Orchesis Dance Performance Group

Orchesis club during a practice at the Dorothy Harris Dance Studio

Orchesis Dance Performance Group (ODPG) offers dance performance and choreographic opportunities to our dance members, who are students, alumni, and members of the community.

ODPG is a unique group that fosters long-term recreational and professional development in dance and is devoted to the creativity, expression, and well-being of our dancers. ODPG mentors several student choreographers annually, as well as hires professionals, to provide dancers - from beginner to advanced - a professional dance experience.

ODPG’s typical yearly calendar involves four signature events. Smaller fundraising events and monthly social events are also hosted for our members. In September we host our Choreographers’ Presentation where prospective members hear from choreographers directly and sign up for pieces that interest them. Orchesis does not hold auditions as we believe dance and professional dance experiences should be open to all. After registering for one or multiple pieces, members attend weekly rehearsals and are encouraged to register in technique classes to further their training.

In December, ODPG has our Works in Progress Showing (WiPS) event for all our dancers to come together and celebrate the work done so far in the season. It is also a unique opportunity for dancers to work with theatre professionals on staging and light production.

Every January, ODPG puts on our annual dance Motif, a live dance show performed over multiple nights in a professional theatre.

Dance Motif – The Annual Showcase

Dance Motif 2022 marks the 57th year of Orchesis and will feature contemporary modern and jazz choreography by faculty and local dance artists. Motif 2022 features the work of student and faculty choreographers, with a special focus on maintaining and dancing through a global COVID19 Pandemic. Orchesis Dance Society, the non-profit society comprised of the wider community, dancers and alumni, makes this possible and with additional fundraising efforts with additional supports received from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

Dance Motif 2022

Orchesis Summer Dance Intensive - OSDI - 2022 TBA

The Orchesis Summer Dance Intensive (OSDI) consists of intensive training with professionals in the dance field. Through a concentrated period of study in contemporary modern and jazz techniques, creative processes including improvisation, contact and other movement explorations, and supportive wellness practices, dancers develop individual movement expertise. Other elements of the workshop include attention to personal performance techniques and developing the creative dancer within a process-oriented session.
OSDI 2022 will offer consecutive days, days that change yearly. This intensive is geared toward most levels of dancers wishing to develop greater facility and dance knowledge.

Registration details - TBA.


Orchesis Dance Society: orchesisdancesociety@gmail.com
To register, email orchesisdancesociety@gmail.com

Memberships & Fees

Membership Fees and Fundraising

ODPG is open to students, alumni, and members of the community, but requires a performance fee in order to rehearse and perform for Dance Motif. Rates of membership are shown below:

Membership One Dance Second Dance Third Dance
Students $100 $125 $140
Non-students $110 $135 $150

As a student group/club, Orchesis depends on its student board to facilitate the performance experience, and active board members, both student, and non-student receive a 50% membership fee discount.

The Orchesis Dance Society (ODS) is the fundraising branch of ODPG, which helps produce the Dance Motif show. All members are required to fundraise through the Orchesis Dance Society in a variety of ways.

All Dancers are required to have a Mandatory AIMS Account for Ualberta Club Sports. Please ensure this step is completed before you enter the facilities and rehearsals. $10 for students and $36 for Nonstudents.

As a student group/club, Orchesis depends on its student board to facilitate the performance experience, and active board members, both student, and non-student receive a 50% membership fee discount.

The Orchesis Dance Society (ODS) is the fundraising branch of ODPG, which helps produce the Dance Motif show. All members are required to fundraise through the Orchesis Dance Society in a variety of ways.

For more information, you can email the ODPG at: orchesis@ualberta.ca


Dorothy Harris Dance Award

Field of Study Open
Value $750 - $1000 (variable)
Number available 1 per year
Conditions To be awarded annually to an undergraduate student who has shown an interest in and contributed to dance choreography or performance at the University of Alberta Orchesis Dance Program on the basis of satisfactory academic standing, minimum GPA 3.0.
Application Apply by designated March or April date to the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation. The date is also posted on the University's Office of the Registrar Awards Office website.
Contact Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation Student Services Office 3-134 University Hall 780.492.5604
Donors Endowed by the alumni of the Orchesis Dance Program at the University of Alberta and other individuals interested in dance in honour of Dorothy Harris for her contribution to Orchesis and the field of dance.


