Wow, it’s true, time really does fly by when you’re having fun, and as you get older Christmas comes around faster and faster.

This year I have been very fortunate to be able to expand my horizons in dance and take on the role of Examiner for the British Ballet Organisation (B.B.O) and it has allowed me to travel New Zealand and witness the great talent we have here in our little country. Most recently I travelled down to Wellington to examine, where I saw some great performances in the Dance Theatre Awards and the new Ballet in Theatre exam, the first year being a study of “The Nutcracker”.

Mrs Prue Gooch is the creator of the Dance Theatre Awards and the new syllabus for Ballet in Theatre, and they are both truly remarkable works that the students enjoy being a part of. The Dance Theatre Awards give the students a chance to perform and experience the thrill of being on stage. It gives them the opportunity to  work with their teachers and peers to develop their stage craft in a way that is not ordinarily seen in the classroom format of regular exams. These awards are a highlight for students to showcase the skills they have learnt throughout the year in their exam work and pair it with the art of expression, acting, and performance.

The dances can be solos, duos, or groups of any number, and cover every genre such as Ballet, Tap, Contemporary, Jazz, etc. It is a great opportunity for parents to see their children perform and is not limited to students who are taking part in competition work, but open to everyone who is sitting a B.B.O exam.

In Wellington 300 people attended the evening of the Dance Theatre Performances, and it was fantastic to see so many people supporting their children, and so many students having the most wonderful time, dancing their hearts out.

The Ballet in Theatre exam was another pleasure to watch. I was fortunate enough to be asked by Mrs Gooch to dance for the filming of this new syllabus, and experienced first hand her wonderful new choreography, and here I was now examining a student in this very same syllabus.

On stage with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, I played “Clara” and Sir Jon Trimmer was “Drosselmeyer” (circa 1992)

Each level of the exams focuses on a different ballet, the first year looking at the everlasting Christmas tale of “The Nutcracker”. The choreography of the exam work feels beautiful to dance and is exquisite to watch. It is all danced to various pieces of music from the ballet, and the Presentations and Demonstrations in the centre work really allow the dancer to perform as if they are on stage. Even the barre work is danced with a professional performance approach.The candidate is also required to research the ballet and write an essay, dance an excerpt from the ballet, and choreograph an original dance or direct a section of the ballet which is presented in the exam. This syllabus really gives senior students (and teachers if they wish to sit the exam), an opportunity to develop their choreographic skills, and learn more about dance history which will only enrich their dance careers.

I feel it is vitally important for dancers and teachers to know history about this wonderful art form, and it is very empowering. This wonderful new syllabus provides a good structure for candidates to do just that, and gain a deeper understanding of the world of dance and their place in it.

As it has come around to Christmas time again, it is the perfect time for us all to have a look at “The Nutcracker” and delve into the history, the music, and the creative genius that has kept this ballet alive for generations. Isn’t it amazing, that it has lasted this long, and in this day and age, it is still a ballet that audiences enjoy. Parents and grandparents alike love to take their children to see this ballet.

Imagine creating a piece of work that lasts for centuries and is performed the world over. Surely that makes this ballet worth a look.

Do yourself a favour, and contact Mrs Prue Gooch at the British Ballet Organisation to get yourself involved.