Which Syllabus to choose?


Working through the many pros and cons to assess the best syllabus is a challenging prospect.

Is there a “best” and what should we look for? One that is fun and engaging as though it’s a popularity contest to attract the greatest number of students to promote a healthy bottom line for a small business? Or a syllabus that comes highly respected as an education; focused on a child’s physiological, emotional, technical, artistic and cultural development? Do we simply pick the name that more parents know best in our area and will most often ask for, or the one we’re most familiar and comfortable with because we learned it ourselves as a young dancer? And finally, is it possible to find everything we need in one convenient, cost affordable package?

Many will say that there’s no such thing as the “right” syllabus, and that good training more likely comes down to the right teacher. A good teacher with a solid understanding of technique and artistry, how a child’s body and mind develop, and how to engage a class in an informative yet entertaining way, will be able to make almost any syllabus work, or be able to train high quality dancers without requiring a syllabus. And this is likely true.

And yet, not every teacher is going to be the Holy Grail of teachers. Like it is with dancers and dancing, not all aspects of the teacher’s craft will come naturally, with many areas requiring they be thought through, worked through, practised to be honed over time. Arguably then, the right syllabus is there as a guide, to lean on in more difficult times and in those areas that don’t come as easily to each teacher. A good syllabus better ensures every child is served by a class that is as balanced as possible, and yet is not so proscriptive that it cramps a teacher’s natural flair and ability to uniquely connect to the class as a group, and as individuals.

As hard it might be to believe, Australia actually has at least 17 different syllabus organisations working across the dance genres of Ballet, Jazz, Tap and Contemporary, with even more syllabus specific to Acro (eg. Acrobatic Arts), Folk, Ballroom, Latin, Highland etc. Many of these are well-known as they served as the historical foundation of our dance community, having typically been imported from overseas – at least originally – such as; Cecchetti Australia (CA), the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), British Ballet Organisation (bbodance), and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD). Others are slightly more recent additions and are home grown, though many have been around now for decades, such as; Comdance (CSTD), Australian Teachers of Dancing (ATOD), Ballet Australasia (BAL), Australian Institute of Classical Dance (AICD), Australian Dance Vision (ADV) and Classical Dance Australia (CDA).

And then there are others that, on the surface at least, may appear less well known and yet to their followers are as well-respected, cherished and loved for the unique qualities they offer, such as; The Australian Conservatoire of Ballet (ACB), Australasian Dance Association (ADA), Asia Pacific Dance Association (APDA), Laurel Martyn Dance System (LMDS – also known as, Movement and Dance Education Centre, or MDEC), State Dance Association (SDA), Southern Federation of Dance (SFD) and Teachers of Australian Academy of Dancing (TAAD).

In the spirit of challenging the marketplace of ideas, we reached out asking each of these organisations to make the case in 250 words or less, for what differentiates their syllabus and why they’d recommend their syllabus over others. Though 250 words can’t possibly fully answer the question of “which syllabus is best” – and of course perhaps there is no objective answer – our hope is that their words will assist in providing the springboard and inspiration to look more deeply at the choices available, what they offer and why.

In alphabetical order to avoid any bias, here are their replies, and please note: all titles link directly to each Syllabus website for more information.


When students are inspired, amazing things can happen!

The Asia Pacific Dance Association (APDA) is at the forefront of dance education. Quite simply, our passion is to encourage and inspire students and teachers in the dance sector. Alongside our products, we strive to provide service which is efficient and supportive to studio owners.

Given that most studios spend a vast majority of their year teaching syllabus work, selecting a curriculum has a massive impact on the growth and retention of students. Studio owners need to know that they can deliver their syllabi classes with confidence. We are committed to partnering with studios to support them with the delivery of syllabi and examinations.

Our goal is to grow the dance sector by providing a stimulating curriculum to those learning and teaching dance. Whether a student is motivated by enjoyment or has an ambition to dance or teach professionally, we provide the tools for young dancers to reach their potential. Our syllabi is comprehensive, current and engaging. Keeping abreast of changes within the industry is a focus for APDA to ensure students are trained with the safest technique and most up-to-date choreography. APDA is constantly evolving to stay relevant in the dance industry.

APDA syllabi includes ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary, hip hop and theatre dance. We offer preschool to pre-professional levels as well as teaching certifications. The curriculum is currently taught in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, England, Mexico, Qatar, South Africa and South East Asia. We warmly welcome new members.


The result of 27 years of compilation, and 45 years-experience as a professional dancer and dance lecturer both in Australia and overseas, former Principal Artist with The Australian Ballet, Christine Walsh A.M. devised her own classical ballet training and examination program, Ballet Conservatoire.

