It’s two years since my daughter took her Grade 3 ballet exam, just a few months after her Grade 2. Grade 4 ballet is a huge step up from Grade 3. It has far more exercises and takes almost twice as long. Getting through it all is exhausting and leaves my daughter out of breath.
Apparently you need 75 hours’ lesson time, plus 20 hours’ practise at home to get through the Grade 4 syllabus and be prepared for the exam. 75 hours isn’t much, is it? Except that my daughter’s lessons are only 45 minutes long. And she has one Grade 4 lesson a week. In term time only.
To achieve 75 hours, she would need to have a lesson a week for two years solid.
In the run-up to an exam, her teacher always puts on additional classes. For the previous grades, there were six extra classes, but for Grade 4, there were 10. For the first time ever, she also insisted that the girls take a couple of private lessons too. My daughter had two private lessons and one shared lesson with another girl of similar standard.
She’s been practising at home since the summer too.
Regular readers will know that my daughter has got distinction in every exam she’s ever taken – not just ballet, but tap, jazz and modern too. Distinction is always her aim. But getting a distinction in the Grade 4 ballet exam is much harder as the examiner is looking for a much higher standard. We’ve kept that in our minds and I’ve talked to my daughter about not being disappointed if she doesn’t get a distinction.
But she does look brilliant.
Of course, I’m no expert. But her moves are so perfect, as are facial expressions. She’s sharp where she needs to be sharp and gentle where she needs to be gentle.
We had a blip a few days before the exam. She came home from ballet saying that her knee hurt. It had been hurting in netball at school too. It was still hurting the next day, so I said she wasn’t to go to her ballet and jazz classes. She came home from school the next day, saying it hadn’t hurt all day. She insisted on going to ballet, despite me advising her against it. It started hurting at the end of the lesson. She said she would walk through her dances at her panto rehearsal, but the choreographer told her she had to sit and watch. It didn’t hurt in school the next day either, but I wasn’t taking any chances. She was banned from her final ballet class before the exam, although she went along to watch her classmates.
I’m pleased to say that her knee was perfectly fine on the morning of the exam! It was a pretty early start, as she had to be there at 9.30 for a 10am exam. That half an hour always flies by, with pinning on the number and finding some shoes that are a perfect fit (slightly too small!). She has always done her exams with the same two girls, but one of them has recently given up ballet (a common phenomenon which starts when they are 7 or 8 and carries right on until they’re about 14), so she was with the one usual girl and two other girl. Her usual exam friend is the only other person left from her old class.
The Grade 4 exam is very long! I’d expected it to be about 40 minutes, but it was nearly an hour.
We are supposed to be quiet in the waiting room, but a group of eight 5 and 6 year olds came out of the previous exam session and made a lot of noise as they prepared to leave. Then another group of tiny children came in for the next session and made a load of noise again! There are signs up telling people to be quiet and I wasn’t happy to hear all of the noise.
In Grade 4, kids do some exercises as a group of four, some as pairs and their two dances on their own. All of the girls did a character dance, and there was a choice of two dances for the other dance. Everyone apart from my daughter chose a traditional ballet dance, but my daughter chose a faster, sharper dance which requires more precision. When I’ve seen her do both of the dances, she always looks amazing.
Doing the dances individually means they do get time to get their breath back, because Grade 4 is really full-on. My daughter said she was really out of breath after the character dance. She also said she wobbled in her other dance because she misjudged the space – she travelled too far on one move, so ran out of space for the next move. Hopefully a wobble in a dance won’t affect her too adversely.
She was certainly happy when she came out of her exam. It will be about two months until we get the results. I would say she needs to start working on Grade 5 now, but she’s actually been working on Grade 5 already for nearly two years! So her next step is to refine her Grade 5 ready for that exam.