For about the last month I've been preparing to take my grade 5 IDTA Ballet exam with the studios I dance with. I already have my RAD grade 5 from my teenage years, but I thought "why not?" as it's a challenge and a target to work towards (and I'm quite into measurable goalposts that make me feel like I've accomplished something.) I'm also quite keen to do well but with only one adult lesson a week at my studios I couldn't quite see that happening - especially as my head is often not in prime learning mode on a Tuesday after work. So... I've been taking a class with the teenage grade 5s on a Saturday too. Although it was odd at first, I've just about slotted in now: I guess it helps that I am smaller than most of them and have been known to be ID'd for a lottery ticket (you have to be 16!) within the last year. There are moments when I feel old: when they talk about school; when they discuss teen politics (aka who's popular/who's not!), but generally they are amenable, and one or two even stop to chat, which is nice!
These extra lessons give me more time to run through the syllabus, strengthen technique and also take an additional lesson a week, so I've been really enjoying them but, I was particularly chuffed today when the teacher stopped to give me a lengthy correction. In our adult lesson, it can often be difficult to stop for corrections because many of the dancers just want to get on and dance, and if they're not taking exams it sort of seems irrelevant, but it's great to have the chance to go through something I'm struggling with. The lovely teens were quite happy to chat amongst themselves as I went through the exercise with the teacher (sissone ouvert, coupe, assemble - if you want to know!). I think when I first went back to ballet I felt quite anxious about being corrected, but now I relish it and really appreciate it, and in a strange kind of way makes me think I must be getting better if the teacher thinks I warrant a correction! Anyway, eventually I managed to complete a few rounds of the exercise ("jump out, coupe back, swish, together"), by no means perfectly, but I'm getting there! By the end of the lesson I felt like I'd worked incredibly hard and as I was waiting for my teacher to photocopy the syllabus notes for me, we had a little chat where she said she really felt that I'd come on. Not massive praise, you might think, and I qualified it with, "Well, give me a couple more months and I might be there" but she dismissed my comment and reiterated that I'd really come on rapidly, and that I'd be ready for my exam. What a positive feeling that gave me! I've always somewhat doubted my ability and even as a teenager I'd prepare myself for a scraped pass then get a commended/highly commended, but this felt like such an enormous compliment, and genuine too, as she'll say when things aren't great!
I beamed with pride all the way home! Her little comment has given me a real boost and I now feel like it's really worth going all out for my exam preparation. I'm not suggesting that I'm going to get the highest mark ever recorded (as lovely as that would be, I know that's an impossibility!) but I feel that I will be ready to give it my best shot! I'm so aware that pride comes before a fall, but I'm not going to let myself fall - I know I've still got lots to do, and much more practice, but I feel like I will be ready and I won't let my dance school down!