Want to level up quickly? Take exams

Until today, I get occasional nightmares about taking exams. I have dreamt of going unprepared into an examination, which would cause me to wake up from the shock and distress. All those years of being a student and being fearful of failing exams have left a scar in my psyche. Even as a working adult, I have taken industry exams that have stressed me out. I had been afraid to fail them because I didn’t want my boss to think I was stupid.

Hobby-related exams, in contrast, are a different matter altogether. I am preparing to take my Grade 4 Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) ballet exam in a month’s time and I feel pretty relaxed about it. There are pretty much no consequences to doing poorly (or gasp, failing).

I have treated the ballet exam training as a way to polish up on my dance technique. I would encourage anyone to take hobby-related exams (be it dance, or music or martial arts) as I feel they are the most efficient way to learn. The key is to have a small class size so that the teacher can pay attention to you.

The Grade 4 RAD exam is rather an “entry-level” for adults with no dance experience. There is a barre segment, centre work and lastly, two dances. Here is a video of the Dance A portion featuring Eunice and I. I struggle with the dance, to be honest, even as our teacher keeps telling us to be “more flowy” and “more expressive.”

In addition, it’s a good way to bond with your fellow dancers. It’s a bit like going to the army together. You wear the same clothes (red leotards, leather shoes) and sport the same hairstyle (buns). You make the same movements.

Going a bit nutty after a four-hour ballet bootbcamp at Wings to Wings

You make good friends who speak the same “language” as you. You obsess over the small details that only the group understands. You commiserate over hamstring pain and sore muscles. Most importantly, you are taking the exam because you want to, not because your parents or your boss says so.