It’s nearly three months since my daughter took her Grade 4 ballet exam. Yes, that’s how long it takes to get the results.
Grade 4 is tough. It’s a huge step up from Grade 3, with a much longer syllabus. In the exam, the kids have to do far more dancing on their own than in previous exams. Apparently it takes 75 hours’ class time, plus 20 hours practise at home, to really cover the Grade 4 syllabus. That’s a lot of work for a class that takes place one a week, in term-time only, and is only 45 minutes long.
My daughter, as ever, worked really hard for her Grade 4 exam. In the weeks running up to her exam, she looked brilliant. Her movements were strong when they needed to be strong, soft when they needed to be soft. For her individual dance, she had chosen a different dance to everyone else – always a brave move – and it looked so slick.
But of course, I’m no expert. Everything I know about ballet, I know from my daughter and her teacher. I know more about ballet than people whose kids don’t do ballet, but I know less than most ballet mums. Because I never did ballet myself. I’m learning as my daughter learns. I know she looks brilliant, but I don’t know if she’s got things technically spot-on.
My daughter has got distinction in every single exam she’s ever taken, both in ballet and the other styles – she’s done one exam each of tap, modern and jazz. Of course, we hoped that she would get distinction in her Grade 4 ballet exam too. When I watched her class dance, she did look like the best (even though she’s the youngest). If anyone was going to get distinction, it was my daughter.
So three months have passed, Christmas has come and gone, and thoughts have turned to her panto. We haven’t exactly been thinking about the results of the ballet exam every day. But of course, deep down, we were hoping for (and maybe even expecting) a distinction.
But then the result came through. Merit. A high merit, but a merit all the same.
She couldn’t get a distinction forever and, with the much harder syllabus, it was to be expected. But I knew she wouldn’t be happy.
When I told her the result, she seemed OK at first. But 10 minutes later, I found her a mess of snot and tears. She’d done her very best and, in her view, that wasn’t good enough. Which meant she could never have a career in dance or the theatre… She was exactly the same as someone who had got 55%… She’d missed out on the distinction because she’d wobbled…
We knew a merit was a possibility this time, but we also both still thought she’d get the distinction. But if she’d done her best, we couldn’t ask for more. If she’s serious about a career in dance or the theatre, she can still make that happen. She’s definitely not exactly the same as someone who had got 55%! The boundaries are very big, so a merit goes from 55 to 74% and she got 71. She may have got a merit the same as someone who got 55%, but she did a lot better than them. And her wobble would have been unlikely to lose her even 1% and definitely not the 4% needed to get up to a distinction.
I’m pleased to say, she does recover fairly quickly from these little knocks. There are two other girls in her class who are almost as good as her and one of them confided in her that she’d got a few marks below a distinction. I knew that if my daughter didn’t have a distinction, none of them would.
The teacher even said that she felt the examiner was a little harsh and that she should have got a distinction. And if the teacher thinks that, there’s nothing to be upset about, is there? She also told me daughter that she didn’t get a distinction until Grade 5 herself – and she had a professional career in ballet.
My daughter really has got nothing to worry about. And I know, and I think she knows deep down, just how hard she worked and how well she did in a very challenging exam.