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Reed Dancers Score Major Achievement

By Kevin Myers on November 05, 2015 12:17 PM

The Reed College faculty unanimously approved a new major in dance at its November meeting, expanding the fields of study where students can pursue their passions.

“Dance is central to the liberal arts experience,” says Prof. Carla Mann ’81 [dance 1995–]. “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.”

In January, Reed won an $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to strengthen its dance program with more classes, more workshops, and now a major. Reed is the only college in Portland that offers a dance major.

The department expanded faculty positions this fall from 2 to 2.5, enabling professors to teach 12–13 courses a year. Prof. Mann and Prof. Minh Tran [dance 2008–] developed the curriculum for the new major.

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. Prof. Pat Wong [1975-2009] was a founding member of the Portland Dance Theatre and Prof. Hannah Kosstrin [2010-14] 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, the recent approval marks the first time Reed has offered a standalone dance major.

With the 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.

The faculty also recently approved concentrations in computer science and statistics and a major in comparative literature.