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Jump for Joy! Reed Wins $800K Grant for Dance

By Chris Lydgate ’90 on January 05, 2015 10:11 AM

With a leap and a bound, the swift Reed students fly through the new Steiner Dance Studio. Leah Nash

Reed has won an $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to strengthen its dance program with more classes, more workshops, and—pending approval from the faculty—a freestanding dance major.

“I am thrilled by what the Mellon Foundation's support will mean for dance at Reed,” says Prof. Carla Mann ’81 [dance 1995–].

The grant will allow the college to expand faculty positions in the dance department from 2 to 2.5, enabling professors to teach 12–13 courses a year. It also sets the stage for us to offer a dance major—something Reed dancers have long hoped for. Reed will launch a search for a new tenure-track professor to begin in the fall of 2015. After that, the dance department, including Prof. Mann and Prof. Minh Tran, will devise and propose a major. If the faculty approves, Reed would be the only college in Portland that offers a dance major (although Lewis & Clark and Portland State University both offer a dance minor).

The grant will also allow Reed to invite renowned dancers to campus for artistic residencies, during which they will put on master workshops, lectures, and performances.

Reed has a proud and storied tradition of dance that reaches back to its founding. Reed dance instructor Trisha Brown [1958–60] later became a leader of the postmodern dance movement, while Steve Jobs said that a class in modern dance he took from the late Prof. Judy Massee [1968–96] influenced his ideas about computer animation. (We are sad to report that Prof. Massee died last month.) Last year, former prof. Hannah Kosstrin developed KineScribe, an iPad app to revive the Labanotation system for dance notation.

Interest in dance among Reed students is strong and growing. In spring 2014, some 151 Reed students enrolled in dance courses. And while Reed has long allowed students to pursue interdisciplinary majors such as dance-theatre, dance-literature, or dance-classics, it has never offered a standalone dance major.

“Dance is central to the liberal arts experience,” Prof. Mann says. “It sparks innovation across disciplines through the way it teaches students to interrogate historical, aesthetic, and social issues; to engage kinesthetically with space, time, and movement; to approach solving problems with creativity and rigor; and to pursue productively both individual and collaborative endeavors.”

With the long-awaited opening of the Performing Arts Building, Reed now boasts outstanding facilities for dance, including a dedicated dance studio with a sprung wood floor, a flexible performance laboratory space named in honor of the late Prof. Massee, and a retrofitted stage in the old theatre building.

“This is going to be a remarkable time for dance at Reed,” Mann says. “I can’t wait!”