Currently Director of her own ballet school and production company, The Australian Conservatoire of Ballet (ACB), Christine developed the Ballet Conservatoire program based on her former training in the Russian method and her extensive professional international experience. She adapted the existing 8-year Vaganova method into a 12-year training and examination program. This enables ballet students to study this program from 5 years of age as part-time students progressing through to pre-professional training.

The Ballet Conservatoire program is designed to suit the needs of all classical ballet students who are unable to take full-time daily dance training from an early age.

Established in 1994, the Ballet Conservatoire training and examination program emphasizes correct placement, the use of “epaulement”, dynamics and performing quality which are all qualities inherent in the Vaganova method. Additionally, the program aims to develop in the student a professional attitude which will assist them in the pursuit of a career either as a professional dancer or teacher. This program is designed for the dedicated ballet teacher who has an understanding of constructing general open classes and not uniquely teaching from a syllabus manual. It is desirable that the teacher has had past performing experience in order to impart artistic performing quality.

This program is being taught extensively by over 400 teachers in Australia, United Kingdom, USA, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, India, Hong Kong, Macau and the Philippines


Australasian Dance Association, for all that’s best in Theatrical Dance. Examinations in Jazz, Tap, Classical Ballet, Contemporary and AcroDance from Grades through to Teaching Qualifications.

Recognition of other dance society qualifications. New members always welcome!

The ADA provides a syllabus that fosters excellence in Jazz, Tap, Classical Ballet, Contemporary and AcroDance in a form that will take the dancer from their first steps to professional performance level. The ADA aims to create an environment of caring for its’ members to help them achieve their goals as teachers, and the students to achieve their goals as recreational or professional dancers. The examination format of the ADA aims to give a fair, balanced and honest assessment to the teachers and students. It also enables senior students to gain qualifications as a dance teacher recognised throughout Australia and Internationally.

The vision of ADA is to continue updating and refreshing the syllabus, fostering the aspirations of its’ members and to offer scholarships to students who exhibit potential in any of the genres of dance embraced by the ADA Syllabus.

Our annual Awards Days in Townsville, Brisbane, Rockhampton, Sydney and Thailand give our dancers the opportunity to perform and showcase the syllabus and exam work for the general public in a friendly and supportive environment!


A good syllabus should acknowledge the student as the prime focus in syllabus design and education. Incorporating elements progressively covering dance history, nutrition, critical thinking, musical rhythms, mime, drama and creative expression as part of their weekly dance class, while still providing professional technique in all dance styles.

ADV syllabuses were developed by experienced and qualified Australian dance teachers. Being a non-profit dance society ADV ensures that funds remain in Australia benefitting Australian teachers and students.

ADV offers a unique assessment/examination option system. The option system is structured to give teachers, students and parents a choice in their style of assessment.

Teachers may present students for assessment by two different options.

Option 1 Dance ADV syllabus work – receive a report and grade

OPTION 2 Dance ADV syllabus work – receive a report

These options are designed to encourage students to strive for excellence within their level of ability. Students may progress at their own rate with appropriate encouragement and discipline without penalty. All students receive a detailed written report.

ADV assessment method allows flexibility and recognition that students of dance are individuals who develop physically, emotionally and cognitively at different rates. Students can participate in and enjoy dancing, regardless of their physique and natural ability.

ADV provides a holistic syllabus that focuses on the well-being, knowledge and life skills for the young dancer. ADV can truly say that these choices of assessment have worked 100% for all their students and teachers.


The Borovansky Syllabus was developed here in Australia by Madam Xenia Borovansky for Australian dancers. It is a traditional, lyrical, style of classical ballet, developed with a strong focus on the progression of technical steps throughout the grades and levels. Students are taught basic human anatomy and simple principles of physiology as it relates to ballet technique. Knowledge and understanding are developed alongside skills. An awareness of dance history and context is cultivated by some sequences, and by set dances. Character dance steps are integrated in the syllabus, reflecting the syllabus’ heritage in the Borovansky Ballet Company, famed for its wholehearted vigorous approach to national dance.

The general philosophy of Xenia Borovansky and the original syllabus has been retained over the years, through several reviews and updates.

The syllabus has always been an examination syllabus rather than a training ‘method’ and should be regarded separately from the work covered in general non-syllabus ballet classes. This encourages all-round expertise of both the teacher and the student. The creation of enchaînements early in the syllabus, rather than separately presented steps, is to show each step, in context. This engenders appropriate dynamics and a fluid style. The exclusion from the syllabus of specific ports de bras and embellishments are to allow each teacher to express a personal style. This encourages artistry.

