Character Dance

 Photo by Elliott Franks, courtesy of RAD.

Photo by Elliott Franks, courtesy of RAD.

Unique to the Royal Academy of Dance is the introduction of Character Dancing at Grade One. 

Character Dance is the theatrical presentation of national and folk dance.  You will see this type of dancing in Famous ballets such as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, or Don Quixote where fairy tales, stories of royalty and ordinary people are told through character dance. The dancers are portraying a ‘character’ such as a guest at a wedding or a friend of the main character. 

Character work teaches musicality, rhythm and mime, often working with a prop such as a watering can, a garland or complicated headdress. Students gain knowledge and understanding of various rhythms and time signatures used in character dance. The character dance music used in the RAD syllabus is orchestrated and uses traditional instruments from the country they are studying.

In Grade One the children study the Russian Style, Grade Two is Hungarian, Grade Three is Ukrainian and Grade Four is Italian. Character Dance represents about a third of the syllabus. The children bring their character shoes & character skirt to each lesson. Usually the last or first 15 minutes of the class will be devoted to studying the style of dancing which culminates in them learning & performing a solo in their exam. 

Character dance is a brilliant opportunity to enrich young children’s knowledge of the world, developing an awareness of geography and cultural differences. 

Character work introduces partner work. Interacting with another dancer in close physical proximity helps to develop trust and confidence, as well as a sense of working together for mutual benefit. Character dance helps students who are shy or awkward to build confidence, overcome social anxiety, and become comfortable interacting in a close physical context.

One of the longer term benefits is that character dance helps classical ballet students prepare for partner work. When they are accustomed to dancing with a partner, often they find the transition to pas de deux work less daunting.