Mary Moe Adams, a ballet examiner, teaches the craft to adoring students
Video by Sean Logan | Multimedia Director
At the age of 10, Mary Moe Adams accompanied one of her elder sisters to a ballet lesson and knew it was her destiny. As her experience grew in years, her passion for ballet grew stronger and stronger, which led to her success today as both a registered ballet teacher and a certified ballet examiner with one of the world’s most influential dance education organizations — the Royal Academy of Dance in London, England.
Adams is turning 70 years old and is married with three children and enjoying the company of eight grandchildren. Even so, Adams is full of energy, and she continues to teach ballet and travel around the world to examine ballerinas.
Coming from a huge family of 14 siblings, Adams’ parents could not afford to pay for her ballet lessons. So, with outstanding performances and good grades, Adams managed to secure herself a scholarship with the ballet academy in Malaysia, where she was originally from.
"I was there (at the ballet academy) Monday through Saturday, and I had classes on Sunday. It all worked out well, because I was an extra pair of legs," Adams said.
Because Adams loves dancing so much, she offered her ballet teacher her help in teaching younger ballerinas when she was 13 years old, while she was taking ballet classes and exams.
The year Adams turned 17, she decided to pursue her dreams and traveled alone to London to further her education in dance with RAD.
“I want to go to London,” Adams said, as she recalled telling her father that when she was 16-years-old.
By the age of 20, Adams had already endured three years of vigorous training of Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Dance program and was officially a registered RAD ballet teacher.
In 1967, upon completion of the program, Adams moved to Arizona to teach ballet in a locally-owned academy, which she took over later on and named Adams’ Ballet Academy.
For many years, Adams has mentored and trained both professional and casual dancers by sharing her knowledge in dance with them.
Additionally, Adams received the “U.S. Presidential Scholars Program Teacher Recognition Award 2000” in Washington D.C. for her contributions to the arts. Renee Meiffren, one of her former students, was the only “Presidential Scholar for the Arts” in ballet, honored by then-President Bill Clinton.
Like Adams, the students who train under her are outstanding. Because of that, in 1994, the Director of the RAD invited Adams to participate in the Vocational Examiner Training Program in London.
Driven by her passion, Adams agreed to go. Upon completion, she was appointed to the Board of Examiners and has been traveling to five different continents to examine ballerinas.
Needless to say, Adams’ experience in teaching and examining is apparent. She has been through the process of all 5 RAD syllabi changes and witnessed the growth of the RAD.
“It has got to grow,” said Adams. “We cannot go backwards.”
The new RAD syllabus for Grades 4 and 5, Advance Foundations, and Advance 1 and 2 are a lot more fun, Adams said.
With the new syllabus, there is also a new marking system, which Adams said is kinder to the students.
As an examiner, Adams’ goal is to encourage dancers and help them improve their technique and performance.
“When you’re examining, you want to put the students at ease, not scare them,” Adams said. “You try to be calm and kind to them. This is not an execution.”
Although the technique is important, it is not the only thing that students are graded on, Adams said.
“Dance means move, do something,” Adams said. “What are you trying to convey?”
The expressions, use of space and the message dancers are trying to convey through their movement are taken into consideration, Adams said.
Adams’ enthusiasm in dance inspired many to follow her footsteps. She not only focuses on training professional dancers, she also encourages anyone who has the heart for dance, Kelly Roth, Adams’ former student and the current artistic director of College of Southern Nevada, said.
Roth said that Adams gave him the confidence to pursue a career in dance. He has been teaching for about 20 years now and has been emulating Adams’ teaching style.
“She has a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm, and it is infectious,” Roth said.
Roth added that Adams is a good examiner because she aims to let students deliver their best in a comfortable atmosphere.
“The innate kindness and optimism of her personality would put you at ease and that’s exactly what the RAD needs: people like Mary,” Roth said.
Adams’ experience in examining allowed her to improve as a teacher. By knowing the exam criteria, she is capable of pointing out her students’ mistakes and effectively correcting them.
Andrew Needhammer, another one of Adams’ former students, is now a ballet instructor at NAU. Needhammer used to perform with National Ballet of Canada, American Ballet Theater, Hartford Ballet and Ballet Arizona before he decided to take RAD exams.
Adams coached Needhammer through his elementary, intermediate and advanced levels, which he passed with honors. He became a registered teacher of RAD later on.
Needhammer said that Adams is very knowledgeable and very willing to share her knowledge about dance.
“She has a very trained eye,” Needhammer said. “Very trained to look for what she needs to see.”
What makes Adams a good examiner is that she is very attentive to detail and is also very precise, Needhammer said.
Susan Evans, a former teacher in Canada and a current student of Adams, is excited about starting her examiner training program with RAD.
It was Adams who enlightened her and changed her way of teaching.
“Where other teachers focus on different aspects, she has very much focused on the performance aspect, the projection, the eye-line and not just the technique,” Evans said.
To Adams, the most rewarding thing about what she does is seeing her students succeed.
It is obvious that her students enjoy learning from her, because of her willingness to share her knowledge and her kindness toward them.
Natalia Taráskina, Adams’ current student who is a ballet teacher from Moscow and a psychologist in Moscow State University, is one of these students.
“I am in love with her,” she said. “Where she goes, we go behind her. We are blessed having this teacher.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @moojuliet