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Photo by Matt D’Annunzio

Hannah MacKenzie-Margulies ’16

dance - music

Hometown: Lexington, Massachusetts

Who I was when I got to Reed: Before I came to Reed I was a professional ballet dancer, but I had become disillusioned with that life. My parents said, “Maybe this is the moment to think about going to school.” I was impressed by how committed the students at Reed seemed to be; other campuses I visited sort of felt like summer camp. If I was going to go to school, I really wanted it to rip me apart in a certain way.

Obstacles I overcame: I came in feeling scared all the time, and I still struggle with having a lot of insecurity. But there were people here who said, “You can do this.”

Influential books: J.L. Austin’s How to do Things with Words and Brenda Dixon Gottschild’s Stripping the Emperor

Outside the classroom: I started a dance collective. Performed at PICA's Time-Based Art Festival. Got a grant to present a paper about neo-Mozarabic chant at the American Musicological Society. In a thesis show called “Here Now” (M.J. Kanai '15)I was this weird rabbit voiced by someone else speaking through a microphone. Devising that show was an incredible process.

How Reed changed me: Reed pulled back the wool from my eyes. I learned to argue and found an expressive voice that I had been afraid to use for a very long time, as well as a fortitude that I truly didn’t know I was capable of. I started dancing again, but in a way that was engaged and integrated with my work in the classroom.

Financial aid: I received an incredibly generous financial aid package at Reed, including the Alex & Kathy Martinez Scholarship and the Sukey R. Garcetti Scholarship, an Initiative Grant, and a President's Summer Fellowship.

Thesis: Where’s Leon? or That Extraordinary Drama: Dancing Jazz, Negotiating Historiography, and Performing Americanism on the Cold War Cultural Tours

What it’s about: I investigated vernacular jazz dancers Al Minns and Leon James, who, along with jazz educator Marshall Stearns, unsuccessfully applied to perform abroad on a State Department sponsored cultural tour in 1958. This led me to a huge set of questions about race, class, gender, genre, historiography, and the stakes of claiming national identity both at mid-century and in the present. As part of my research I also devised a solo multimedia performance called Looking for Leon, in which I examined my own relationship to jazz, nostalgia, and American-ness. 

What it’s really about: Making America great again.

What’s next: Definitely a new adventure, but I'm not sure exactly what yet. I'm still dancing  and there's a good chance I'll go to graduate school in the next five years. Right now I'm doing market research for a software company, assisting my thesis advisor with a book project, and helping to edit a documentary film about the history of contemporary dance in Portland.