The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) Intermediate ballet exam is the second vocational ballet exam, following on from the Intermediate Foundation exam. Not many people do these exams. The Intermediate exam is about the equivalent of a Grade 6, but is much more rigorous and challenging.
The Intermediate ballet exam requires a higher level of technicality than the Grade 6. It demands greater commitment and not everyone wants to do that, or has the skills to be able to do that. But dancers need to take the exam if they may want to go on to teach ballet in future.
Grades up to Grade 8 are designed to be more inclusive for everyone from recreational dancers to serious dancers, and anyone should be able to pass them if they put the work in. But people do fail their Intermediate exam.
You may be surprised to discover that going en pointe isn’t part of the syllabus up to Grade 8. Under the RAD syllabus (I don’t know about other exam boards), it is only required for the vocational exams. This ensures grades up to Grade 8 are inclusive for everyone.
Going en pointe can be painful and not everyone wants to do it or is physically able to do it. Not wanting to go en pointe shouldn’t hold kids back from working through the grades in ballet, so pointe is only used in the vocational exams from Intermediate Foundation onwards.
(Of course, ballet teachers may decide to teach pointe anyway to teenagers and older kids for fun, because going en pointe always feels like the ballet dream.)
The syllabus for the Intermediate exam is very similar to the Intermediate Foundation, but just that bit more advanced. In particular, it has a lot more work on en pointe, including in the centre, rather than just at the barre. All of the moves require a high level of strength, stamina and control, as well as performance and musicality.
Even though there is far more pointe work in the Intermediate exam, it is still worth only a maximum of 10% of the total marks.
The Intermediate ballet exam includes a ‘free echainement’, which means the examiner tells them some steps to do, using the correct ballet terminology, and the students have to perform them.
To be able to take the Intermediate exam, students need to put in a lot of time both in class and at home. The RAD recommends 150 hours in class, plus 125 hours practise. It can be difficult for students to practise at home if they don’t have sufficient space or the right type of floor – doing ballet on carpet isn’t easy! Teachers generally won’t recommend that their students practise pointe at home either.
During the exam, the students will perform a lot of the moves alone, and the exam takes around an hour, depending on how many students are taking the exam at once. (Up to four students can take the exam together – which will take around 75 minutes in total, compared to 45 minutes for one student on their own.)
The exam is tiring and physically demanding. It is essential that students are fit enough to make it through a really tough exam.
There are 10 elements to the Intermediate ballet exam. And, as with all ballet exams, each element is marked out of 10, with 7 out of 10 demonstrating ‘good’ ability, 8 out of 10 demonstrating ‘very good’ ability, 9 out of 10 demonstrating ‘excellent’ ability and 10 out of 10 demonstrating ‘exceptional’ ability.
It is important to remember that, as the vocational exams are more rigorous, students tend not to score as highly in them as they do in the graded exams. So a student who has always got distinction in their graded exams might get a merit in their vocational exam, but that is still a very good result!
Once a student has passed their RAD Intermediate ballet exam, they can move onto the next vocational grade – the RAD Advanced foundation.