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Dance has long been an area of study at the University of Washington, but it took many years before it found its own identity and established a permanent home. Below is a basic timeline with a focus on the dance faculty leadership that helped it grow into the dynamic program it is today.


Before 1965

Modern dance courses were offered through Physical & Health Education and ballet was offered through drama. Students wanting to major in dance had to design their own curriculum through General Studies.


A Dance division was created within the School of Drama.


As a division of the School of Drama, dance was housed in the Armory Building (on the waterfront, now the UW Police Department).


The Dance Division was moved to the School of Music.


Dance grew large enough to become the Dance Program: an autonomous unit with its’ own budget.


Graduate Program was added and brought professional dancers to the UW to perform as part of the Chamber Dance Company, and to teach and learn about the intricacies of teaching dance in a college or university setting.


The Dance Program won the prestigious Brotman Award for Instructional Excellence.

Leadership Highlights


Mary Aid De Vries served the UW as a member of the modern dance faculty in the Department of Physical and Health Education and was a national authority on dance education. Her annual Dance Dramas in Meany Hall were wildly popular and attended by a broad cross-section of people from both the University and the Seattle community. A scholarship in her name is awarded each year to the dance major who demonstrates artistic merit and also embodies a spirit of service to the Program.


Ruthanna Boris taught ballet from 1965 until 1983 and served as the first official head of the Dance Division. She brought a strong work ethic and personality to her work at the UW and was recommended for the position by her colleague and mentor George Balanchine. Ruthanna is widely acknowledged as being the force that moved dance out of the Armory Building on the waterfront into the beautiful facilities in Meany Hall it still occupies.


Joan Skinner originally joined the faculty of the UW Physical and Health Education and eventually served as director of the Division from 1985 until 1987. Her internationally recognized Skinner Releasing Technique brought students from all over the world to study with her.


Eve Green was known for her work on behalf of dance and arts at the UW and throughout the community. She served as head of the Dance Division from 1975 to 1985 and is credited with saving the program when after severe budget cuts, the entire program was being considered for elimination. Upon her death in 1993, the family honored Eve with the establishment of the Evelyn H. Green Endowed Scholarship. This award is given to a junior Dance major with artistic promise to help fund his/her senior year of study and allow him/her to concentrate on continuing to learn his/her craft.


Peggy Hackney was a faculty member for five years when she established the first Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) certification outside of New York City. This established the UW as a leader in college level dance training on the west coast.


Hannah Wiley studied with Ruthanna Boris in the late 1960s at the UW. After graduating, she taught, performed and choreographed professionally, and then joined the faculty at Mount Holyoke College. While there, she earned her Masters from NYU and also chaired the Five College Dance Program (Amherst , Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst) from 1982 to 1987. She returned to the UW in 1987 and served first as head of the Dance Division, then as director of the Dance Program for fourteen years. During this time, she formalized the innovative graduate program and established the Chamber Dance Company in 1990.


Elizabeth Cooper is one of the professional dancers who received her MFA in Dance from the UW. Upon graduation from the UW, Betsy taught at several universities and in 2001 returned to the UW to serve as the director of the Dance Program. She grew the program during her tenure to include a research-based track within the major and supported outreach and residency opportunities for students. In 2004 she was honored with a UW Distinguished Teaching Award. She also led the development of two highly successful on-line dance courses and in 2013 joined with colleagues in Music and Drama to create a BA in Musical Theatre. She was named Divisional Dean for the Arts in the UW College of Arts and Sciences in 2013.


Jennifer Salk named to direct the UW Dance Program. Since joining the faculty is 2002, Jennifer has made her mark as a choreographer and teacher. In 2006 she received the UW Distinguished Teaching Award and currently holds the Donald E. Petersen Endowed Professorship in the Arts.