Modern dance is a western style of theatrical dance that arose primarily out of Germany and the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was considered a rebellion against ballet because of its disregard for ballet's strict movement vocabulary and movement away from restrictive corsets and pointe shoes. Starting in the late 1920s, educators began to accept modern dance into college and university curricula, initially as a part of physical education and later as a performing art.


Orchesis Forms in 1948-1949

Before the founding of Orchesis, a modern dance group at the College, natural dancing started at Wooster within the 1932-1933 school year. In 1949, Orchesis modern dance club forms under manager Nancy Fischer and administrative head Kathleen Harriett receiving sponsorship from the Women’s Athletic Association (W.A.A.) and Women’s Recreation Association (W.R.A.). Membership to the group required tryouts, which were open to all female students and on some occasions men could participate in the group. Also in 1949, Orchesis performed a recital in Severance Gymnasium that was based on a holiday theme and dedicated to the aspiring Martha Grahams. Martha Graham was a famous dancer who created her own style called “the Graham technique” which taught dancers to magnify certain movements with their bodies while dancing. In 1950, Orchesis performed an outdoor recital and in 1953 they performed a spring revue that featured both group and solo dances before they separated from the W.A.A. and W.R.A. Orchesis also performed a “Seasons in Dance” created by the modern dance group in 1954.


Orchesis Performing in 1952-53

In 1960 the Orchesis group performed the “Three Faces of Dance” joined by other members of the modern dance group to express dance, music, poetry, sounds, and color. In the first “face” of dance, short solo dances expressed sounds such as a squeaking door and a wolf whistle. Other solos interpreted colors like red, blue, yellow, and brown, and a duet depicting black and white. In the second “face” of dance was poetry, where the entire group performed “Mad Me”, a poem written for the Orchesis group by Fon Vestal (a member of the Orchesis at the time). The dance choreography for this number was by Mary Collins, a fourth year Orchesis member at the time, who had studied dance at National Music Camp in Michigan. Other members performing solos in the “Three Faces of Dance” were, Margaret Geroch, Jean Muir, and Rachel Schottke. Then, in 1962, the Orchesis performed a show in the gymnasium. Significant participants of the show include senior dancers Anne Stocker and Margaret Geroch with choreography provided by Stocker. There is no information about the Orchesis in the Voice or index past 1967.

Information on Orchesis contributed by Kate Thurston-Griswold, Morgan Wagers and Ryan Wobbe (May 2018).