Dance teachers in Montana were asked to attend an organizational meeting in June of 1966 at Jorgenson’s, Helena, MT. From this small attendance of Blanche Judge, Trude MacDonald, both of Helena, Maurine and Bill Yelsa, of Anaconda and Dee Brady of Great Falls, came about the formation of the Montana Dance Arts Association (MDAA). Their goal was to raise teaching standards and obtain scholarships and grants for Montana dancers. The organization, which was then a division of the Montana Arts Council, was officially formed on July 6, 1967. Blanche Judge appointed Mrs. Alice Stoughton of Eastern Montana College as president; Maurine Yelsa, an Anaconda dance instructor, as vice-president; Betty Faurot of Missoula Sentinel High School as secretary; and Betty Michael of Rocky Mountain College as treasurer.

The first Montana Young Dancers and Artists Festival, which was sponsored by MDAA and the Montana Arts Council, was held at the Helena Civic Center on April 6, 1968. The one-day festival included ballet classes taught by Mr. Harold Christensen, Director of the San Francisco School of Ballet and folk dance classes taught by Mr. Anatole Joukowsky, dance professor from San Francisco State College. The day concluded with a performance by dancers from twenty Montana schools, including private dance schools, high schools and colleges. Nine scholarships were awarded to Montana dance students to attend the Banff School of Fine Arts and the San Francisco School of Ballet. Winning arts and crafts of Young Montana Artists Shows were also on display during the Festival. The second Young Dancers and Arts Festival was a two-day event including classes in ballet, jazz, modern and folk dance classes.

The early 1970’s brought about the birth of the MDAA Spring Workshops and Scholarship Adjudications and the MDAA Fall Workshops, adding tap classes to the list of classes offered. Since then, MDAA has been conducting these biannual workshops, bringing guest faculty members from professional dance school and companies to Montana.

In addition to giving Montana dance students and instructors the opportunity to work with and learn from master teachers from across the nation, MDAA annually awards almost fifty cash and tuition scholarships for summer dance training to deserving young dancers, a student choreography prize and teacher fellowships. Please see the “Programs” tab on this website for more detailed descriptions of the listed programs. 

Pictured Above: Nicholas Young - Tap and Body Percussion