front of a special guest. Remember to take extra care with grooming and relish in the preparation of the day.

Does this change for senior students?
I hope that they approach the whole process with a great sense of achievement and pride, striving to conquer new skills and working towards a goal. Candidates should have the mindset that they are not demonstrating anything new in the exam room. Unrehearsed and unset sections are being performed for someone new who is there to encourage and support them. Nerves are to be expected especially when they hear the “dreaded” bell but this is a reminder of how important this exam is to them.

What is a common issue you see junior students struggle with?
Not being able to stand still and sometimes being a little too excited!

What is a common issue you see senior students struggle with?
1. Theory and unrehearsed/unset sections
2. Musicality
3. Being scared of the examiner. This is sometimes promoted unintentionally by teachers using phrases such as, “The examiner won’t like that”, “I hope you’re not going to do it like that in front of the examiner,” “This examiner is tough so you better try really hard.”
4. Being disappointed with the grade/credit they have been awarded. It is always helpful to ensure students are aware of the examining criteria and how they are being graded. I also ask my students what grade/credit they think they will be given which can be quite revealing!

Are you able to share with us an experience from your own exam years?
I enjoyed exams, which is probably why I did so many! I remember being asked by an examiner why I was doing a particular exam. I was a mature student and started exams late in life. I responded that I wanted to be like her and desired to be an examiner. The examiner’s response, “Well you’ve got a fair way to go yet!”



Carole Hall O.A.M
Fellow/Senior Examiner for Cecchetti Ballet Australia Inc.
cecchettiballet.org

How do you wish students to approach their exams?
I believe that successful and enjoyable examinations are achieved by the correct approach from both the teacher of the students and the examiner. The preparation of a student for an examination requires the teacher to ensure that the student knows the necessary syllabus, is able to execute all sections to the best of their ability and be confident enough to enjoy the experience.

I believe that my duty as an examiner is to put the candidate at ease, to be welcoming and helpful throughout the examination and to be very aware of my appearance and attitude to ensure that I am not portraying a negative attitude by either my facial expression, body language, or aggression in my voice. This would be in all exams whether for junior or senior students but I would expect the senior students generally to be able to give a more confident performance.

The Cecchetti examination system does assist the examiner in the assessing students by the structure and allocation of marks with the very young students having only 20 marks out of 100 for technique scaling up to eventually 70 marks out of 100 for the senior students.

What is a common issue you see students struggle with?
When a) the students have not been well prepared in the knowledge of the relevant syllabus so are unable to perform with confidence and enjoyment and b) when the students have not been well trained in the basic classical principles of body placement, turnout and posture.


Leah Belford
Examiner for ATOD
atod.net.au

How do you wish junior students approach their exams?
I would love to see them approach their exams with confidence and a respect for what they are about to embark on. Students should make sure they are well prepared, have attended all of their classes, have made mistakes and improved on them, asked lots of questions, practiced at home and have learnt their theory as best they can. I love to see students enter the exam room with a lovely natural smile and the want to do well. A few butterflies in the stomach is sometimes a good thing – it means they care!

What is a common issue you see junior students struggle with?
A lack of resilience and memory recall.

What is a common issue you see senior students struggle with?
A lack of self confidence and respect for an exam situation. Having the ability to remember that their exam mark is a complete reflection on the amount of work they have put in. As examiners, we can only mark on what we see on the day and everyone has a bad day, however we can see the students who are both mentally and physically prepared.

If you could talk to a student just after they have made a mistake, what would you say?
I always let the student start over. I explain to them that everyone makes mistakes, me included, and that it is how you react to that error that makes you the better person.


Kathleen Hamilton
Children and Major Examiner for AICD BOROVANSKY
ballet.org.au

What is a common issue you see students struggle with?
One of the common issues I find in both junior and senior examinations is forgetting presentation and dance quality. Sometimes students are so cautious not to make a mistake in the exercise or concentrating so hard on technique that they forget that an exam should be like a performance and that style and presentation play a major role in making their dancing look good. Sometimes poor presentation is due to nerves on the day. It is good to have a little nervous/excitement as it can be useful for adrenalin and energy but if a student is anxious/nervous, it can affect the general impression an examiner gets of them as a dancer.

If you could talk to a student just after they have made a mistake, what would you say?
If I see a student make a mistake or maybe a pirouette or step isn’t successfully executed I would love to say to them not to let it show on their face or let it have an effect on their presentation. If an exercise, step or pirouette commences well and finishes well and you cover up any fault with style and grace, it will make you seem like a much better dancer than if you drop your presentation. Professional dancers have bad days when they are performing on the stage, but they are trained to cover it up and continue their performance as if they are feeling on top of the world. Exams are no different. It is like a performance.

Are you able to share with us an experience from your own exam/award years?
Many years ago, when I was a student doing one of my senior exams, I had a complete blank with the unseen point exercise that the examiner gave me to perform. Martin Rubinstein was the examiner and he had a reputation of being a very tough marker. I knew I was going to go wrong but I was determined not to let it fluster me. When the music introduction started, I just made-up my own sequence of steps, smiled and finished with confidence. He rolled his eyes at me with a smile and continued writing on my report. He obviously didn’t take any notice of my mistakes as he gave me honours. I remembered that experience throughout my career as a professional dancer, then as a teacher giving advice to my students and now as an examiner. If a dancer is performing at the best of their technical ability, it is their love of dance and their presentation that really makes the difference to the way the examiner or adjudicator views them as a candidate or contestant.


