After six years as the inaugural director of the School of Dance, Professor Luc Vanier returns to the faculty

23 June 2022 Published in News and Announcements

In 2016, the University of Utah announced the Departments of Ballet and Modern Dance would be uniting to form one school — the first of its kind in the Intermountain region. After an extensive search, the University of Utah named Luc Vanier as the director of the U’s new School of Dance (SoD).

He started the position of director with goals for both programs to continue their legacies and uniqueness of discipline (dating back to 1940 for Modern Dance and 1951 for Ballet) while also expanding opportunities for collaboration. Vanier was determined that despite the challenging undertaking, the new school structure would facilitate greater interdisciplinary education and research opportunities across multiple genres of dance. He reorganized administrative structures, provided support for the joint venture, and encouraged faculty interaction, participation, and governance through rotating roles and responsibilities. 

As the departments combined, several imperatives emerged. Vanier helped restructure and strengthen graduate education, renew the Ballet MFA degree, and worked with the faculty to implement a more synergistic graduate curriculum that facilitated connections between the two strong MFA programs. Wellness initiatives were added, included the funding and creation of a SoD Athletic Trainer position and the support of ongoing collaboration with campus-based PEAK Health & Fitness nutrition experts.

Starting in 2018, Vanier procured regular funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion education initiatives. Over the course of two years, guest facilitator Charles O. Anderson led faculty and student workshops and discussions focusing on issues of systemic racism in dance and higher education.

Continuing U’s legacy of professional excellence and national presence, Vanier supported an ongoing collaboration with Kevin Thomas, Artistic Director of Collage Dance Collective, which will culminate in the company’s Spring 2023 UtahPresents premiere performance.

Of other note: numerous successful hires over these six years have enhanced and broadened student learning and access to professional connections. The long running, lucrative, and successful Utah Ballet Summer Intensive has added additional Choreographic and Somatic components. Spearheaded a fundraising effort that has brought in over $750,000 to the SoD. A recent generous $500,000 donation for the Anne Riordan Endowed Scholarship ensures that at least one current SoD student in the Modern Dance program will have a full 4-year tuition scholarship in perpetuity. 

Professor Vanier led the faculty, staff, and students through the challenges of the pandemic. Classes, performances, and summer intensive went virtual as he led a highly-detailed safety protocol for everyone in the Marriott Center for Dance. As a result, the school was able to allow dancers to train and perform in-person throughout the pandemic and ultimately retain steady enrollment levels. Also, with its previous, well-established support of Dance technology, the SoD was successful in web broadcasting all performances to more audience members than pre-pandemic numbers.

“Professor Vanier served our dance students, faculty, staff, and communities admirably, unyielding in his pursuit of an enduring legacy of success for the School of Dance,” said Dean John Scheib. “I am appreciative of his dedicated service, which through unprecedented times managed not only to help the school survive, but thrive.”

Prior to becoming the director of the School of Dance, Vanier was a former principal dancer and company choreographer with Ohio Ballet and danced pivotal roles across the U.S. His choreography has been produced at the Joyce Theater in New York City and toured nationally. In 2001, he graduated with his MFA from the University of Illinois and also became a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique from the Urbana Center for the Alexander Technique. 

Vanier has lectured and presented his research nationally and internationally on the integration of Alexander Technique and developmental movement in dance curriculum. In 2011, he co-wrote “Dance and the Alexander Technique: Exploring the Missing Link” published by the University of Illinois press. Before joining the University of Utah, Vanier served as associate director and head of dance at the School of Theatre and Dance at Texas Tech University.

On behalf of everyone in the School of Dance, we would like to thank Professor Vanier for his vital role in establishing the school and his years of dedicated service. He will continue on as a professor in the School of Dance. Melonie Buchanan Murray, who has recently been in the role of associate dean for faculty & academic affairs in the College of Fine Arts, has been elected to be the new director of the School of Dance.