Dancing with Judy Massee

I appreciate all the stories you collected in the June issue for your remembrance of Judy Massee [dance director 1968-98]. I’d like to add one more. I studied with Judy in the ’70s. She gave me my first teaching job, but more importantly, gave me a sense that I could find a place in the dance world. At that time there were very few spaces on campus that would work for performance: we usually set up theatre lights and wings in the gymnasium for our department shows at the end of the term, but when Judy had the chance to bring a duet company to Reed for a performance she commandeered the student union for the weekend. We hauled our equipment in, climbing up the walls to hang lights and string cable, and then perched up in the balcony to run the show. At the end, after we’d loaded out all our gear, she was so pleased that we’d been able to transform the space into a “real” theatre. I’ve done almost every job you could name in dance, and many of the skills that I’ve used were jump-started by Judy Massee. I am still a grateful girl.

—Sandra Kurtz ’78

Seattle, Washington

I am delighted that dance, through Judith’s efforts, has found a place of respect at Reed. I had to leave Reed to become a dancer, but while there formed a lasting friendship with Trisha Brown [dance director 1958-68], who had just graduated from Mills. No facilities—but we did find a place to dance. We would sneak into the gym, with Richard Levin ’60, and improvise. I still relish the confusion, challenge, and delights of my time at Reed. It did not train me as a dancer or choreographer (The Electric Company, Grease). What it did do: taught me to think critically, access information, listen to others’ diverse opinions, gain a sense of self, and tackle the unknown. Trisha went on to become one of the most important innovators in modern dance. I went on to become the artistic, then executive director of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and later the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, where I had the privilege of supporting Trisha through commissions and presentation. By the way, another important contributor to the new dance movement, Simone Forti ’57, was a Reed alumna.

—Liz Lauter Thompson ’61

West Stockbridge, Massachusetts