Arts Pillar Chair
Born and raised at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake, Dena’s parents made sure her life was filled with dancing and white water rafting.
Dena’s passion for dance led her to Brigham Young University and being accepted into Dancer’s Company, BYU’s Contemporary Dance performance company. During the next 4 years she had the opportunity to perform and teach week-long residencies in elementary schools, high schools and universities across the United States and Asia. She is also a professional Choreographer. Her work includes “Godspell” at UVU, “Promised Valley” at Promised Valley Playhouse, “West Side Story” at BYU Dinner Theater (awarded “Best Choreography” by BYU Department of Dance), “On Gossamer Wings” (which she also wrote and directed) at Kingsbury Hall, as well as multiple High School pieces and Regional Theater shows. She also taught contemporary dance and music theater at Cottonwood Heights’ Life Arts Center for many years and loved bringing art and dance into the schools and community through the “Artist in Residency” program.
Holding a bachelor’s degree in Contemporary Dance Performance from Brigham Young University, she has remained deeply connected to her alma mater as their Contemporary Dance Alumni Representative since 2016.
Her journey in the outdoor recreation industry began at 16 when she started working for Western River Expeditions as a whitewater rafting guide. Throughout her college years, she continued guiding river trips, nurturing her love for adventure. It was while working as a river guide in Moab that Dena’s path intersected with her future husband, Brian Merrill.
They eventually became part owners of Western River Expeditions and the Moab Adventure Center. For many years, Dena played an integral role as the retail guru, overseeing the buying and merchandising operations. She also utilized her artistic talents to design and produce a successful mail-order catalog while they raised their three children.
Currently, Dena enjoys her role as a realtor with Rocky Mountain Real Estate, where her love for helping others aligns perfectly with her professional and artistic endeavors. Additionally, she continues to feed her addiction to event planning, indulging in the opportunity to create community through memorable shared experiences.
Recently, the Merrill’s embarked on a new adventure by purchasing the Viking Yurt, a restaurant situated atop Park City Mountain. Dena is fully committed to infusing her creative touch into this exciting endeavor.
As a true believer in the transformative power of the arts, Dena understands their potential to influence lives. Her dedication to creating community has led her to embrace the challenge and rewards of working with the Community Council. She eagerly anticipates the opportunity to collaborate with such a devoted group of individuals, knowing that together they can make a lasting impact.