Dance Teacher Resources

Performance Arts Awards syllabus offers fresh framework for dance

'Matilda The Musical'. Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images.
'Matilda The Musical'. Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images. Photo courtesy of PAA

As studios around Australia begin to reopen, many studio owners are keen to implement changes. With time on our hands to reflect, reorganising the day-to-day running of our studios and the classes we offer has become a priority. This is, perhaps, the perfect time to try something new.

Performance Arts Awards logo.

Enter the Performance Arts Awards (PAA) from the Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB). For the very first time, the PAA syllabus is available to students in Australia and New Zealand, and studio owners will want to take advantage. Written by the RSL Awards in the UK, PAA offers students a fresh, industry-focused framework for musical theatre, jazz and street dance. The best part? All course materials are free for anyone to access. The only fees studio owners will pay are for the examinations.

We spoke with Melissa Mataic, director of Red Music and Dance, AMEB Rockschool examiner and PAA lead consultant, about why this syllabus is so exciting for teachers, parents and performers across Australia and New Zealand. “Teachers are so busy running their studios, and things shouldn’t have to be so complicated,” she explains. “What’s beautiful about the PAA syllabus is that it’s really user friendly, there are lots of resources and help on hand, and you’re not having to read between lines to understand what the syllabus is aiming to achieve. That for me was one of the most attractive things about it, being a full-time teacher and having a studio of my own – the ease of it has been incredible.”

Photo courtesy of Performance Arts Awards.
Photo courtesy of Performance Arts Awards.

She adds, “And it really does cover all areas. It covers drama, dance and singing, and allows the students to put themselves in the spotlight in one of those triple threat areas where they can really shine. Having used lots of different syllabuses in the past, it’s always been a challenge to get that opportunity for the students, so I just love it.”

While most of us have heard of AMEB, we recognise it only as a music-focused examination board. “This is brand new for the AMEB,” Mataic notes. “Exploring these areas of performing arts, not just in a strictly drama sense or a vocal musical theatre sense but also with a dance element, is brand new. And I know firsthand how excited the AMEB is about this new chapter in music and performing arts education in Australia!”

The course materials are available directly from the AMEB PAA website, and the fee-free setup is certainly a huge benefit, particularly where studios are still suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “For obvious reasons, not having to worry about those extra fees and charges always helps with the finances,” agrees Mataic. “But as a teacher, I came into it with this sense of there being nothing to hide. I didn’t have to pay to get a secret out of anyone; it was all there. They believe in their program, and they trust that the students are going to get the best out of it, so I found that really encouraging.”

Studio owners who take on PAA can expect a comprehensive syllabus that carries students all the way through until further education. “Once the students go through the grades, they are then industry-prepared and tertiary education-prepared,” explains Mataic. “It gives them a great starting point for the next level of training, whether they want to go to university or a private college or get diplomas and bachelors in their chosen fields. The students are getting certified for learning that is industry-relevant and internationally recognised, so it gives them an extra framework for tertiary education and their career.”

Photo courtesy of Performance Arts Awards.
Photo courtesy of Performance Arts Awards.

And the benefits Mataic describes are numerous. “We’re looking at material and concepts that are super engaging, not just for the student but also the teacher,” she notes. “There’s a great breadth in learning. And I guess the biggest challenge with a lot of the syllabuses we have access to here in Australia is that they’re not updated regularly. PAA is right on the pulse, which makes it so much easier to teach. Second, the AMEB are so easy to deal with – they are so friendly and just want to help everyone succeed at this. Third, the examiners are energetic and fresh and really excited about being involved in this programme.”

Without the burden of sign-up costs, Mataic suggests all studio owners should take a look at the courses on offer. “This syllabus has been going on for a long time in the UK, so it’s just new for us in Australia, it’s not a new process for everyone,” she explains. “Download it for free and give it a try; it’s worth spending some time just to have a look at it.”

For more information or to download the PAA syllabus, visit rockschool.ameb.edu.au/paa and rockschoolnz.co.nz/paa.

By Emily Newton-Smith of Dance Informa.

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