The Borovansky Syllabus is governed by the Australian Institute of Classical Dance National Committee and Examination Board.


Australian Teachers of Dancing (ATOD) offers a unique and internationally accredited syllabi offering eight major genres including Classical Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Hip Hop, Street Beat, Contemporary, Musical Theatre and National Character, along with Acrobatic Arts.

The innovative syllabi offer a progressive way of teaching based on a solid foundation of scaffolding with each level building upon the previous level. Our syllabi are developed, updated and continually reviewed by dance industry professionals in consultation with the Board of Examiners.

ATOD students are taught techniques that are relevant to their skill levels and developing muscle strength. Technique is introduced in an age appropriate, safe and carefully structured learning process.

Each level is reinforced before they move onto the next, ensuring students are not overwhelmed with challenges beyond their capabilities. Teachers see progression through the grades and work with students to develop technique, allowing them to reach their full potential whether on a recreational, vocational or teaching level.

The ATOD syllabi are supported by a national and international examination process which is professional, supportive and of the highest calibre. Students enjoy the challenge and purpose of exams and enjoy a sense of accomplishment as they set goals, practice, be assessed and succeed. Regardless of their level of ability or age, the exam process builds self-confidence, resilience and acknowledges achievement.

In addition to the extensive syllabi, ATOD offers wide-ranging services to members including support and professional development and a Registered Training Organisation for dancers wishing to turn their passion for dance into a dance industry career.


When you are a member of BAL, your studio’s success becomes our priority also.

Syllabi: BAL offers graded syllabi from Beginners to Majors for Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Hip Hop and Character. All syllabi are structured to maximise the potential of every student and meet the classroom organisation and timetabling constraints of your studio. Syllabus choreography is technically sound and safe, extremely enjoyable to teach and learn, and is accompanied by uplifting music for all genres.

Teachers support: Grade notations are clearly written and easy to follow, and videos are available for each grade. In addition, an enthusiastic team of technical advisors are available to respond to individual queries regarding syllabi.

Examinations: Exams are conducted in a friendly and encouraging manner and can be held at your studio or BAL headquarters in Sydney. Teachers can elect to use BAL syllabi for one or several genres. However, choosing BAL syllabi for several genres in your studio offers the great advantage of holding all your exams in one session, rather than over a couple of days using varied organisations.

Teacher training: BAL is an RTO offering a National Accredited teacher training qualification CUA40313 Cert IV in Dance Teaching and Management which Is available in many genres. We also offer an internal Certificate III (the minimum requirement for membership), based on your choice of BAL syllabi. Summer School is held at headquarters each January to refresh and prepare for the teaching year ahead, and mid-year workshops are held whenever syllabi are updated.

BAL would love to welcome you to our organisation.


bbodance is an Ofqual accredited international dance awarding organisation previously known as the British Ballet Organization (BBO).

Ofqual is the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation board. It is a non-ministerial government department that regulates all qualifications, examinations and tests in England. Colloquially and publicly, Ofqual is often referred to as the examination “watchdog”. To be Ofqual compliant organisations must meet the very stringent rules and regulations set by Ofqual.

This year we are proudly celebrating our 91st Anniversary. We believe dance creates a supportive and friendly environment that can change lives. bbodance provides Syllabi, Examinations, Assessments and Teaching Qualifications with Ofqual accreditation in the following genres: Classical Ballet, Jazz, Tap and Musical Theatre. We are an organisation that works with each and every individual member.

All bbodance Members enjoy free online access to all our educational resources including music downloads.


CDA was established by JOHN BYRNE in 2015 with the aim of offering classical ballet syllabi at the two most important levels of training – Intermediate Foundation (CDA Preparatory) and Intermediate (CDA Level 1) – and to provide training materials in Posture Placement and the Basic Elements of Technique and The Art and Anatomy of Port de Bras to support the syllabi.

There is a strong emphasis on training in the CDA syllabi rather than on providing choreographed sequences which assume training has already taken place. The aim is to establish a sound foundation in terms of posture, technique, musicality and artistry as the basis for future vocational training.

The syllabi are based on the principles of the renowned Vaganova system which aligns them with the kind of training offered today in all major vocational organisations throughout the world. The syllabi were designed by John Byrne, one of Australia’s leading pedagogues, following a long international career as teacher, examiner and director, and the music was composed by Larissa Oberfeld, Senior staff member at the Australian Ballet School.

The syllabi may be studied in their own right or as a supplement to other syllabi. The Preparatory Syllabus can also be studied by Grade 5 students over a longer period of time, and the Level 1 by Advanced Foundation students.

