Teaching a Method.

One of the programs that Los Angeles Ballet Academy participates in is the Royal Academy of Dancing program and the annual examinations.  Many people ask why we teach RAD ballet and what is the difference between the syllabi.  I’d like to attempt to give you a short history of the different styles and methods.  First of all I would like to remind you that there are good teachers and bad teachers in every method and finding a good teacher and a good school that meets the needs of your child should be every parents priority.   RAD syllabus training is just one of the many things LABA offers.  All of our students from Grade 4 and up not only take an RAD syllabus class but they are required to take at least open format class every week.   (Advanced dancers take more.)  One lesson (the open class)  is where the material is presented in different configurations each week making the dancer think on their feet and put what they know together in different combinations while still maintaining their form and technique.  This class also offers the opportunity for the dancer to learn the dynamics of new movement.   The syllabus class offers combinations in class that are practiced regularly and repeated in order to allow the dancer time to concentrate intensely on form and perfecting the movement.  The RAD syllabus also incorporates longer combinations and floor patterns which teach the young dancers how to move in the space, with a partner or with the group and there is also the preparation of a solo to perform in the examination or presentation.  RAD syllabus also introduces classical dancers to character dance and Free movement work which is the pre curser to neo classical and contemporary movement which is so necessary for today’s professional dancers.

There are several recognized methods of teaching ballet with the most prominent ones being The Royal Academy of Dance, RAD (see the explanation below)  Checchetti method, (Developed by Enrico Cecchetti in Russia at the dawn of the 20th century. )  The Vaganova Method, (Created in Russia in the 1930s by former Imperial ballerina Agrippina Vaganova, and still taught today.)  Balanchine, (brings together elements of traditional, pre-Vaganova ballet training with the neo-classicalism created by Balanchine in the 20th century.) The French Method, ( is largely closed to the rest of the world, its practices not yet spread worldwide.)  Recently the ABT school has developed and graded syllabus with examinations and teacher training that is based on the practices of many of the above mentioned schools and seeks to be the “American Method”.

I think any method that is taught well is beneficial for dancers.   My personal preference is a mix of Vaganova and the English style of dance.  The reason I like RAD is because teacher’s are required to be thoroughly trained in a minimum of a 2 year course in order to be certified to teach it.  Ongoing teacher support and training is available, encouraged and required in order to place students for exams.  The practice of having the examination performed by an outside credentialed examiner so that we as teachers have outside eyes checking the progress of our students annually encourages us  to interact, as educators with other experts in the field.    The other thing that impresses me is that the RAD is currently updating the syllabus and we are all learning new material to teach to the students.   The new material is quite a lot more complicated and challenging at the graded levels and demands more from the students in co ordination and control.  I am pleased to step us to the challenge as I feel that our students are able to take on this material and work on even more challenging combinations and techniques at younger ages.

The RAD method is clean and pure.   It allows for very little affectation. Its produces long muscles and body lines. I have seen LABA students accepted to all of the other dance schools and methods because of their clean technique and their ability to adapt to other styles due to the simplicity of their own style.   Here are some famous dance names  that  were trained in the RAD method.

David Howard (NY Master Teacher) Wendy Whelan (NYCB Principal) Kee Juan Han (Director Washington Ballet School)  Stella Abrera (ABT Principal)  Gailine Stock (Director of the Royal Ballet School) Monica Mason (Director Royal Ballet)  Rowena Jackson (Royal Ballet Principal and Royal NZ Ballet School Director) Xander Parish (Kirov Ballet) Nutnaree Pupit-Suksen (SFB) and many many more.

Brief Overview of the RAD organization

On 18 July 1920, Philip Richardson, then Editor of The Dancing times magazine, organized a dinner for eminent dance professionals in Piccadilly. The diners included five special guests, representing the principal methods of ballet training in use at that time.  Phyllis Bedells representing the English Method, Lucia, Cormani the Italian Method, Edouard Espinosa the French Method, Adeline Genee the Danish Method and Tamara Karsavina the Imperial Method, Russia.   Other guests included Ninette de Valois, the founder of England’s Royal Ballet company, and Anton Dolin, the co-founder of English National Ballet. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the poor quality of dance training in Britain at that time and following further meetings, the Association of Teachers of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain was formed, with Adeline Genée as its first President. The Association would be the predecessor of the RAD.  The RAD was first names Association of Teachers of Operatic Dancing, and and was granted a Royal Charter in 1935. HM Queen Elizabeth II is patron of the RAD, with Darcey Bussell elected to serve as President in 2012, succeeding Antoinette Sibley who served as President for 21 years. The RAD is one of the largest dance organizations in the world with over 12,000 members in 79 countries,  including about 7,500 who hold Registered Teacher Status. There are currently about 1,000 students in full-time or part-time teacher training programs with the RAD, and each year about 250,000 candidates enter RAD examinations worldwide.



Choreographing a successful a parent/teacher/student Pas de Trois.

Building a successful dancer is time consuming, frustrating, expensive, rewarding,  exhilarating and fantastic.  I often hear parents saying “I don’t think he/she going to be a professional dancer”  I’d like to remind everyone that for ballet schools that admit students without an audition, about 2% of the student population may go into the field.  So if our only reason to teach ballet is to make professional ballet dancers we are probably going to end up frustrated.   That being said my belief is that EVERYONE deserves to be taught how to dance properly and be respected in their pursuit of excellence. Understanding and respecting the process can shape a young persons life and give them a strength in life that cannot be replaced by anything else.

When it comes to building young dancers this is where the pas de trois (or trio) comes into play.   First comes the dancer, who has to have a passion for it, want to be there, want to work hard and want to be the best they can be.  Ballet is a very difficult, demanding and sometimes painful pass time so if you don’t enjoy being there it can be agony for everyone!  The desire to be consistent, to face failure and disappointment and to find the joy in the performance is key to a successful dancer.  Dancers need to be intelligent and have good common sense.  They need to believe in themselves and have the ability to bounce back and face their fears.

The teachers job is to first supply the correct information by making sure they are knowledgeable, and are using safe practice.  The important thing for them is to make sure that they are working with integrity.  This means not exploiting dancers with natural talent and having the foresight to bringing them forth slowly and carefully while respecting their  muscular skeletal structure. They need to slowly encourage dancers to believe that if they work consistently they can achieve great progress and excel.   They need to demand a lot of the dancers, enforce good technique, be tough to please and always tell the truth.  Ballet teachers are the keepers of delayed gratification which in this society can be so confusing to the young person as they do not get to practice it very often.  Its an important skill to learn and ballet is the perfect vehicle.

Then comes the parents.  They often have the toughest job and the best job.  They must deal with the fallout, and get to bask in the glory!    The parent’s job to to choose the right program (which is often easier said than done), transport, drop off, pickup, drop off and pick up again.  Trust the teachers, bite their tongue and believe.   They have to know when to hold em and know when to fold em, when to push and when to back off.  Then pay the bill again.  Other helpful skills include, basic sewing, (elastic and satin are often involved), fundraising, foraging (usually through the lost and found) beading, gluing.  Its important to know basic first aid and which medications do not mix with others, where to find a good reflexologist, chiropractor or masseuse and when its ok to say get up and do it and when to know its time to go home.

My best advice for parents is to stay out of what is going on in the class room and deal with what goes on before and after.  Let the teacher and the student deal with the class and the casting and the rehearsal and you tend to the other important elements.   Are they on time, prepared, fed, hydrated, relaxed, organized.  Do they have correct attire, yes the correct fit of the shoes is VERY important, we are dancing remember.  OH and the part about not thinking he or she is going to be a professional dancer………….don’t be so sure!