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To Examine or not to Examine! Miss Ava discusses the reasons why DanSci Dance Studio have chosen not

As an independent studio we have the luxury to choose the best syllabi from across the globe and utilize the most scientific training methods without being constrained to the choreographic style of a specific examining board. This means we can ensure sequenced progressions, and provide opportunities for our dancers they would not find at other dance schools, preparing them for the rigors of the dance genres now seen in the TV shows the kids are currently watching.

However, people often ask us why we do not offer formal dance exams at our studio. There are a few reasons for this. It is most certainly not that we think our kids are not good enough, in fact the opposite, they’re (we’re) better then needing to rely on exam results. We can concentrate on dancing. We have specifically chosen to take the studio down a different route. We believe that not all children enjoy or relish the idea and pressure of exams, so therefore we are giving them a different approach to enjoying their recreational dance classes. Instead we feel, performance experience is more beneficial (of course just dancing for yourself is fine too). From experience, growing up through the ranks of a traditional ballet school, training vocationally and working professionally, I can safely say there was not a single audition I attended where we were asked to demonstrate intermediate RAD plies …the dancers who could pick up the choreography and flavour the fastest got the places/roles/ jobs!

The idea of exams as a goal setting device has its benefits. However, any good teacher will have plans and goals for all their students and not necessarily require a ‘set syllabus’ to ensure their students are learning correct progressions (assuming those syllabus has the correct progressions-remember there is potential that some are simply choreographic exercises built from an individual's ideas of the dance style at that given time [Some are quite dated] which you could also say simply squashes any creativity when we have such limited time with our students) The pessimist in me also sees the examination process as a way of making money for examining boards who charge extortionate fees for each exam, annual fees to the teachers, the set uniforms (which loses the dancer's individuality) and costly resources. Of course this is just my opinion from when I taught syllabus work!

As a dance scientist, I have seen over the years how long it takes for new scientific training methods to be adopted into syllabus, often with tradition and choreographic elements winning out over the training of young bodies. Whether a dancer of ours attends for fun, on the recreational front or is more serious about a future in dance, learning how to protect their bodies through training is paramount to our ethos. They should have access not only to the best and safest environment and be taught with an understanding of biomechanical, anatomical, physiological and psychological principles related to dance. In turn creating knowledgeable dancers who can take responsibilities for their own bodies and enhance dancer safety.

Just because we choose not to follow a set UK dance syllabus, this does not mean that our teachers are less qualified. It is important that our teachers are qualified in their relevant dance styles and usually beyond, plus experience and a rapport with the student go a long way too. We ensure that our staff are continuingly attending events, workshops and training, too which is not only inspirational but also keeps their enthusiasm for the art alive. There is nothing less inspiring than a teacher who is bored by teaching the same thing every single day. How can we expect dance as an art to grow if we are not ourselves? Every teacher at DanSci Dance Studio will tell you they learn something every day which they bring to the studio - if they haven’t learnt it in the studio in the first place! Our reputation of quality teaching is demonstrated by the fact that we have been asked to guest at other schools and establishments such as Exeter college and even train some of their teachers in our methods.

Agreeing with Rosina Andrew; international dancer, teacher and founder of the Pirouette Surgery; who states: ‘I personally feel that dance training in the UK is sometimes limited due to time restraints of learning a syllabus and entering exams. Many schools lack time or staff to offer free work and that is where leaps, turns and tricks are practised, drilled and perfected. Yes, I agree that not all good quality dances involves these ‘competition’ elements but as theatre and commercial dance is progressing it is fortunately, or unfortunately, however you might look at it, changing how dance is presented’. As a studio we are just keeping up with the global expectations of dancers and their training. We are still a relatively new studio but as our students grow up through our ranks their training and technique will be evident.

It is really exciting that DanSci Dance Studio can quickly offer the latest and greatest, supplementing with external specialists when we can. This not only allows us to offer more to our dancers but means that our instructors remain enthused and educated. Attending training sessions and developing their own dance journeys too. The studio is a home for all generations and ages to come together and learn, enjoy and feel valued within the art of dance.

There are a lot of ingredients which go into making a fantastic employable dancer; impeccable technique, genetics, passion, dedication, and work ethic with a sprinkling of good fortune. Their exam results aged 5 are not one of those factors! Our job as dance educators is to provide the best opportunities to our dancers now. Perhaps in the future the way dance is taught will radically change We will address our methods then, in the meantime we really believe we have the right recipe for creating happy, healthy dancers in Exeter.

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