Examinations and Assessments are held annually. A teacher’s mark is a significant part of the overall mark in examinations. Students and teachers receive comprehensive written reports.


The timeless Cecchetti classical ballet principles of grace, balance and line, form the basis of a sound training syllabus that has been developed to meet the needs of today’s child – teaching coordination, poise, confidence, rhythmical sense and musicality while ensuring that the process is still fun.

Cecchetti Ballet can play an important part in a child’s development. It Assists in Mind, Develops the Physical, Nurtures Artistry and Fosters Social.

The Art of Teaching Cecchetti Ballet provides its teachers with the qualifications necessary to correctly educate both the recreational student and the dancers of tomorrow. The teaching of ballet technique and artistry to children is a specialised skill that must be entrusted to those who are properly qualified. Cecchetti Ballet maintains high standards in its teacher training program and its teachers train through a rigorous system of examinations. Study in teaching methodology, child development, anatomy and injury prevention, musical appreciation, history of dance, health and safety is required to attain these qualifications.

The Teaching of Children:The syllabus has been carefully structured to ensure the student receives a well-balanced training with each grade for younger dancers designed to build progressively to the senior levels.

Two separate examining streams have been formulated:Recreational: Pre-Primary-Grade 6, Dance Spectrum 1 & 2. Professional: Intermediate, Advanced 1 and Advanced 2.

Set children up for life with Cecchetti Ballet.


COMDANCE is one of the world’s leading dance organisations. Our technically strong, innovative, developmental and educationally based syllabi have produced many of today’s leading Australian artists and teachers.

Our members have a supportive training system that strongly values the method and practice of teaching. A COMDANCE experience provides career opportunities ranging from professional dancer, to accredited, world recognised dance teacher or studio owner.

Our extensive and contemporary technique and music brings the very best in dance practice in Classical Ballet; Modern Jazz; Tap; Theatrical and Performing Arts; Contemporary dance through the exclusive use of the Jason Winters technique syllabus; Hip Hop and Ballroom/Latin. We welcome the very tiny dancers to experience, Come Dance With Me™.

All syllabi have contributions from leading Australian and International artists and choreographers.


FOR STUDIO OWNERS – COMDANCE gives you the resources, tools and networks to build and promote your business. As part of a wide-reaching international dance community, we help our members promote their dance studios to thousands of potential new students. Being part of the COMDANCE family can work wonders for your studio.

WE WORK FOR YOU! Advocacy, education, business support, marketing expertise, safe dance practices and recruitment opportunities are all on offer to studio owners.

Comdance a Global Community of Dance® and we would love to welcome you into our family.


The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD) is one of the world’s leading dance examination boards with the widest range of dance genres available.

Established in 1904, with a mission to educate the public in the art of dancing in all its forms, today the Society strives to advance excellence in dance teaching and education.

We promote knowledge in each speciality and provide up-to-date techniques in the ever-changing world of dance.

We provide quality dance training across a diverse range of genres – enabling our dance teacher members to inspire their students with a passion for dance. We have 11 faculties representing 13 genres including; Imperial Classical Ballet, Cecchetti Ballet, Modern Theatre, Tap, Ballroom, Latin as well as our recently launched Contemporary Dance syllabi created by Dr Ross McKim.

With members in 59 countries, we conduct over 120,000 examinations worldwide each year both in-person and online. Our qualifications are regulated in England and recognised across the world. We ensure our qualifications are inclusive with the portfolio catering for learners with all ranges and abilities – supporting teachers and learners to progress both their dancing and dance teacher careers

Our teachers are supported by continuous professional development (CPD), demonstrating to parents and guardians that our qualified dance teachers are trained to deliver safe, high-quality lessons.

Membership of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing is your passport to artistic and professional progression – so join us in leading the world in dance.


The LAUREL MARTYN DANCE SYSTEM (LMDS) is a comprehensive guide to the full spectrum of the components of dance and their progressions, right from the start to pre-professional level

Developed and codified by Laurel Martyn OBE, an Australian dance icon, this holistic method has its foundations in the Ballet Guild School established in 1947 in conjunction with the Ballet Guild Company. Augmented by Laurel’s own vast experience, with input from many knowledgeable teachers over several decades, LMDS has evolved into an inclusive system that may be used alone or to provide support for any syllabus. The detailed manuals and flexibility of learning pathways enable dance teachers to develop training programs customised to suit a broad range of student ages, experiences and goals.

LMDS identifies the components of dance in a comprehensive and logical arrangement, and their progressive development across identified stages. It explains the purpose of movements, when they should be introduced, and standards for achieving each progression.

