Interview with Vaunda Carter (2016)


Interview with Vaunda Carter (2016)


Streaming Media


Vaunda Carter developed the curriculum for modern dance instruction at Portland State College in the early 1960s. She was the first director of the Portland Dance Company, which incorporated in 1963. Many of Portland’s later dance companies were formed by dancers who studied with Carter at Portland State.

Recorded for the documentary Moving History: Portland Contemporary Dance Past and Present

Interview Date





“Most people think dancers have their brains in their feet, but not this dynamic instructor of modern dancing at Portland State College and St. Helen’s Hall.” (Oregonian, October 25, 1964)

Vaunda Carter was responsible for the development of the curriculum for modern dance instruction at Portland State College in the early 1960s. Carter taught movement at Portland State when it was first started in the Physical Education Department. Her students included Jann McCauley (now Dryer), Bonnie Merrill, Patricia Wong, and Catherine Evleshin, who started the Portland Dance Theater in 1970.

Carter was born in Portland, Oregon. She studied dance, and graduated from Mills College with a degree in Fine Arts. She studied dance with Martha Graham, José Limón, Anna Halprin, Doris Humphrey, and Marie Wigman.

From 1961 to 1965 she held dance intensives on the beach at the Oregon Coast. These intensives encouraged learning and collaboration between dancers of diverse ages and abilities, with the final days of the intensives spent entirely on the beach. (“Dance Study Due At Coast,” Oregonian, June 7, 1964) While teaching at Portland State, Carter was the first director of the Portland Dance Company, which incorporated in February of 1963. This company, as well as her classes at Portland State College, focused on modern movement and what Carter called “time, space, and intensity.”

Many of Portland’s later dance companies, such as Body Vox, Northwest Dance Project, Polaris, and White Bird, were formed by dancers who studied with Vaunda Carter at Portland State College.

Interviewer Eric Nordstrom is a dance performer, filmmaker and professor. As a director and editor, his interests focus on the intersection of dance, improvisation, documentary, and film. His past and current film work features such prominent dancers and scholars as Ann Cooper Albright and Simone Forti. In Seattle, he has performed with Karen Nelson, and in Portland, Oregon, was a core company member with Oslund+Company. Eric has taught contemporary technique, contact improvisation, and dance film courses in colleges and festivals throughout the U.S., including Macalester College, Kenyon College, Reed College, Portland State University, Seattle Festival of Dance Improvisation, Conduit Dance, and The Ohio State University, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts. He is on faculty at Lewis and Clark College.


This interview is made available through the Portland State University Library Special Collections and University Archives with the generous permission of Eric Nordstrom, Portland Performing Arts Video and is for educational and non-commercial use only. It cannot be reproduced in any form, distributed or played for commercial purposes. For more information, please contact Special Collections at Portland State University Library at: or (503) 725-9883

Persistent Identifier

Interview with Vaunda Carter (2016)