In my dancing career, I’ve taken several ballet exams. These tend to be grueling and stressful for everyone involved, parents, performers, and teachers alike. The day of exams consisting of running around finding extra bobby pins, doing breathing exercises with your exam partner to chase away nerves and parents making runs to the dance supply store because someone got a run in their tights. These exams were how my local studio gauged if we would be permitted to move up in a grade the following year. I remember vividly not being able to sleep in the weeks coming up to my exam, constantly running the exercises in my living room at all hours of the night. It drove my parents crazy. “Just calm down. You’re going to psych yourself out” they would say.

Flash forward to exam day. My exam partner Maggie, who remains to be one of my best friends, and I head in to take the Grade 6 RAD Examination together. We introduce ourselves and head to the Barre. Everything goes perfect, and I begin to relax a little. Moving into our center practice, this is where things go sideways. The examiner asks to see one of our pirouette exercises, one at a time. And me, in all my laser focus, thought she had said ‘en dedans’ when she has said ‘en dehors’. I do the en dedans pirouette exercise... Only realizing something wrong when I see Maggie’s mortified expression. The examiner explains once I’m done that although the exercise was done well, it was not the one she had asked me to see.

On the way home, it fully settles what happened and I can’t believe that I messed up an entire routine on a section of the exam and jump to the worst possible outcome. All worked up, I tell my mother I am never going to be able to move up a level with my peers and that I will never be able to show my face at the studio again. (Can you tell I am a queen of dramatics?) Weeks pass and I imagine the worst. I can just picture the big fat FAIL written on my center practice section.

When we get the letter in the mail at my studio, I lay on the floor and wait for the verdict… A Pass. Not just a pass, but a mark just shy of a high distinction. I worked myself up so much off one mistake that I was sure I would never move on to Vocational Level training. It seems silly looking back at it, but it makes a great story between me and my dance friends.

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