Last month Academy @ Metropolitan School of the Arts graduate Beth Mann and Ballet Department Head Lesley Shearer traveled to Vancouver, Canada to participate in the Royal Academy of Dance Solo Seal Award competition. The Solo Seal Award was introduced by the Royal Academy of Dance in 1928 and is an additional exam for students who have achieved the Advanced Certificate. The Solo Seal is the highest graded exam of the RAD and focuses on solo performance. Solo Seal Candidates are required to perform 4 solo variations which have been selected to meet the stylistic and movement demands of today’s choreographers and directors. This year candidates had to perform one variation from the 19th Century ballet Raymonda, two from the 20th Century, and one from the 21st Century to demonstrate their technical abilities, level of ballet mastery, and artistry. The Solo Seal Award takes place in front of an invited audience and panel of judges, which normally consists of a Vocational Grades examiner and professional dancer or former dancer from a ballet company, approved by the artistic director of the Academy.

The exam took the format of a series of solo performances on stage at the Michael J Fox Theater in Banbury, Vancouver in front of an audience and two judges.  In order to receive the Solo Seal Award candidates must pass with Distinction in every solo. Out of 80 candidates worldwide only about 20 awards are ever presented on a yearly basis. As the pinnacle of the Royal Academy of Dance Examination syllabus, it is estimated that less than 1% of RAD students in over 70 countries worldwide who take their RAD exams even reach this level. Winners of the Solo Seal Award have gone on to become Soloists and Principal dancers in some of the best known ballet companies in the world.

This journey has been years in the making for Beth. With thousands of ballet classes, countless RAD Exam rehearsals, and probably a million relevés under her belt, Beth has been training for over a decade in this genre of dance. With a recent acceptance into the Richmond Ballet’s Trainee Program we like to think her journey has just begun!

Below, Beth shares with us her journey at the Solo Seal Award Competition.

Day 1 – Tuesday, March 5th:

It was my first time on a plane and out of the country, so needless to say I was very nervous.  But I managed to get a window seat and I ended up having a really great time just looking out the window. After we arrived in Vancouver, we mostly just relaxed for the rest of the day.

Beth, during her first flight ever, alongside Ms. Lesley Shearer on their way to Vancouver.

Day 2 – Wednesday, March 6th:

We had a late morning rehearsal scheduled for 11:30am at the studio across the street, so we had a nice breakfast at the hotel restaurant and I went to the gym for a quick workout before rehearsal started. The studio space was very nice, and I had a great rehearsal with Mrs. Lesley and the pianist.  For lunch, we discovered a really great restaurant that had the best cake I had ever eaten. Needless to say we planned on returning the next day if not just for the cake.

A lovely rehearsal space for Beth to practice in.

Day 3 – Thursday, March 7th:

Rehearsal was a bit earlier starting at 9:30am, so we had a quick breakfast before another good rehearsal.  After 11:30am we had the rest of the day, so we took a tour bus that went sightseeing throughout Vancouver.  Of course, only after eating lunch with the awesome cake from the day before. It was really cool to see the whole area and I’m really glad we had the time to do it. After some sightseeing we had a bit of an early dinner/snack from a nearby coffee shop.

Beth and the infamous cake!

Day 4 – Friday, March 8th:

There was no rehearsal on this day, so we had a nice breakfast at the coffee shop before taking a cab to Burnaby.  The exam took place at the Michael J Fox Theater and I was given twenty minutes to rehearse before my exam.  Lucky for us, my rehearsal was at around three o’ clock, which gave us more than enough time to have dinner. We went to Cactus Club Cafe, a name which I had seen passing by on the tour bus, and I just really liked the name – good thing the food was really good too!  At the exam, there were nine people, and we went in three girls at a time. I met and talked with the other girls and they were all lovely people – much different from my experience at YAGP where everyone is trying to intimidate one another. I hope to see some of them again in August at the Adeline Genée International Ballet Competition in Toronto! I was the only American there and the girls thought I was crazy for coming all the way from Washington DC. My exam ended up being a really great experience despite the fact I was so nervous for it, and I will always treasure the experience whether I get the Solo Seal or not.

Beth and some of her new friends!

Day 5 – Saturday, March 9th:
We woke up dark and early at around 3am and took a cab to the airport at 3:45am. When we scheduled the taxi the day before, the hotel receptionist looked at us like we were crazy. We got to Seattle just in time for the sun to come up, and we made it home without any problems. I was glad that I had Sunday off because as well as losing three hours of daylight traveling east, it was also daylight saving time!

Beth should be receiving her results any day now! Whatever the result, however, Beth danced beautifully and we are delighted with the progress she has made both personally and artistically during this incredible journey.  All of us at Metropolitan School of the Arts are very proud of her! Way to go Beth!