Orchesis Spring/Summer Study Dance Award and the Dean's Orchesis Dance Summer Study Award

Field of Study Open
Value $450 - $500 (variable)
Number available 2 per year
Donors Endowed by Orchesis Dance Program with additional support from the Dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation and two anonymous donors
Open to Any Orchesis dancer who has been active in performance and/or choreography and who desires additional training in and outside of Edmonton commonly found in summer intensives, workshops or festivals with satisfactory academic standing.
Eligibility Must be a university student, in either second, third, or fourth year of an undergraduate program with a minimum 2.0-point GPA, or a returning graduate student. GPA is determined by the previous full academic year. Therefore, for the summer of 2018, transcripts form 2017/18 will be reviewed.
Nominated by Campus & Community Recreation
Intent and timeline The receiving applicant may use this award toward dance studies any time after receipt and up to the end of the calendar year. The title "Spring/Summer" refers to the increased availability of outside professional training during the summer months. Study application may certainly be pursued after August if the desired dance study course takes place later and through December of the award year.

Katja Schriener, Chair, Orchesis Dance Performance Group, University of Alberta
Club Sports, Campus & Community Recreation, Faculty of Kinesiology, Sports, and Recreation
2-670 Van Vliet Complex, Edmonton, AB T6G 2H9 E-mail: orchesis@ualberta.ca

Orchesis Spring/Summer Award Application Form


What type of volunteering is expected from Orchesis members?

Volunteering for Orchesis is not typically time-consuming. Examples include:

- selling tickets to Motif for 1-2 hours in the designated sales area
- helping with poster placement
- dance archival files
- assisting with advertising sales in the concert program
- helping to clean costumes after the performance
- helping in the theatre before tech week

There are more responsible roles as well. These are continuing volunteer positions and they are reserved for dancers who want to help lead the group. We call this group the Volunteer Executive and the Extended Executive. These roles have membership discounts of 50% attached to them because their roles are ongoing. Please refer to the volunteer executive link on this website for information.

I want to perform in Dance Motif, but I do not know what that requires. Is there an audition? And if so, when, and do I need to choreograph something?

Orchesis is very accessible for dancers who want to perform. You do not need to audition or choreograph anything.

  • To participate you will need to attend the choreographers' idea presentations on September 22nd at 7:00 PM where the choreographic process is explained with time for Q&A
  • Each choreographer talks about their dance for approximately 4-5 minutes.
  • Following choreographers' presentations, interested dancers meet them and can sign up for a dance where the choreographer's rehearsal time works for them. Once you have signed up the choreographer will expect you to attend the first rehearsal.
  • Dancers are required to attend their classes regularly for training and technique and be committed to the time requirements of their dance.

Where is the Dance Studio?

Orchesis is housed in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation (KSR). KSR facilities are named the Van Vliet Complex (VVC) and it has seven building numbers: 1= University Hall offices, 2= East building, 3=, 4=Pavilion (PAV) often called the Butterdome (bright yellow exterior), 5=, 6= West Building areas 7= The Arena portion of the WEST building.

The Dorothy Harris Dance Studio room VVC 2-635 is located in the WEST building of the VVC on the 2nd-floor level, just past the Main Gym. Many of the buildings are connected to the lower level and have clear signs telling you where to go.

Position Committee Member Contact Information
Chair Katja Schriener orchesis@ualberta.ca
Vice-Chair Sarah El-Ezaby elezaby@ualberta.ca
Treasurer Marleina Schriener marleina@ualberta.ca
Motif Coordinator 1 Interested? Email us
Motif Coordinator 2
Marketing Coordinator Breanna Palmer bcpalmer@ualberta.ca
Social Media Coordinator Cassie Tobin
Club Sports Program Director uab.ca/recreation
Campus & Community Recreation Program Liaison Nicolette Marshall nicolette.marshall@ualberta.ca

If you are interested in leading and supporting dancers and dance at the U of A in the Orchesis Dance Program, please attend our annual AGM in April 2021. Register for our list service here to find out when the event is:

Register for our list

CCR classes are taught by dynamic and talented instructors, many with significant national and international experience. All are leaders in their styles of dance and known for their ability to teach dancers at every level skillfully in an encouraging environment.
What we offer