Bianca Chater
ADV Technical Assessor
adv.org.au

What is a common issue you see junior students struggle with?
Through my own experience preparing students for exams, I have seen the children struggle with the stress of exams, especially the younger ones. In the days of sending them into a room with an official looking examiner, sitting at a desk with pen and paper is enough to send many a child to tears. This is one of the most desirable attributes of Australian Dance Vision. Exams are conducted in a ‘class situation’ where their class teacher operates the music openly to the students and offers gentle guidance to the exercise (example: ok everyone let’s move to the corner ready for the chasse turns) that simple prompt and reassuring nod from the teachers sets up confidence and calms the nerves and can even change the outcome. Students are left to only concern themselves with displaying the technique and the exercise and not ‘what is next and where do we start’.

What is a common issue you see senior students struggle with?
I feel one of the most common issues you would see from senior students is improvisation, as I feel this is something that has rapidly evolved to be a big part of dance today but years ago this wasn’t a highly trained or rehearsed methodology. This is another huge part of ADV I love, improvisation starts as part of these exams from as little as 6 years old and you get to see the students not only learning musicality and creativity but also confidence to be able to let go and just dance.

If you could talk to a student just after they have made a mistake, what would you say?
ADV is very open to students asking to repeat an exercise if they feel they have made a mistake or could perform it better. I start my exams with don’t be afraid to request to do it again, as I never want a student to walk out of an exam feeling they didn’t give it their very best. It is months of hard work and preparation that can be monumental in confidence. I always thank students for performing it again and let them know that they ‘got it’.


Patricia Y. Overington
President/Organsier, Fellow Examiner & Syllabus Creator of EDTA
edta.org.au

What is a common issue you see senior students struggle with?
Again turnout, control in pirouettes, strength in adage, precision in allegro work. I like to see senior students present their ballet work with good technique, strong upper body and beautiful arm line. With tap I like to see good timing and personality. With Jazz, co-ordination, flexibility and energy. An examiner expects senior students to execute the work with poise, strong dance quality, personality, displaying the technical requirements for each facet of dance.

What do you most enjoy about being an examiner?
I am very honoured to be an Examiner and my position as an examiner is to make every student comfortable and feel at ease. It is up to the examiners to bring out the best in every student and never intimidate or embarrass students. I have been an examiner for forty years, I still love to see the students present their work and dances throughout the years with a number gaining qualifications in dance. I get very excited when I see a gifted student. I always commence an examination with a little conversation with the students to relax them, which then puts the students at ease and they see the examiner is not so scary.

If you could talk to a student just after they have made a mistake, what would you say?
The EDTA Inc. Examiners always speak to students in the examination room and if they make a mistake they are asked if they wish to repeat that particular step or the dance. They are encouraged not to be afraid in the Theory & Basic Steps sections and are given time to think and execute the steps.


Stacy Mitchell
Examiner and Founder of The Acrobatic Dance Association
acrobaticdanceassociation.com.au

What is a common issue you see junior students struggle with?
Often young students “overcook” their skills, trying too hard to execute them perfectly. This interferes with the natural body flow and can make the skill more difficult to perform.

What is a common issue you see senior students struggle with?
In acrobatics, it is normal for a skill to not be executed as well as the dancer would like in the exam setting. The dancer can sometimes take this too much to heart and lose confidence throughout the rest of the exam.

What do you most enjoy about being an examiner?
I enjoy seeing the work of all students. Students of all ages, sizes, and facility trying their best to execute the skills they have been working on. I also love watching those skills in choreography as set by their teachers.

If you could talk to a student just after they have made a mistake, what would you say?
I would reassure the student that mistakes are permitted and examiners just want all students to enjoy the experience and do well.

Are you able to share with us an experience from your own exam years?
I was always very nervous about exams, which impacted on my ability to enjoy the dance I loved. I once had an injury and was booked in for the theory section of a student teacher exam. I decided to go ahead with the exam thinking; “Oh well, I can’t dance so what will be will be. I’ll have to talk my way through it” Because I was relaxed about the process and outcome I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and achieved top results. Lesson learnt!


Hilary Kaplan
Examiner for RAD
rad.org.au

How do you wish students approach their exams?
I really like it very much when I see that the students are confident within themselves because they have been well prepared and can dance with a sense of natural enjoyment and sincere expression. If they are entered for an exam, they should have been working hard to achieve their potential and should look forward to the exam as a culmination of the intensive preparation. They should not in any way fear going into the exam.

What is a common issue you see junior students struggle with?
I see very often that they are very nervous so that they cannot relax and give their best. They have also been instructed to ‘smile’ so they have to concentrate on plastering this false smile on their faces, while their eyes are telling me something else.

What is a common issue you see senior students struggle with?
At times, I see that some senior students have not mastered some of the steps or have not yet attained sufficient strength for the level at which they being examined and this causes them much anxiety and insecurity in the exam. They often feel they have done badly and will not achieve the result they anticipated.
Sometimes, too, when they are given a free Enchainment in the exam, they are not able to pick it up and this often leads to disappointment and upsets them for the remainder of the exam.

What do you most enjoy about being an examiner?
I love welcoming the students into the exam studio, making them feel comfortable so they can show me their work with confidence and joy. Examiners should not be scary people and I love watching the students’ responses when they see an ordinary person sitting behind the desk who smiles at them and puts them at ease.
I thoroughly enjoy, too, watching the variety in the interpretation of the work and how other teachers approach various aspects of the technique.

If you could talk to a student just after they have made a mistake, what would you say?
I would smile and tell them not to worry as we all make mistakes and it is not going to change their mark.

See our May/Jun 2018 issue for the full editorial on each examiner. Contact us on 02 9956 6813 to find your local stockist.