In 1918, Margaret H’Doubler, a professor of physical education at UW-Madison, established the first dance degree program at a university in the United States. At this point in history, modern dance was just beginning to make a name for itself at the college and university level. Rather than hold its established place in the arts as it does today, dance was attributed to the Physical Education department. In addition to the formal dance program, she also began the extracurricular club, Orchesis (Greek for the art of dance), for students who wanted more opportunities to dance outside of structured university classes. The concept of this modern dance club spread nationally and many groups adopted the name Orchesis for their dance clubs; by the late 1960s there were over 200 documented Orchesis groups on North American college and university campuses.

A modern dance club began at NDSU, formerly North Dakota Agricultural College, sometime in the late 1930s. The group was loosely organized at this point and it was not until the early 1950s that the group became affiliated with the national honorary dance club, Orchesis.

In 1950, two North Dakota Agricultural College students, La Vonne Sommers and Pat Kennedy, along with a physical education instructor, Niva M. Anderson, organized and established an official campus chapter of Orchesis at North Dakota Agricultural College. In 1951, the club began performing for various campus and community functions, tryouts were established for membership, and the club was divided into Senior and Junior divisions. In 1952, the Physical Education department sponsored the group’s first full length production consisting of 100 women and original choreography and costuming. Between 1952 and 1959 the club met on a weekly basis and maintained between 10 and 15 regular members.

Orchesis at NDSU began to pick up steam and make a name for itself as a student organization after the arrival of Marilyn Nass, the club’s advisor from 1959 through the 1990s. When Nass took over advising the club in 1959, it consisted of three female members; as popularity grew under Nass’ direction, the club maintained anywhere from 24 to 55 female and male dancers with both a Senior and a Junior division. By 1961, the club was putting on an annual production during the winter quarter; previously the club had held an annual dance workshop on campus but had not presented a regular full length program. The programs, and the club, were always self sustaining--all expenses of the club were covered by ticket sales for performances and parental donations; members of the club choreographed the pieces, designed the costumes, manned the lighting and created the artwork for the productions. In true student organization fashion,
Orchesis is a democratic organization in which the students make organizational decisions and admit new members with the guidance of the clubs advisor.

As the popularity of modern dance grew, so did the popularity of Orchesis on NDSU’s campus. In the 1970s significantly more men participated in tryouts, the annual production included three performances (to which attendance was over 1400 people), and preparation for the annual show began in October of the academic year with practices increasing to 6 days a week in preparation come January. Evidence of the club is documented into the 1990s through articles in the school’s newspaper, The Spectrum, but it is unclear as to how long the organization was active on campus.

Annual Productions:
May 1961: “Orchesis Presents: Fourth Dimension”
February 1963: “What Happened to the Minuet”
February 1964: “Innovation”
February 1965: “Time Out Of Mind”
February 1967: "Catalyst"
February 1968: “LSD”
February 1970: "Special Days"
February 1971: “Life, Death and the Traveler”
February 1972: “4”
February 1973: “Sapien Seven--A Dance Concert”
February 1974: “JHE” (a neuter pronoun, referring to his-hers-he-she)
February 1975: “Free to Be”
February 1976: “Ease on Down”
February 1977: “Khaos”
February 1978: “Reflections and Illusions”
February 1979: “Hands, Feet and Other Essentials”
February 1980: “Body Shop”
February 1981: “Eight to Ten at the Barre”
February 1982: "Bizarre... see Orchesis"
February 1983: “A Dancer’s Arch of Triumph”
February 1984: "Turn Left Off Broadway"
February 1985: “Color Odyssey”
February 1987: “Dance Games”
February 1988: “Dance-a-vision”
February 1990: “Dancing on a Time Line”
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