What we offer

- Opportunity to perform in a fully produced concert
- Opportunity for choreographers, new or experienced, to create dances (link to choreographers' and application to choreograph)
- Masterclasses and workshops sponsored by Orchesis include:
- contemporary modern, ballet and jazz dance technique
- improvisation and contact improvisation
- dance theatre craft
- dance somatics - example of offerings include Pilates, Garuda, Dowd conditioning technique, etc.
- lecture/demonstrations, dance research connections and discussions
- classes in a variety of dance forms when appropriate

Club Executive

Name, Position Faculty, Year of Study Hometown Joined
Breanna Palmer, Chair/ Marketing/Social Media Arts, 4 Edmonton, AB, Canada 2018
Eric Awuah, Vice Chair/Treasurer Anthropology, PhD Ghana 2021
Stephanie Lily Edmonton, AB, Canada 2008
Zoette Arts, 2 Edmonton, AB, Canada 2021

Orchesis club at the U of A

Club History

Orchesis Dance Performance Group (ODPG) is a 55-year old organization that began as an academic program in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sports and Recreation.

ODPG is now a student group under Club Sports programming with Campus & Community and Recreation and is open to anyone with a desire to dance.


The University of Alberta Orchesis Dance Program was established by Dorothy Harris, a professor of dance, and award-winning educator, in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation (Now Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation) in 1964.

Harris was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and a disciple of Margaret H'Doubler, a professor of physical education at the University of Wisconsin, who, in 1918, established the first dance degree program at an American university.
H'Doubler chose "Orchesis" as the name for a group of students there who wanted to dance more outside of their classes.

To H'Doubler, herself a graceful dancer and exceptional athlete, dance was a vital force in the total development of the individual, and Orchesis implied the combined sciences of movement and gesture.

Her idea of dance was to foster social improvement, physical well-being, and artistic enrichment, to realize the Greek ideal of balance between the intellectual, the physical and the spiritual. Dance could both express and foster a generous social spirit that could be passed onto other communities.

Subsequently, the name Orchesis was used by other North American colleges and universities for their extracurricular dance groups. By the late 1960's, Orchesis groups numbered over 200. It is unknown how many Orchesis groups exist today.
Beginnings at the University of Alberta

In the mid-1960s there was a void in the dance scene in Edmonton and with the advent of Orchesis, Harris initiated a wave of creative dance that has taken on a life of its own in the present vibrant dance community. For Harris, Orchesis encompassed all of the ideals of her mentor, but most importantly, Orchesis was to provide students with "a chance to dance" in a performance context.

With fellow dance professor Joyce Boorman, Harris aimed to stimulate an appreciation and understanding of creative dance in the larger community. It began with the academic course PED 405 - Introductory Modern Dance, a required third-year course for women, and the only creative dance activity in Edmonton at the time.
The first performance in 1965 was a lecture/demonstration in the West Gymnasium to introduce and explain this "strange" mode of dance to the curious audience. The audience was captivated; Dorothy Harris had started something wonderful, and Orchesis took flight.

In 1966, Focus on Modern Dance was mounted in Corbett Hall with the technical and production assistance of Studio Theatre and the Drama Department. For the 1967 Centennial, Orchesis received a sponsorship of $165 from SUB to costume and advertise Modern Dance Mosaic for the Second Century Fine Arts Festival. It was standing room only.

For the record, Jazzy Cats, danced to Henry Mancini's Pink Panther theme was the first Orchesis dance distinguishable from the required PED 405 creative process.
In 1968, creative energies were redirected to a Western provinces dance workshop, which lead to new alliances and networks. The University of Alberta Orchesis and the University of Calgary Dance Club presented joint programs in 1969 and 1970, entitled Dance Montage in Calgary, and Dance Motif in Edmonton.

By 1971, the University of Alberta/University of Calgary joint program had ceased, but both groups had established a strong local performing interest to match the new audience support.

The 1972 production (of Dance Motif) sold out. Jacqueline Ogg continued to choreograph and contribute as a representative of the Drama Department. In 1973, Orchesis partnered with the Edmonton Youth Orchestra and the Centennial Singers to produce Can We Get There by Candlelight? - a Christmas program.

From 1974 to 1976, Orchesis ventured into a new endeavour: Orchesis Improvisational Dance Theatre. It aimed for exploration; the discovery of sensitive inter-relationships as experiences, rather than deliberate steps toward choreography and performance. This new experimental direction acknowledged that some explorations could spontaneously evolve into their own forms. These new forms were presented in A Studio Dance Production.

