MFAIA co-Chair Ruth Wallen in conversation with recent graduates, Greer Reed and Adam Cates, MFAIA-VT F2020. During part one of this interview, conducted in November, 2020, Greer discussed their creative practices prior to graduate study, her motivation for enrolling in the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts Program, and her experiences during her first semester.
Ruth Wallen: Can you tell me about your creative practice prior to coming to Goddard and your motivation for applying to graduate school?
Greer Reed: Prior to applying for grad school, I was a teaching artist at a performing arts high school. I had been there for quite some time. I felt like there was something else I knew that I wanted. I didn’t feel like I was totally giving to my students. At that point, both my parents had passed away. I remember speaking to them prior to their passing and them saying, you’re not done spreading your wings. There’s more. We know there is and you have our blessings. So, for entire year, I started applying for different positions at different schools. In the descriptions, I kept coming across the requirement for a master’s degree. A lot of the places reached out to me for follow up interviews, but it always came down to your master’s degree.
Jason McDole and some other colleagues that we knew in common said what about Goddard? I was a little skeptical because I had been in education for several decades. I was thinking, I’m already putting my philosophy to work. I already have my methods in line. I don’t need a masters to teach at a higher level. But Jason, who was a semester ahead of me, kept saying, just trust the process.
Ruth: Can you tell us something about your professional career as a dancer?
I started dancing when I was three. Eventually it led me to New York City.
When I saw the Alvin Ailey American dance theater, I knew, that’s me. My training was transformative. I got to see a lot of legends that we read about as dancers.
After about two and a half years I was asked into Ailey II. That was my first experience touring and getting to perform works that I only dreamed about as a little girl. I got to do Revelations; I got to do the umbrella girl. I share these stories with Adam and Jason all the time and we laugh about them.
I was coached by Judith Jamison herself. That was the height of HIV in New York City. Not only was I training with the best of the best but every time that I walked into the elite organization there was news of a company member who had died from AIDS. Every single day that I walked in I saw it. Mr. Ailey was very ill. He passed during my tenure at Ailey.
After he had passed away that I felt like I needed to transition.
I auditioned for the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company in Dayton, Ohio, which is a little closer to Pittsburgh, closer to my parents. I could check up on them a little bit more, as they were getting older. I ended up staying at Dayton Contemporary Dance Company for 10 years, rising to principal dancer. I started teaching during that time in their official school.
I remember teaching in Poland and not being able to understand what they were saying, but realizing that a plié is a plié. I taught in Poland, in Russia, in France and Germany. That’s when it started coming together for me that dance is just universal. It’s about what was coming out from me and not just not just the movements per se.
My professional career took about fifteen years total. Then that’s when I transitioned to education full time. I moved back to my hometown, started teaching and just went from there.
Ruth Wallen: What can you say about your time as a student at Goddard? How did you know it was right for you?
Gale Jackson was my first advisor at Goddard. In our first group advising session we did some movement work. I remember thinking, okay, this feels good. I’m just gonna roll with this–until she gave us an assignment to go look at the moon and write about it. I immediately texted Jason and said, “I can’t even see the moon. I don’t even know what to write about. What is she asking of me?”
I kept thinking, I didn’t see the moon. So please, please, don’t call on me because I didn’t do what I was supposed to do. Anyway, somehow that first day everyone took so much time that at the end she said, OK, the following people will speak tomorrow.
I still didn’t say anything the next day. She gave us the option if you didn’t have anything to say you could politely pass. So, when it came to me and I said, “pass”.
I didn’t feel any pressure from Gale, but I kept thinking, I am not going to see the moon. It is so cloudy outside. I don’t know how to get through this.
That next evening, I went back to the dorm. And again, I didn’t see the moon. I was just lying there. I said, I don’t think this is for me. I don’t see the moon. I’m not a writer. I can’t do this. And then just in my silence, just in my stillness. I was like, wait. I don’t see the moon, but I know the moon is there. I no longer see my parents, but I know they’re there. And it was at that moment that it just came pouring out.
I’m not even a writer, but the tears came. The writing came out—everything. At that moment, I couldn’t wait to go to the group the next day and share, “Gale. I got it, I got it.”
I don’t even know if Gale knew that, but it was a breakthrough that I needed. It was at that moment I realized that with my parents gone all these years, it was my mother’s look, her supportive belief in me that got me to where I am today.
When I got to Goddard it was a reminder of that: Gale sees me. Deanna sees me. Ruth sees me. Cynthia sees me. All the advisors, they saw me. I didn’t realize how much I needed that. It was from that experience that I knew this might be the place for me. I still wasn’t crystal clear what Goddard was going to be for me. But at that moment, I realized that I hadn’t really dealt with the passing of my parents. The magic of Goddard fed me at that time when I wasn’t even aware that I was still deeply hurting inside.
Part Two, where Adam Cates discusses his unique journey to Goddard will be published 12/2/20.
Goddard Colleges Masters degree program in Interdisciplinary Arts keeps you at the center of your process. Your story and your voice matters at Goddard.
Find out more about this unique low-residency program at https://www.goddard.edu/academics/master-fine-arts-interdisciplinary-arts/ or inquire at Get Info