In 1903 a group of teachers in Manchester area formed an association, the Manchester and Salford Association of Teachers of Dancing. The prime mover was James Finnigan - the arranger of the dance the Military Two Step - and it is interesting to note that James' great-granddaughter, Julie Laird, is currently a prominent member of the IDTA. With time the 'and Salford' was dropped from the name of the Association and then in 1938 the name was changed to the Empire Society.
In the first decade of the century other small associations were established and four such were the English Association of Dancing Masters, Premier Association of Teachers of Dancing, Universal Association of Teachers of Dancing, and Yorkshire Association of Dancing Masters. In 1930 these four bodies amalgamated to form the International Dancing Masters' Association. This body grew in strength and stature until in 1955 it was felt necessary to become a company limited by guarantee.
Meanwhile Birmingham area teachers joined together in 1920 to create the Midland Dance Teachers' Association. This body grew beyond its original area base and changed its name in 1958 to the Dance Teachers' Association. Shortly after in 1961 it merged with the Empire Society retaining the name Dance Teachers' Association.
In 1967 the IDMA and DTA merged becoming the international Dance Teachers' Association - retaining the Limited by Guarantee status of the IDMA. This merger created one of the largest dance teacher organisations in the world. Indisputably it had the largest membership of ballroom dance teachers.
The IDTA takes a prominent part in the various bodies co-ordinating dance activities in Great Britain and the world. It is a member of the British Dance Council, Sport & Recreation Alliance (formerly The Central Council of Physical Recreation), the Council for Dance Education and Training, and the Theatre Dance Council International.
The IDTA conducts examinations qualifying teachers of dancing and entry to the Association is by examination only. They are based on detailed knowledge of the dance techniques involved and on the ability to teach the various dance forms to a wide range of prospective students. The examinations are oral based and depend upon a competent range of qualified examiners. The IDTA was the first dance teachers' Association to institute rigorous examinations for prospective examiners. Even to-day, in the case of some dance teacher organisations, examiners are appointed purely by election or even by patronage.
The Association covers a wide range of dance disciplines, which divide broadly into three categories ballroom dance, theatre dance and freestyle dance, although there are, of course, substantial overlaps.
A wide range of publications and guidance are produced by the Association covering all branches. The authors and committees producing the detailed techniques are leaders in the field such as Guy Howard for Ballroom and Walter Laird for Latin. It is a matter of some pride that the technical works of Guy Howard and Walter Laird have been accepted by most other Associations as the technical primers for their examination.
Members are kept up-to-date in advance in techniques, business methods, government regulations and so on, by means of an Annual Congress held in Southport plus a Seminar in London each year. In all cases admission for members of the Association is part of the service provided and is free. Further information and advice is supplied through its bimonthly magazine Dance International. The magazine includes operational matters for dance teachers as well as technical advice, syllabus matters and articles on Dance.
The Association also organises an annual residential summer school and seminar covering the Theatre branches for which a charge is made.
A liaison and advice service operates through its Head Office in Brighton and locally through local activities. These are implemented by the Area Committees funded in part by the main Association. These run regular meetings and workshops. In Great Britain there are eight areas covering ballroom dance and ten covering Theatre branches. Between the Areas nearly fifty meetings are held each year all open to members at which leading experts in the field lecture or conduct workshops as appropriate.
The management of the Association is in the hands of a Board of Directors elected annually by secret ballot at the Annual General Meeting held in conjunction with the Annual Congress. The standing committee structures support equally the various sections of the profession with faculty committees, conference committees plus Finance and the Theatre Council. The latter is democratically elected from the Theatre branch members of the Association. The members of each committee are elected from those members with particular expertise, e.g., technical faculties are elected by the Examiners, from the Examiners.
The Association is pleased that so many of the famous names in the dance business are or have been officials of the organisation.
In 2004 Buckinghamshire New University (previously Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College) in partnership with the IDTA launched a Foundation degree in Dance, giving the opportunity for dance teachers to continue their professional development and gain an academic qualification while working in their chosen specialist field. The first cohort graduated in September 2006 and the University continues to develop further courses for dance teachers.
In October 2006 the International Dance Teachers' Association (IDTA) and the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) announced that the two organisations would embark on a process of working together to the mutual benefit of their members in both teacher education and training and examinations. The RAD and the IDTA formally grant teachers of the respective organisation the opportunity to enter candidates for its examinations, thereby ensuring that both organisations recognise the right of qualified teachers to enter candidates for the examinations of either awarding body.