Dance History

Dance at the University of Alberta is intertwined in research, teaching, and recreation in the faculty, which offers

  • opportunities to study and perform in dance through academic programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels
  • opportunities for students, alumni and members of the public to dance through two collaborating dance organisations in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation - Orchesis Dance Program and iDance/CRIPSiE
    • Each welcomes dancers of all abilities, aged 18 and up
  • a wide variety of non-credit dance classes through Campus and Community Recreation, open to everyone

The evolution of dance at the University of Alberta

Historically, dance has been a central aspect of the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation where we study and teach aspects of human movement that embrace both the arts and science.

Founding dean, Dr. Maurice Van Vliet recognized this and hired Dorothy Harris, now professor emeritus, to develop this art form in the faculty.

She helped develop the foundation of the dance program on which the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation has built the academic classes we teach today.

These include modern, jazz, ballet, folk, history, study of dance for children, composition, technique, social dance and various other offerings, many with an emphasis for educators and future teachers.

Furthermore, Ms. Harris established Orchesis Dance in 1964, based on the previous work of Margaret H'Doubler, a brilliant dance pioneer and educator at the University of Wisconsin, where Harris, who studied there, had become familiar with H'Doubler's ideas about dance. To H'Doubler, dance was a vital force in the total development of the individual, and the Greek name 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 1960s, Orchesis groups numbered over 200. It is unknown how many Orchesis programs exist today.

Today, the faculty continues to serve the campus and the community with opportunities to study or practice the art of dance in its many forms, in the spirit of H'Doubler who opened dancers to a new holistic, prismatic experience of dance and to Harris, who brought this dynamic dance ethos to the University of Alberta.