By 1977, Orchesis had returned to the magic of the theatre environment with Dance Motif.

The 80's and beyond: Orchesis matures

Dance Motif's primary objectives are to enhance the learning experience and provide performance opportunities for students. The performance also strives to educate audiences about dance, and to make dance visible in the campus community. The audience base established by Orchesis activities prepared the local market for professional touring dance companies and other dancers who began establishing their own companies.

Orchesis has been the foundation for various other activities. The Saturday Jazz Dance program, coordinated and taught by Harris's daughter, Vanessa Harris, has been offered for the past 40 years. Orchesis director Ruth Bartman, along with other members, formed a local touring group called Moving Images in the early 1980's. bodyvoice improv (1996-1998), a dance improvisation collective, was formed by graduate student Victoria Thoms to foster creativity in its members in a trusting, non-threatening environment.

In recent years, Orchesis has taken its dances to Camrose, Red Deer and Fort McMurray, participated in dance conferences, held orientation performances on campus and participated in NextFest and Feats Festival of Dance.

The 1988 performance at the Calgary Olympics is a highlight in Orchesis's history. Orchesis performed in the Olympic Arts Festival Danscene, held at the University of Calgary. In conjunction with the Festival, the University of Calgary Dance department hosted Canada's first national conference for post-secondary dance programs, Danscene: University and Colleges. Danscene assembled a showcase of collegial dance participants from across the country, and Orchesis connected to the glory of the ancient Greek games and the spirit of national and international camaraderie.
Orchesis continues today with Dance Motif within the University of Alberta community. Orchesis has established itself as a collaborative effort between academic staff and students with the ongoing support of the Students' Union and the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation.

Orchesis draws its membership from students, staff, alumni, and other members of the community. Many Orchesis members and alumni have established professional careers in dance performance, education and programming.

Over the course of its history Orchesis has presented the works of over 300 choreographers and performers, including the following professionals: Peggy Baker, Maria Formolo (Formolo Dance), Pamela Grundy, Danny Grossman Dance Company, Dana Luebke, Sun Ergos, Debra Shantz, Mile Zero, Charlene Tarver, Gerry Trentham, Dancemakers, Triangles, Brian Webb (BWDC), Vanessa Harris, Darold Roles, Ron Shuster and Kompany!, Tamara Bliss, Kathy Ochoa, Kathy Metzger, Tony Olivares, Dorrie Deutschendorf, Jodie Vandekerkhove, Laura Krewski, Sharon Richardson, Cori Caulfield, Helen Husak, Geraldine Manossa, David Flewelling, Jeannie Vandekerkhove, Josh Beamish, Emily Noton, Sarisa Figueroa de Toledo of DJD, Kathleen Hughes, Farley Johansson of Science Friction Dance, Denise Clarke of One Yellow Rabbit and Justine Chambers. Solidance and CRIPSiE, both dance programs for individuals with special abilities, evolved from the Orchesis Program, with Lindsay Eales as originator, teacher and director.

Since Dance Motif 2006, Orchesis has received the financial support of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts in the form of a grant for Orchesis' guest choreographer program for Dance Motif and the Orchsis Summer Dance Intensive (OSDI). This support has enriched our dancers' experiences immensely and we gratefully acknowledge this generous support.

Orchesis has featured other dance organizations as an outreach component of its performance programming, including Alberta Children's Creative Dance Theatre (ACCDT), Edmonton Dance Centre, Edmonton Contemporary Dancers, Edmonton Festival Ballet, GMCC Children's Dance Education Program, performers and choreographers from the former MacEwan dance program, Victoria High School, and Alberta Ballet School.

The University of Alberta Orchesis Dance Program has thrived for over five decades owing to the belief and commitment to dance of its directors, Dorothy Harris, Joyce Boorman, Marsha Padfield, Ruth Bartman, Cathy Black and since 1995, Tamara Bliss.
In 2015, Orchesis celebrated 50 years of Dorothy Harris's recognized vision. We are pleased to recognize all those people, past and present, who have kept the spirit of Orchesis alive through creative vision, membership, commitment and sense of community. The lineage of dance continues to the present--just ask anyone who has had "a chance to dance!"

The written history is adapted from the original article by Karrie Darichuk, formerly an Orchesis dancer for over fifteen years. The original article appeared in the 35th anniversary Dance Motif 2000 program.