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    The NaTioNal daNce FaculTy

    The National Dance Branch, as it was then called, was founded in 1952 by Irene Grandison Clark (18921985) and Joan Lawson (19072002). It arose out of the ISTDs General Teachers Branch which had included a section for

    National and Historical Dance. It was decided to sub-divide this

    section in order to create two discrete branches and Joan Lawson

    agreed to prepare the syllabus for National Dance.

    This more specialised branch was much needed as during

    these post-war years there had been no body of knowledge for

    teachers to make an in-depth study of folk dance and very little

    opportunity for them to travel in order to gain primary source

    material. This had resulted in a lack of authenticity in much of

    what was being taught.

    The first committee was chaired by Irene Grandison Clark

    and included Joan Lawson, Sheelagh Elliott-Clarke, Betty Hassell

    and Carol Moverley. Joan Lawson was a great traveller who

    visited many European countries, collecting a vast amount of

    material related to folk dance, music and costume. She was able

    to pioneer much of the work through her teaching at the Elliott

    Clarke School in Liverpool and it was at this time that she wrote

    European Folk Dance (pub. Pitman, 1953) which became the first

    key text for students of national dance.

    In 1953 Helen Wingrave joined the Committee and she too

    made a great contribution to the development of the branch.

    Unlike Joan Lawson, whose particular interest lay in pure folk

    dance, Helen Wingrave was keen on using the steps of folk dance

    to choreograph solos, duets, trios and groups for theatrical

    settings such as dance performances and competitions. She

    had a great gift for choreographing dances in this way, many of

    which are still in the syllabus today.

    The examinations were introduced over the first two years

    of the new branchs existence. They consisted of three levels of

    what were then known as Major examinations Elementary,

    Intermediate and Advanced; four levels of Grade examinations

    and Bronze, Silver and Gold Medal Tests at Junior and Senior

    Established in 1904 the Imperial Society of Teachers

    of Dancing (ISTD) is one of the worlds oldest and

    most influential dance examination boards. Ever since

    its inception the ISTD has developed new styles and

    dance genres, and today with 12 faculties, no other

    dance examination board has the breadth of genres

    that the ISTD offers.

    Our mission is to educate the public in the art of

    dancing in all its forms, to promote the knowledge

    of dance, to provide up-to-date techniques, and to

    maintain and improve teaching standards across the

    globe. The ISTD is always moving with the times to

    keep pace with the latest developments in dance.

    We regularly update our syllabi and introduce new

    faculties to respond to changes in the world of dance.

    Above: Image from the ISTD archives

  • | Copyright ISTD 2014 All Rights Reserved Page 2

    levels. All the examinations were very well received by teachers

    and students alike and went on to be very popular.

    The Major syllabus consisted mainly of folk dances chosen

    because they were still being performed in their country of

    origin. The syllabus also included lists of individual steps,

    fi gures and holds (ie the various ways of holding partners and

    other dancers in a group) for each country which also had to be

    studied together with details of style, music and costume. As

    well as being valuable information for the candidates, it was also

    extremely useful for teachers who wished to create their own

    dances for theatrical purposes.

    The Grade syllabus consisted of group dances and solos and

    the Medal Tests comprised solos only and were designed for

    students who were interested in focussing on solo performance

    but who may not have had the opportunity of working in a class

    situation. Apart from a few minor alterations and additions, this

    basic syllabus structure has remained the same throughout the

    branchs existence.

    In the early 1960s, Robert Harrold became a committee

    member and examiner. He worked very closely with Helen

    Wingrave and made an important and lasting contribution to

    the development of the branch through his teaching, writing

    and choreographing of many dances both for the syllabus and


    In 1972, Helen Wingrave conducted the fi rst overseas

    examinations which were held in New Zealand. There was great

    enthusiasm for the work which subsequently spread to other

    countries such as Canada, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Mexico and

    South Africa.

    In 1977, Audrey Bambra (19172004) became Chair of the

    committee following the retirement of Irene Grandison Clark.

    This was quite a departure from the norm as she was not an

    ISTD teacher or examiner. She had been principal of Chelsea

    College of Physical Education in Eastbourne for many years but

    had an understanding of the ISTD through being a member

    of Council. Although she did not have a detailed knowledge

    of the ISTD national dance syllabus, she was extremely

    knowledgeable about folk dance in general and over the years

    had visited many folk festivals and countries where folk dance

    was still practised. This resulted in her book Teaching Folk

    Dancing (Batsford, 1972) co-written with Muriel Webster. She

    laid great stress on the in-depth study of the style of each

    country and arranged several courses delivered by specialists,

    which concentrated on one country only. She was an excellent

    Chair who was very clear thinking and who brought a very

    educational approach to the branch.

    In 1985 Robert Harrold was elected Chair. This was also the

    fi rst year of the Choreographic Competition in which there

    were cups awarded for the choreography of a solo and a duet.

    After a few years, this competition became the Grandison

    Clark Awards, in which the performance rather than the

    choreography was judged.

    Top left: Helen Wingrave

    Centre left: Joan Lawson

    Above left: Robert Harrold

    Top right: Irene Grandison Clark

    Centre right: Audrey Bambra

    Above right: Nigel Allenby Jaff and

    Margaret Dixon-Phillip (Mrs Allenby


  • | Copyright ISTD 2014 All Rights Reserved Page 3

    In 1986, Margaret Dixon-Phillip, another key contributor to

    the branch, joined the committee. She too travelled a great deal

    and, together with her husband Nigel Allenby Jaff, produced

    several books on national dance which are invaluable sources of

    information for both teachers and students.

    Another important development in the 1980s was the

    introduction of Folk and National Character streams in both

    the Grades and Major examinations, thus enabling teachers to

    make a choice of how they entered their candidates. A further

    development at this time was the introduction of Folk Dance

    Studies. These are assessments in which candidates present

    traditional group dances chosen by the teacher together with

    a written, visual or practical project, in order to build up the

    required units for the various levels.

    In 1993, the Scottish Dance Branch came under the umbrella

    of the National Dance Branch; it established a sub-committee

    which sent a representative to report at National meetings.

    This arrangement lasted for about eight years until there was

    a further decrease in Scottish examination entries, after which

    Council reluctantly decided to close the branch.

    There is still a nucleus of interest in the National Dance

    Faculty, as it is now called, with a number of very enthusiastic

    and loyal followers. In accordance with the needs of the 21st

    century and government recognition, most of the examinations

    have been revised and streamlined by a very able team drawn

    from the committee, consisting of Heather Rees, Marion

    Roberts, Barbara Simons and Robina Smith.. The Grandison

    Clark Awards, which are held every two years, still attract a

    substantial number of high quality entries, and a teachers

    summer school continues to be offered annually. Although the

    Faculty, chaired by Jacqueline Ferguson since 2001, is not large,

    there are many teachers who choose to teach the work and find

    it to be an extremely useful addition to their timetables, as

    it offers their pupils an opportunity of working together and

    co-operating with each other in a skilled and very enjoyable

    dance activity. There are also a number of students, both in the

    UK and overseas who still take the teaching qualifications, thus

    ensuring, for the foreseeable future, a continuation of the work.

    Dame Ninette de Valois DBE, formerly Patron of the National

    Dance Faculty, wrote in her foreword to European Folk Dance

    Series: The Netherlands (Allenby Jaff, N & M, p.9) Folk dance

    offers a wealth of material to choreographers, teachers and

    dancers and they in turn must understand its value and

    potential. She concluded by saying I should like to see every

    ballet school in the country have a weekly folk dance class in its


    On a more general note, in


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