Vol. 12. No. 2
Fall 2002


Combine love of dance, belief in children, and passion for excellence, and what do you get? Roots and wings.

That's what the Virginia Tanner Creative Dance Program gives each of its dancers: roots in the fundamentals of dance and wings for creative flight. As Mary Ann Lee BA'68, director of the program and associate professor / lecturer in the Department of Modern Dance, says, "Our students learn to soar, not just to dance." But "roots and wings"— the program's slogan — represents the Virginia Tanner Creative Dance Program in many more ways.

The program is rooted in the philosophy that children bloom under loving care. In 1941 Virginia Tanner BA'40 was appointed director of dance at the McCune School of Music and Art. Her primary goal was to establish a youth-oriented program that would provide the best possible dance training. She was confident that wholesome creative activity would help children develop alert minds, healthy bodies, and strong character.

The program took wing in 1949 when Miss Virginia's dancers presented their first concert in Kingsbury Hall. The audience watched in wonder. One spectator commented, "This source of fresh ideas is a treasure house to which [Virginia Tanner] found the key." Thus, the performing arm of the program — the Children's Dance Theatre — began.

Under Lee's direction, the Children's Dance Theatre has received numerous awards, performed across the state (for more than 45,000 Utahns each year) and across the nation, traveled internationally, and was featured at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. But most important, the program has established a place in the community, finding countless ways to share the wonder of dance with diverse audiences.

Outreach programs now extend from inner city schools to more affluent neighborhoods. Classes for those who otherwise would not experience the joy and freedom of dance because of economic, physical, or emotional limitations are held at the studio and at local hospitals. Dance/music interactions take place weekly in eldercare facilities. And as part of the University's modern dance department, the program introduces dance to those who will soon teach a new generation of children.

Of course, it's that new generation that is at the heart of the program. As Lee says, CDT "is a place where children learn the discipline and art form of dance, freely express their inner vision of the world, realize their dreams, and grow into beautiful human beings."

—Former Continuum intern Kathryn Austin Maksimov BA'00 is a full-time technical writer and a freelance writer.


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