On June 24, I completed the CTSD exam for grade 4 with my ballet class at Dance Arts in Singapore. The CTSD exam is part of The Commonwealth Society of Teachers of Dancing international dance society, which holds exams worldwide for various forms of dance, including classical ballet. The exams are a form of achievement, with each level progressing to more difficult skills and techniques required in order to dance en pointe and at a competitive level. Singapore offers both the CTSD exam and the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) exam depending on the dance school, but both are similar in concept and are considered equal in their level of preparation of the dancers.
I actually have previous studied the Vaganova style of ballet, which is Russian in origin, and has different stylistic techniques than both the RAD and CTSD programs. However, ballet remains mostly similar regardless of style, so I joined a CTSD class here instead. As my class is actually a fairly flexible one that allows many different ages and levels to join, the exam was a goal that my teacher thought would help direct everyones focus and motivation. She also thought the exam would be a good opportunity to see how we react in a more stressful situation and while being assessed.
The exam follows a general sequence regardless of level, including barre work and center work, with questions about specific techniques, free style movement, and requests from the examiner to show various techniques on the spot. We prepare the barre and center exercises before hand, but the other questions and free movements are on the spot in class. Additionally, all barre and center exercises are done with only the name as reference, meaning the examiner will say the name of the exercise without first showing what the exercise is.
I wouldn’t say it’s fun in the traditional sense of fun. The exam itself is stressful and you spend several months
preparing for something that lasts around an hour, but you also spend a lot of time with the girls in your exam preparing, and the rest of your class too since the class is often divided into smaller groups. We all arrived at least two hours in advanced to stretch, get ready, and go through the entire routine several times, and that part was probably the best part. However, it is a good learning experience to receive all the comments from the examiner, because it really can only help you prepare more in the future.