Creativity for both teacher and student is integral to this approach. Dozens of basic examples can be adapted to create exercises, classes and training programs to suit diverse student groups. Supporting resources include example classes written by Laurel, music, and training in the application of this holistic teaching approach. LMDS and all supporting resources are underpinned by safe dance practices.

Dancing should be an adventure for the mind and body of both teacher and student – Laurel Martyn OBE

Want to know more about using LMDS to advance your dance teaching skills and knowledge?


The RAD is one of the world’s leading dance education organisations with a global Membership and student base. We empower people through dance education and enjoyment and believe that ‘every body’ should have the opportunity to learn to dance.

With over 100 years of experience behind us, our work takes us into diverse communities, locally and around the world, to widen access to dance and to share the benefits and wellbeing that it brings.

Our teaching members focus on teaching the RAD’s classical ballet syllabus and we offer a wide range of exams and assessments to motivate and reward students of all ages and abilities. RAD exams are recognised internationally for their quality and the syllabus is taught by professional educators who retain their high standards through participation in an annual continuing professional development programme.

Each year, a quarter of a million candidates across the globe choose to take their dance exams with the RAD. With a focus on creativity and musicality, providing a range of opportunities to progress and achieve, it’s not just professional or young dancers who take RAD exams. At any stage of your life or career you can mark and develop your fitness, musicality and artistry with the RAD; our candidates range in age from 3 to 93!

As an inclusive organisation, we support dancers from diverse communities, including those with special educational needs and disabilities, as well as older learners through our licensed Silver Swans initiative.


Established in 1988 the State Dance Association (SDA) has become the dance network for industry professionals including teachers, studio owners, adjudicators, choreographers and performers.

Whether you are starting out or already have an established dance studio, the State Dance Association provides technically sound, progressive and innovative syllabi in Classical Ballet, Jazz and Tap.

Our Syllabi and Examination structures focus on nurturing, encouraging and supporting students of all capabilities from recreational dancers through to industry professionals.

Members are equally supported through sharing knowledge within the organisation and broader dance community to ensure continuous improvement in syllabi content and implementation, teaching practice and professional development.

We are dedicated to helping both new and established studios alike offer dance education programs which are technically sound, comprehensive, challenging and innovative for both teachers and students.


Southern Federation of Dance (SFD) offers a professional and supportive environment for dance education with a progressive examination syllabus for students that covers Classical, Jazz, Tap and Dance Fusion (a diverse mix of genres in one package) as well as a comprehensive teacher training program.

At SFD we keep our prices very competitive and offer flexible uniform options for exam candidates, as we believe that dance education should be affordable for everyone. Assessments are offered at members’ own studios, making the examination experience convenient for parents and supportive for students.

We are committed to keeping our syllabus fresh and regularly updated, so that students and teachers enjoy the training experience and gain the many benefits an examinable syllabus can offer. Regular exam in service classes, workshops and exam masterclasses provide our members with multiple opportunities to continually expand their knowledge and keep their skills updated.

SFD embraces diversity and we pride ourselves on our flexible approach to assessments. Being Australian based, we are accessible and support studio members with a range of options to accommodate the uniqueness of all individuals. Our Covid-19 support strategies enabled many struggling studio owners to keep their exam programs running through challenging times.

Students benefit from the extra performance opportunities offered with our annual competitions, scholarships, choreographic events and concerts and these experiences allow them to be a part of our growing dance community.


Teachers of Australian Academy of Dancing Pty Ltd or TAAD was set up in 1971, we are a not-for-profit organisation championing Dance Teachers and Students from 4yrs+ to Diploma levels. This is a goal structured syllabus which challenges pupils in a non-competitive environment. The inception of Pat Miller, Peter and Jill Vaughan, now in the trusted hands of Ann-Marie Brazier and Debra Balmforth, all highly esteemed and respected dance teachers in Melbourne, Victoria. The aim of the Academy is to enrich students with the magical world of dance and encourage them as they achieve through dance examinations. The early onset and teaching of the dance disciplines of Classical Ballet, Jazz, Tap and Theatrical dance are all endorsed through our Syllabus which forms learning and study habits for future endeavours.

Our experienced Examiner will come to your studio on your booking day. Medals, Badges and Certificates are supplied for you to award to your students. Opportunities for Solo performances are offered annually, where students are critiqued and graded, all before a welcoming audience, and an Industry Specialist. These annual solo performances are awarded with Trophies and a professional critique report, leaving students with performance experience, artistry, showmanship and most importantly, self-confidence.

Teachers have access to the syllabus upon payment of the yearly subscription. You will receive a warm welcome when contacting our directors.

We encourage you to seek further information about our Examination Society.

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