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$800,000 Mellon Foundation Grant Elevates Dance at Reed College

Reed College has won an $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to strengthen its dance program with more classes, more workshops, artists in residence, and the addition of a part-time professor.

“I am thrilled by what the Mellon Foundation's support will mean for dance at Reed,” said Reed College Professor of Dance Carla Mann.

The dance department will gain additional faculty to begin in the fall of 2015, effectively bringing the number of members to 2.5, which will substantively increase course offerings and set the stage for a dance major. If approved, Reed would be the only college in Portland to offer a dance major.

The grant will also provide funding for Reed to invite renowned dancers to put on master workshops, lectures, and performances, which is an important component of the liberal arts approach. It will also provide for artistic residencies in collaboration with White Bird that will strengthen that partnership and allow visiting artists to offer additional on-campus events.

Interest in dance among Reed students is as strong as ever. In spring 2014, more than 150 Reed students (more than 10 percent) enrolled in dance courses. And while Reed has long allowed students to pursue interdisciplinary majors such as dance-theatre, dance-literature, or even dance-psychology, it has never offered a standalone dance major.

“Dance is central to the liberal arts experience,” said Professor Mann. “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.”

Reed’s dance tradition reaches back to its founding and its instructors have made historic contributions to popular culture. Professors like Trisha Brown became a leader of the postmodern dance movement. Steve Jobs attributed the late Prof. Judy Massee with influencing his ideas on the movement of Pixar animated characters. Last year, visiting prof. Hannah Kosstrin developed KineScribe, an iPad app to modernize the Labanotation system of dance notation.

The opening of the Performing Arts Building in the fall of 2013 has vastly improved the facilities for dance by adding a dedicated dance studio with a sprung wood floor, a flexible performance laboratory, 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!”