Dance professor Betty Lynd Thompson came to Oregon State College in 1927 to teach dance in the Department of Physical Education for Women. Until 1945, she taught all dance classes -- modern, folk, square, tap, and ballroom -- as well as basic rhythm and movement. As other dance faculty were added to the department, she was able to concentrate on her major interest of creative dance. She wrote a college textbook for dance instruction, Fundamentals of Rhythm and Dance, which was published in 1933. In 1931, she founded the Oregon State chapter of Orchesis, the modern dance honorary.
Thompson earned a B.A. in English Literature from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1923 and an M.A. degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1926 with an emphasis in modern creative dance. She later pursued intensive traning in the studios of master artists in New York, including Martha Graham, who became a friend as well as mentor.
She became interested in ceramics in the 1940s while volunteering with the USO and began to sculpt small figurines of dancers after studying ceramics at the University of Washington for one term. She referred to this work as "danceramics".
Thompson retired from teaching in 1972. On her 83rd birthday, colleagues and friends organized a celebration, during which she danced on stage. She died a month later on March 2, 1985.
The Betty Lynd Thompson Papers document the teaching and dance performance career of Thompson. The Papers include correspondence; teaching materials and student papers; writings by Thompson on a variety of topics; publications pertaining to dance instruction; dance programs, clippings, and ephemera; photographs; and motion picture films. The bulk of the documentary materials were created or assembled during her years as a dance instructor at Oregon State; they also include materials from her high school and college years. The teaching materials include the two books that she wrote on dance instruction, Fundamentals of Rhythm and Dance (1933) and Student Manual for Modern Creative Dance (1966), as well as papers and projects completed by students in her classes. The collection also includes sound recordings that she apparently used for warm-up in her classes.
The photographs include a variety of formats (prints, film negatives, slides, and tintypes) and depict a wide range of subjects including dance classes and performances, her family and friends, pets and animals, her home, and her student years at Illinois Wesleyan University.
The motion picture films are 16 mm b/w and color. Most are silent; a film of dance students made in the 1950s includes sound. The films consist primarily of footage of students in modern and creative dance classes at Oregon State University; there is also one film of Thompson and a film of women's field hockey.
The Papers also include several ceramic figurines of dancers made by Thompson as well as photographs of the figurines.