Following a research project and proposal from Akademi, South Asian Dance in the UK, a new ISTD Faculty was set up in 1999 to examine in Bharatanatyam and Kathak, the two classical South Asian dance genres most frequently taught in the UK. Examining started in 2001 in various regions of the UK, with expansion into Europe, Canada and the US, along with enquiries being received from other parts of the world, including Australasia, India and Pakistan.
Bharatanatyam is the classical dance, which evolved over many centuries in the temples of southern India. It highlights the beauty of strong lines leading out from the dancer's body and is embellished with intricately expressive hand gestures and elaborate storytelling through exquisite facial expressions.
Kathak originated as a story telling art form in northern India. It developed in Hindu temples and later in Mogul courts. It is characterised by fluid body movements, complex patterns of footwork, fast turns and sudden stillness.
A precise interaction with classical Indian music from South and North India respectively characterises both these dance genres.
There is a Primary Examination which is non Bharatanatyam or Kathak specific for children up to the age of eight years. This is a teacher-led examination where the examiner only observes, and therefore ideal for helping very young children gain confidence in taking examinations.
There are six Graded Examinations for both Bharatanatyam and Kathak. Grade One is intended for those with only one or two years of experience of dancing and thereafter, up to Grade Six, progressively more experience and perfection is expected from the presentation of technique and repertoire. There are no minimum or maximum age limits; teachers are expected to judge the appropriate level of maturity and dance accomplishment of their students.
Vocational Graded Examinations are available too for both Bharatanatyam and Kathak, the minimum age for entry into the first of the four levels being fourteen years. The Vocational Grades include Intermediate Foundation, Intermediate, Advanced 1 and Advanced 2. These examinations form a cohesive bridge between the work covered in the Grades and the work of the professional examinations. Both the Grades and Vocational Grades are approved by Ofqual and are on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF)
Professional examinations will soon be made available for Bharatanatyam and Kathak.
Outline syllabi in Bharatanatyam and Kathak have been published and are downloadable from our website. These have been evolved over several years of research, and represent the corporate view of distinguished dance gurus throughout the UK and abroad. They aim to preserve and develop the rich traditions of the dance while adapting to the many different cultures and contexts in which they are now practised.
Full detail of what should be taught for each Grade is set out in the Examination Specifications, available from the ISTD Bookshop ISTD HQ, Imperial House, 22/26 Paul St, London EC2A 4QE. These set out, in separate publications for Bharatanatyam and Kathak, the required skills, the movement vocabulary and the repertoire for each Grade, together with health and Body Conditioning requirements and recommendations, the procedure for entering the examinations, lists of resources and an extensive glossary of terms.
The Faculty provides, from time to time in the UK, courses, workshops and celebrations. These aim to provide the appeal of dancing together, or more specific aims, such as explaining and publicising the syllabi, studying Karnatic or Hindustani music, or the cultural background and theory underlying the dance. Activities may also be suggested to the Faculty Secretary.