Thursday, February 24, 2011

Recreational Classes VS Exam Classes

Today's topic will cover some recent news I overheard. My old dance studio cut all recreational classes and students are only allowed in if they pass an exam. ... What? This has not been 100% confirmed yet, but I'm going to rant about it anyway because it affects children and their arts education.

The studio is known for being exceptional and has won several awards from many competitions over the years. The teachers are knowledgeable and qualified, each coming from an extensive dance background. The building is fairly large with two huge studio rooms and one small room for young children and the drama class. There's a built-in dance store where you can buy all the apparel you need and a waiting area with dance books and toys for children. The used to offer classes for many different levels. Ballet, jazz, modern, lyrical, pointe class, hip hop, boys only classes, musical theatre, tap... everything. They were separated by level for recreational dancers who just wanted to dance for fun. There was Beginner, Junior, Intermediate, Senior, and Adult. For the more dedicated dancers, there were Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) syllabus classes and Canadian Dance Teacher's Association (CDTA) syllabus classes, which were graded from 1-8, Intermediate Foundation, Intermediate, Advanced Foundation, Advanced, and Pre-Professional. These classes required their students to pass an exam before going on to the next grade. If you were good enough, you can skip grades without taking exams. When I first started, I was placed in Grade 6 Ballet and Intermediate Foundation Ballet. I also took Senior Ballet, Senior Jazz, and Senior Modern for recreational fun, since I liked to dance sometimes without someone making sure everything was absolutely perfect and well-placed on my body. Now those classes are cut.

What happens to the dancers who just want to dance for fun? What happens to the dancers who aren't good enough to pass the exams but still want the physical fitness dance has to offer?

I believe in having a strong foundation in dance and having that firm discipline, but c'mon. Not everyone is going to want to be a professional. Many dancers were asked to leave and drop their classes, including my friend who had been dancing there for thirteen years. She was never good enough to take exams, but she enjoyed moving to the music and learning new steps. It was just a hobby for her. Young children also need that "fun" in dance before they should decide if they want syllabus classes or not. Syllabus classes are also really expensive. I was lucky enough to get my syllabus classes for free of charge, courtesy of my dance studios. Exam classes also require expensive uniforms. Depending of your level, you will need a solid coloured leotard, usually black. Sleeved or sleevless. V-necked, or scoop-necked. Ballet pink tights, pink ballet slippers or pointe shoes, hair in a tight bun with absolutely no wisps of hair sticking out, and everything must be clean of any floor markings or dirt. In recreational classes, you are free to wear anything that is comfortable to move in. I've even seen some people wear jeans to class, which made me cringe, but reminded me of the freedom people were allowed.

Now there is no freedom. Everything is restricted. It's not really fair to those who don't want that added stress of dance exams on top of regular school exams. For the studio to cut recreational dance classes is just insane. How does this contribute to the fun of dance? It doesn't.

That is my rant for today! I will try to update more often on this blog, but it's hard to keep up! Bye for now!


pcone said...

Was there any reason given to drop the non-exam classes? Was the school running out of money and / or instructors?

Your post reminds me of my high school days (1970-72) when those of us who were "non-athletic" were not allowed to take physed in grade 11 and 12. The rationale was that the students with athletic talents should have the opportunity to work out and learn with each other. We were "consoled" with the option of taking house sports at noon-hour. Ironically enough, these special physed classes were more concerned with individual sports like swimming and cross-country skiing rather than the team sport focus of grade 9 and 10 where we "klutzes" were in the way. I believe the philosophy of physical education has come a long way since then.

Marie said...

The studio is run by a new owner, as of last year. I'm guessing she found it to be fit to make the entire studio exam-orientated and not recreational.

Your phys-ed experience sounds horrible! I believe in everyone having an equal opportunity to what they want to learn. Even if it is just for fun. Talented students can have classes just for them, but what I mean is that students should not be restricted on their abilities. Willingness to learn is key.