How to Survive Final Exams

Amarachi Valentina Korie (photo by Nir Arieli, courtesy Ailey II)

"Final exams." Those two words can strike fear in the heart of even the most confident collegiate dancer. To help you get through the pressure cooker of your dance exams, Dance Spirit asked two recent dance grads for their best stress-relief and time-management tips.


Trust the Process

Real talk: If you've been consistently working hard since the first day of classes, you have nothing to fear in your dance final exams. As Georgia Dalton, a 2018 graduate of Indiana University who now dances with Boston Ballet II, says: "Our teachers were fair. People who didn't have perfect attendance or weren't as committed didn't receive the A's that the hardworking people got."

The exam will likely feel much like an audition, albeit with adjudicators you already know. You might take a juried technique class (in which a guest teaches and faculty members watch), or dance a solo you've chosen yourself and had ample time to rehearse, or perform movement sequences that your class has been working on all semester. No matter the format, remember that how you've grown as a technician and artist since the first day of classes will ultimately affect your grade more than any exam-day nerves.

Georgia Dalton in George Balanchine's "La Source" (photo by Caitlyn Brady, courtesy Boston Ballet)

Take Care of Yourself

You're probably familiar with the final-exam tropes: pulling all-nighters in the library, subsisting on sugar and caffeine, and generally pushing your body and mind past reasonable limits. If you want to do well in dance and academics, though, forget all of that. "Sleep is important to focus in class and prevent injury," says Amarachi Valentina Korie, who graduated from the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program this year and is currently in Ailey II.

When things feel overwhelming, remember to lean on other dancers and maintain perspective. "My friends in the IU ballet department all understood the strain of academic dance classes," says Dalton. "So we'd unwind together on weekends, going off-campus to do stuff in the community, venting a little, or just remembering that we were all in the same boat."

You Don't Have to Do It Alone

Dancers tend to be self-reliant perfectionists—qualities that work against them when finals roll around. "It's okay to ask for help," says Korie. "I once had a dress rehearsal and final presentation for sociology at the exact same time. Communicating with professors ahead of time about situations like that was key. Teachers, advisors, and mentors will help you balance commitments if you're up front with them."

You're already armed with a weapon to fight end-of-semester anxiety: dance! "Rehearsing could be demanding, but my love of dance always relieved the stress," says Dalton. "Never lose sight of why you dance and why you chose your program," adds Korie. "It's easy to get jaded or overwhelmed, but take time during finals week to dance by yourself, choreograph something for fun, or listen to music that inspires you. Keep your passion for dance alive, and it will keep you going."


A version of this story appeared in the November 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "A Dancer's Guide to Finals."

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