Examinations are an essential part of studying by syllabus. Most of us know what it is like to ‘do an exam’. but what is it like to be an examiner? Nina Levy finds out.
THE scent of hairspray and nerves. The tinkling bell to summon candidates. Silence, punctuated by piano notes or a request -“Turn around and I’ll see the grande battement.” Exhilaration when it’s over.
For dance students and teachers, exams are a once-a-year e,·ent, one that requires extensive preparation, physically, mentalJy and emotionally. Throughout this preparation, the mysterious “examiner” is a focal point-after all, it is the examiner who is the sole audience member for the strange performance that is an exam.
So teachers and students think about the examiner a lot, from impressing her with technique and artistry to making sure she is comfortable … but one thing we probably don’t consider is what it is like to BE an examiner. So who are these mysterious people and why do they do it?
Jennifer Lucas is an examiner with Cecchetti Ballet Australia. She remembers thinking, when she first applied to be an examiner, that she would enjoy sharing her knowledge and ”giving back to students and teachers what I had been so fortunate to learn from my mentors”.
“To examine children with gentle encouragement and to strive to get the best from the student being examined was my goal.”
Tania MacLcod, from the Australian Teachers of Dancing (ATOD), echoes her sentiments. “I think it was natural progression. After 20 years of teaching and running my own school, which I still do, it’s wonderful to be able to share the knowledge and experience gained and contribute to the evolving education of the next generation of dancers and teachers.” For both examiners, there is a sense that the role is almost vocational… a chance to give as well as receive.
Examining certainly involves dedication to the cause, especially when one considers that most examiners are teachers themselves, often running their own schools. Lucas has examined three sessions this year – spending one-and-a-half weeks in Adelaide, the same in Taiwan and nearly three weeks in Melbourne. MacLeod estimates that she examines 30-40 days per year, which includes interstate and overseas sessions. For both examiners it’s a long time away from home, not to mention away from their own studios and students.
Examiners cannot just decide they want to be examiners. “You don’t just put your hand up,” says MacLeod. She explains that under the ATOD system, teachers are nominated to…
What are the benefits of syllabus exams?
Exam work provides a measure of the value and quality of the tuition received. Students who participate gain an increased level of confidence and learn important life skills, such as concentrating in an examination environment. Exams give students a goal to work towards and an opportunity to receive an independent assessment of their progress. Achievement in dance exams often has a flow-on effect throughout school and other activities.
Syllabus exams require the method of dance being studied to be executed at a required level. The level of achievement is then determined by the marking system. This gives the student/teacher/parent an idea of the standard reached. Exams teach students to concentrate and work to the best of their ability. Exams also teach discipline.