In our October 10 e-news, we featured an article by highly esteemed ballet teacher and examiner John Byrne, in which he questions the current approach to teaching the program to students. Below is a response from Gerard Charles, Artistic Director of the Royal Academy of Dance.
It is a healthy sign that new initiatives stimulate discussion, debate and reassessment of core values in any sector, but particularly in dance and education.
The RBS offer is an affirmation of the same values that the RAD and many others want teachers to adopt. Although the RAD, as a certification body, offers examinations, our goal for over 100 years has always been to raise the standards of dance education. I think this is a good opportunity to reaffirm that inspiring teaching is, of course, at the heart of happy and successful dancers at all levels.
All RAD teachers are independent and as such are free to teach as they wish. Our top performing teachers take a student-centric approach, focusing on the personal development of the student and only working to bring the curriculum closer to when they can pass an exam. As a useful comparison, when learning a language it is important to first understand what the words mean and how they are related before attempting to have a conversation; So in dance, we want our dancers to fully understand how they engage in the movements before performing the choreography. The process of repeating the same set of exercises over and over throughout the year is far from what I or the RAD would advocate, and is indeed counterproductive.
Exams may not be for everyone, but for many students they provide necessary goals to achieve, a chance to show others their work (a performance if you will), and a sense of accomplishment when they are accomplished. Dancers entering RAD exams are graded on demonstration of a wide range of skills and learning, including placement, musicality, artistry and technical skills, with little or no value placed on memorization by heart. When the new RAD curriculum was launched a few years ago, it deliberately removed the rigidity of previous curricula, freeing up teachers to focus on the specific needs of the students in front of them and build on their strengths. . Updates to our exam syllabi aim to free up more time for teachers to work on dance education.
Beyond curriculum, course content or teacher skills, the reality is that many students do not attend school with the regularity needed to achieve what is expected. With all the best strategies in the world, many teachers still have to make tough decisions about the most important things they have time to work on.
Deep down, we are all striving for the same goal, to help our students, whatever their abilities, become the best they can be – to unlock their potential and ensure a positive learning experience. Teachers are as varied as their students, so while there’s no better way to approach knowledge transfer, having a wide range of skills at your fingertips is an absolute plus. And certainly, as teachers, whatever our experience, we should never stop learning.
Read the original article here.