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Meet the Examiners

In our MayJun issue we have interviewed several examiners from our most prominent syllabi. A common comment from our examiners is that our students are very nervous when they enter the exam room and fear that their little mistakes will cost them marks. Reading the examiners profile to your students out-loud in class will help them understand that their examiners were once, just like them, students of dance. They want the best for students and really enjoy their role of watching them dance.

Our editor’s note for teachers is to consider allowing your students to run their class without your corrections. Try instead during at least 1 class per month to offer them corrections, only at the end of class. The students gain confidence with your trust. The exam room can be eerily quite if this is the first time they get to complete their exercises without corrections.

Below we have included an excerpt from each examiner interview, please see your latest issue of dancetrain MayJun on sale now for full interviews (which also has pics of some of our examiners as students).

Royal Academy of Dance Examiner Samantha Leeman
“I love the moment when the bell rings to welcome the next group of candidates into the exam studio; the sense of anticipation from both the students and the examiner.”

Small mistakes don’t have an impact on the mark as we are not marking the students’ knowledge of the work (other than in Pre-Primary in Dance and Solo Performance Awards). We are assessing how the students dance, how they interpret and perform the work, and how they respond to the music.

One of the first things that nerves can affect is your breathing and that can flow on to impact your technique and performance so take the time to breathe properly and deeply to release the tension.

I would particularly encourage students to work with their teachers on developing a natural, honest and meaningful interpretation of each exercise and dance. Rather than having a ‘set’ smile or grin throughout the exam students could think about and convey to their audience their individual response to the music and the movements they are creating.

Cecchetti Ballet Australia Examiner Carole Hall O.A.M

“I believe it is my job as the examiner to make the students feel comfortable and to make the experience an enjoyable one.”

I believe there are circumstances when a Grade can be skipped e.g. when they have had to miss a significant amount of the year through the family moving away, when they have had an injury which has had an impact on their training or when there has been an unusual growth spurt resulting in a lack of strength. However normally I believe our syllabi follow the development of the classical technique so ideally all exams should be followed.

The students need to know that the examiners are there to help them and not to frighten them and as long as they know their work and do it to the best of their ability then there is no need to be frightened.

CSTD/COMDANCE Examiner Marilyn Fisher
“As an examiner it is our job to encourage the students to enjoy and feel safe in the exam environment. It is also our job to build confidence and motivate their desire to return to an exam room.

My Philosophy is the grades levels give the students the knowledge and especially the skill to go through each grade. It is important for their development, and understanding of each grade that they are achieving.

If students enter the exam well prepared this instills confidence and will also carry though to their life journey.


ATOD Examiner Leah Belford

“I love the chance to be able to see children flourish with confidence when they can tell they have achieved something special.”

Students should never fear making mistakes – they learn from mistakes. Simple mistakes that are made because they are nervous or just happened to step on the wrong foot or use the wrong arm shouldn’t be marked down. I always give them another go anyway and have a chat about it in the exam room – this generally puts them at ease

I tell all of my students, “you know your work, you know what is expected, you know that if you make a mistake you will be given another go, so go in there and show the examiner what you are good at and be confident.  Enjoy the moment because dance is what you love to do”. “Your marks don’t define you as a person or a dancer, marks give you a benchmark of where you sat in that particular time on that particular day, so get in there and give it your best”

Australian Institute of Classical Dance Examiner Barbie Komazec

“Parents and students in this competitive climate seem to be in such a hurry to progress quickly. This is not an ideal way of training. Slow and steady is the key.  Learning to dance should not be a race.”

Mistakes quite often occur during examinations due to nerves, anxiety etc.  As long as the student carries on, puts the mistake behind them and continues in a confident manner, it should not affect their overall mark.

I don’t think there is any value in skipping grades. Levels and grades are there for a reason – for students to attain the required capability of technique for that level or grade. The students’ development is paramount in the building blocks of a slow and steady training in order to acquire certain steps, movements, coordination, strength, control and the ability to mature within the grade or level. I tell all my students and parents remember, “It’s the journey not the destination”.


Australasian Dance Association Examiner Lesley Scott

“As an examiner it is a privilege to see how students have been prepared for their exams, and their hard work throughout the year presented to me as their examiner. I also enjoy seeing so many talented dancers.”

I feel to benefit and gain a solid foundation of technique in any syllabus, be it in ballet, tap or jazz a student should complete every grade.

Examiners are only wanting a student to do and try their best. As a teacher I tell my students that they have worked hard all year and now it’s their time to shine.



EDTA Examiner Leonie Stone

“Students today have a great deal to contend with in their lives. Because of this I don’t think students fully appreciate the necessity of practice outside the studio. They would benefit from taking regular time to practice and research their training.”

A student’s work is judged overall and it is the technical standard that is first assessed. It is more important for a student to pick up their performance if they make a mistake and not to let that worry them. The ability to ignore a mistake if one is made is very important to the overall presentation of a student’s work.

Students should be encouraged to work at a level that challenges and develops them. There is no point for a student to be held back in their training, which may result in them losing their enthusiasm and passion for their performance. However, it is also important for a teacher not to push a student into areas beyond their overall ability, which could hinder them in higher grades of work.  Each student should be judged individually on their potential and capabilities and placed in a grade that will support their growth and maintain their joy in dance.

A student must be reminded that they are fully prepared and ready to take this exam; confidence in their ability will alleviate feelings of nervousness and therefore a teacher has a strong responsibility in ensuring that the student is fully prepared and polished in their grade work.

Acrobatic Arts Examiner Sandra Elliott

“It makes my day when I make a suggestion to a dancer in an exam, and then see their confidence grow as they try the skill again and realise the instant improvement they have made.”

It’s important for dancers to understand that mistakes happen. Recover quickly, brush it off and don’t allow one error to create another one. This is essential to master if they want to audition and perform professionally in the dance industry.

Better-prepared dancers are more confident on exam day. Sleep well the night before and be fuelled up with healthy food and water.  Relax and breathe!  We are there to facilitate a fantastic experience as much as we are there to analyse their skills.

The stronger dancers are, the more control they have, the safer they will be and the more they will achieve.