In 1951 Joan Jones Woodbury, a Utah native and University of Wisconsin graduate, was hired to teach dance in the Physical Education Department. Shirley Russon Ririe, a former student under Elizabeth Hayes, joined the dance staff after a year as an instructor in dance at Brigham Young University. The two formed the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company in 1964 with department alums as members. In 1970 they became a full-time company and are know internationally.
In 1966 a $370,000 grant to establish Repertory Dance Theatre was made to the University of Utah by the Rockefeller Foundation. The grant was the first of its kind ever awarded to a university by the foundation. The project director was Virginia Tanner, a Salt Lake native who associated with the University of Utah in 1960 as a dance teacher of children through the Division of Continuing Education. She was a lecturer and director of Creative Dance as well as being responsible for forming the Children's Dance Theatre. Mary Ann Lee assumed directorship of the Children's Dance Theatre program after Virginia Tanner's death in 1979.