What is a syllabus?
Great question! A dance syllabus provides a solid foundation of scaffolding that dance classes are based on.
A well-designed syllabus ensures that dancers learn exercises, combinations and dances that are appropriate to their skill level. Each level should build upon those previous, being an “achievable challenge” that cements and extends dancers’ skills and technical capabilities, while not overwhelming them with challenges beyond their ability. Following a syllabus ensures that the quality of tuition meets tried and tested standards common across studios all over the country (or globe!).
A syllabus may also offer the opportunity for dancers to undertake exams (not as scary as they sound!) Like a mini-performance, dancers present the exercises and dances they have been learning in class to an external examiner. The examiner marks the student against a set criteria, as well as looking at musicality, performance and style. Examiners write a detailed and encouraging report which is sent a few weeks later (along with a certificate and medal!) Exams can be undertaken by students on an annual basis (or sometimes bi-annually when progressing to more mature exams). They’re a great way to cement learning, set goals, get feedback and instill a sense of achievement (plus kids think the medal is pretty cool!).
At Bayside Dance, we teach Southern Federation of Dance syllabi in ballet, jazz and tap. Miss Kaitlin, our Director, is an examiner in this syllabus across all three styles. Other syllabi that are common across Australia include Comdance, ATOD, RAD, BAL, TapatakOz, Glenn Wood and Cecchetti. We love that SFD offers exams for three styles of dance and that their examiners are kind, have extensive and uniform criteria and provide a detailed report with an individualised comment for each dancer.
Where classes operate without a syllabus, they’re called an “open class”. This means that they’re guided by the teacher who will draw from their own learned experience in designing class structure. At Bayside Dance, our open classes have guidelines that teachers work to, encouraging the same “building block” approach to technique that a syllabus offers. We’ve also written our own preschool program syllabus!
So, now you know how we structure our dance classes to maximise our dancers’ learning journey.
Kaitlin Hague is the Director of Bayside Dance, holds a Bachelor of Creative Industries (Dance) and a Master of Arts. She is a passionate dance educator, journalist, adjudicator and choreographer. When she’s not dancing she’s enjoying the beautiful Bayside lifestyle and spending time with her two dogs, daughter and husband.