Dance school celebrates 100 per cent exam success rate in lockdown
- Credit: BDA
A St Albans dance academy achieved a 100 per cent pass rate for students during lockdown with all exams taken via video.
Brewer Dance Academy celebrated its success in the September 2020 Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) exams, recognised internationally as a high standard measure of graded dancing achievement.
The school, known originally as The Stephanie Ledger School of Dancing, has been running since 1972. In 2014, the business was taken over by former professional dancer and long-term teacher Helen Brewer.
Due to the pandemic, new measures were put in place to enable RAD examinations to continue, with individual candidate performances required to be submitted by video, as examiners were unable to travel due to lockdown restrictions.
For the first time in its dancing history, the Brewer Dance Academy quickly trained both teaching staff and candidates on how to film practices and submit final examinations. Strict guidelines had to be adhered to, including location risk assessments, minimum level quality audio and video output, as well as creating an examination room setting.
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Over 70 pupils were entered for graded exams ranging from Primary Level, usually taken aged from as young as four, to Grade 8, generally taken by candidates at 16 or older.
Owner Helen said: "We have seen such resilience among our pupils, using all kinds of home equipment to help keep up their weekly ballet practice; from dining room chairs and bunk beds for barre work, to working en pointe in their bedrooms and living rooms!
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"On finding out that every single one of our 70 candidates had passed, I felt so happy. It really was an achievement I would not have thought possible this time last year. 100 per cent success after a summer in lockdown and a rush to get filming done before the second lockdown has been quite a challenge!"
With some teachers in self-isolation, and others quickly getting to grips with new technology, they still managed to create a wide range of teaching materials by recording exercises and lesson plans from their own family homes.
Teacher Catherine Cole explained: "We were sad to be starting 2021 back in lockdown, but all of our pupils have been fantastic at attending Zoom lessons online from home. They come dressed for ballet with the mindset that they are practising in a normal lesson. The only challenges can be for us teaching from a chilly hall in winter, and the often-untrustworthy WiFi we rely on to deliver the full timetable of lessons."
Parents of BDA pupils have been extremely grateful for the lessons continuing.
Emily Kennedy, mother of Grade 4 BDA student Lily said: "We are so grateful to Mrs Brewer and her team for enabling our youngsters to dance their way through lockdown. Lily's lessons are the highlight of her week, and to be able to log-in to see familiar, cheery faces, dancing in unison, to the beautiful music of a live pianist, has helped keep her spirits up when so much of normal life has been paused.
"Students had worked so hard to prepare for their exams and we never imagined they'd be able to complete them virtually - these superb results are testament to Mrs Brewer's great adaptability and dedication."
Emma Thompson, mother of Grade 3 exam student, Olivia, said: "As a working parent, online ballet lessons have been extremely welcome, especially when homeschooling started up again. Ballet has been one of the few forms of exercise that Olivia could continue in lockdown, and it has really helped break up the long winter days when she has been attending lessons online sitting down all day."
Mum Joanna Bowness said: "My daughter loves dance and without it lockdown would have been so much harder for her to deal with. So many of the children are working towards their next exams and will now still be able to take them and progress to their next grade which is just fantastic!"
Mother of two Christina Smith added: "Ballet coming back during lockdown was a lifesaver. A small glimpse of some “normal” in an upside-down world. Mrs Brewer has been wonderful in keeping us Covid-safe but also making sure the girls had fun."
For further information visit https://brewerdanceacademy.com/