When Elizabeth Hayes came to the University of Utah in 1940, dance was already somewhat of a going concern.
The first dance class was "Swedish and German gymnastics and dances," offered in 1906 through the physical education department, which Maud May Babcock chaired before she moved completely into the dramatic field."We owe a lot to Babcock, who felt that dance was a very important to physical education," said Hayes. "She was influenced by the theories of Dalcroze and Isadora Duncan, who each in their own ways sought to make the body free and responsive to its inner rhythms.
"Several early teachers came here from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, a strong arts school to this day. Margaret H'Doubler (pronounced Dobler) was the key teacher there. She went to Wisconsin in 1918, and in 1926 the first dance major in the country was established there. Her students fanned out everywhere during the '30s and '40s."
Between Babcock and Hayes, some rather important teachers cultivated the artistic soil at the U. of U., preparing it for later blossoming. Georgia Borg Johnson was trained at Denishawn and Columbia (U. of U. 1918-27); and Blanche Hayes, no relation to Elizabeth, (U. of U. 1927-31) was one of the first dance graduates of Wisconsin in 1926. "She was very Isadora," said Hayes. "She organized performances outdoors on the steps of the Park Building.
"Next came Myrtle E. Clancy Knudsen, a graduate of Northwestern with M.A. from Wisconsin under H'Doubler (U. of U. 1929-40). She and Blanche Hayes founded a chapter of Orchesis (a national dance performance organization) here in 1931, and the group she assembled gave the first Kingsbury Hall performances. I succeeded her."
Catalog offerings in physical education pre-1940 give an inkling of how dance developed at the University: the Gilbert and Chalif techniques (based on ballet), folk, social and "fancy dancing," aesthetic and interpretive dance, rhythmic training, dance composition, clogging, theory and philosophy of dance, and pageantry and dance drama.
(Some historical information in these articles came from "A History of Dance at the University of Utah (1906-1968)," an M.A. thesis by Margaret Tennant Waterfall.)