Mission & History

Our Mission

The mission of the University of Utah Modern Dance Program is to promote student and faculty growth as professional dance artists, critical inquirers, and community members. We are dedicated to contributing to the growth of the discipline of modern dance through research, teaching, and service of the highest caliber. Excellence, creativity, and professionalism ignite the imagination of this dance community.

  • Faculty and students maintain the highest standards of creative work, scholarship, pedagogic practice, and service.
  • Excellence in research is fundamental to excellence in student learning.
  • The highest professional commitment is required from both faculty and students, with substantive investment in admissions, hiring, and retention.
  • Diversity is desired, respected, and encouraged; creative and intellectual integrity is required; professional discipline is expected.

Our Vision

A contemporary dance community distinguished by its sense of excellence, professionalism, humanism, and a profound commitment to a lively spirit of creative inquiry.

  • Values
  • Excellence
  • Imagination
  • Integration
  • Professionalism
  • Passion
  • Tradition
  • Commitment
  • Collaboration
  • Individualism
  • Innovation

The Modern Dance Program at the University of Utah consistently ranks in the top three in the nation.

Our History

The heritage of dance at the University of Utah began in 1892 through a program developed by Maude May Babcock. Elizabeth R. Hayes was appointed Director of Modern Dance in 1940 and soon after established the dance major. Willam F. Christensen, a noted dancer, teacher and choreographer who founded the San Francisco Ballet Company, returned to his home state in 1951 to begin a ballet training center at the University of Utah.

Graduates of the Modern Dance Program perform with many national and international professional dance companies including the two major Salt Lake based companies: Repertory Dance Theatre and Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. The artistic founders of these companies have strong ties to the Modern Dance Program, having been former faculty members or current adjunct faculty.  In addition, the School maintains a connection with The Virginia Tanner Creative Dance Program and Children’s Dance Theatre, which is also housed on the University of Utah campus.  Children’s Dance Theatre has been acclaimed nationally and internationally as a unique force in the performing arts.

The Modern and Ballet Programs are housed in the Alice Sheets Marriott Center for Dance, which was designed especially for dance. The facility has a 333 seat theatre, six dance studios, a smaller faculty studio, academic classrooms, production workshops, a conditioning clinic, student lounge, and outside observation deck.

The School of Dance was formed in 2016 to house the two disciplines of ballet and modern dance.  While each program continues to offer its own specific curriculum and degrees, the School of Dance provides greater synergies and collaboration between the ballet and modern dance, providing a further way to prepare students for the current and future opportunities in the field of dance.

Salt Lake City has a dynamic dance community with many smaller companies and independent artists working alongside the major professional companies. Many of our students take advantage of the numerous performing opportunities outside of the School of Dance as well as performing at the University.