Orchesis is a Greek term whose truest meaning is "to dance." It began as a university dance club first organized at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during the academic year 1917-1918 by a group of students who wanted more opportunity to study dance than was possible in regular university classes. Orchesis is not a national organization but a name used by graduates of Wisconsin for their own dance groups as they began to teach in various sections of the United States.  

At UNI, Orchesis began as a dance group of eleven members organized during the academic year 1926-27. It is presently a UNI dance company of students interested in pursuing the choreography, performance, and production of ballet, jazz, modern, and tap styles of dance. Orchesis at UNI is also a student organization that provides social opportunities to its members and is governed by elected student officers. 

Orchesis members have many performing opportunities throughout the school year. In the fall, Orchesis shares the stage with UNI IDT Dance Company members for the Family Fest Dance Concert. In the spring, Orchesis produces a full length dance concert. Orchesis is available for performances, clinics, and classes for the community.

For further information, contact Mandy Masmar.



Everyone who wishes to become an Orchesis member must audition. Regular auditions are held at the end of the spring semester for both the fall and spring semesters and the week after Thanksgiving for the spring semester. Members who successfully audition and are accepted into Orchesis for two full school years (four full semesters) as full members need not audition again in order to be an Orchesis member. Those who audition after Thanksgiving join the company for one-half year only (spring semester) and must audition and be accepted for two fall semesters in order to be exempt from auditions. Dancers who audition in the spring for the fall semester are accepted into Orchesis for one full year. Auditions are open to all prospective and current UNI students.

Each Orchesis member, including apprentice, is required to attend Dance Performance class. This technique class meets Mondays & Wednesdays from 3:15 to 5:15 pm. Each Wednesday, Orchesis holds a business meeting during the last 30 minutes of class. The technique class can consist of, but is not limited to, modern, ballet, jazz, tap, Pilates, yoga or contact/movement improvisation. The Orchesis director usually leads the class, but members may apply to teach a class by completing the Orchesis Technique Teaching Application form. Orchesis members may also supplement their technique with outside classes.

Each Orchesis full member is required to perform in one concert each semester that she/he is active. Rehearsals are usually held in the evenings or on the weekends and rehearsal schedules are based on the schedule form each member must complete. In the fall, the main-stage concert is traditionally the Family Fest Concert, co-produced with International Dance Theatre. In the spring, Orchesis produces a full-length evening of dance performance (Spring Gala). Apprentices are not cast into dance works until they have been evaluated through audition and have been accepted into Orchesis as full members. All members (both full and apprentices) are required to pay dues for each semester she/he is an active member of Orchesis. Any Orchesis member may choreograph for the Spring Gala upon completing an application form and enrolling in Applied Choreography. Choreographers who enroll in Applied Choreography for the spring semester only are not eligible for consideration for ACDF. For more specific requirements, please refer to the Orchesis Constitution.


Frequently Asked (Audition) Questions

Who may audition?

Any current UNI student who loves to dance and perform and is interested in becoming part of both a performance company and a social organization may audition for Orchesis. There are no weight or height restrictions and differently-abled dancers are encouraged to attend auditions. Orchesis members must audition and be accepted as full company members (a dancer may be accepted into Orchesis as an apprentice) for two years -- four consecutive semesters. Once a member has been accepted into Orchesis for two years, then she/he may opt out of the audition.

What is involved in auditions?

Auditions consist of a ballet barre, modern dance problem solving exercises, a jazz combination and a tap combination. All dancers are required to participate in the ballet, modern and jazz portions of the audition. Dancers are encouraged to try the tap for fun. Open auditions are held for one night.  Please bring ballet slippers and/or jazz shoes to the audition (tap dancers bring tap shoes as well). Clothing can consist of non-restrictive dance pants and camisole or tank (please no baggy shirts, skirts or pants). Each dancer must complete an audition form and receives a corresponding number to wear for identifying purposes only.

Who does the judging?

Auditions are adjudicated by a panel of judges made up of the Orchesis director, IDT director, YPDT director, past Orchesis president and one person outside of the dance program.

What are the judges looking for?

Each judge is looking for something different, based on her or his own dance experience. Some judges look for an overall technical dance ability, others look for a dancer's problem-solving skills, still others look for how a dancer handles stress or unfamiliar movement. The number one quality important to all judges is the dancer's willingness to tackle any movement regardless of his/her skill level or knowledge of the dance style, and the dancer's attitude (a positive attitude is best, of course).

Do I need to know all dance styles to make it into Orchesis?

You need not know all dance styles to make it into Orchesis or to audition for Orchesis. Again, we are looking for a willingness to dance, not a "know-it-all" dancer. Attitude is more important than arabesque!

If I don't make Orchesis, what are the other opportunities for dance at UNI?

Orchesis is only one of the dance companies at UNI. Anyone may join IDT Dance Company  without audition. Repertory Dance Theatre is another option for dancers interested in art dance. RDT has no audition requirement, but instructor permission is necessary to join. If you are interested in dance classes, the dance program offers a variety of art, folk, ballroom, composition, production and improvisation classes, and the student-run Movement Outlet series.

When and where are auditions?

Auditions are held at the end of the previous spring semester for the fall semester and after Thanksgiving for the spring semester. An audition waiver is based on a dancer successfully auditioning and being accepted as a full Orchesis member for two FULL years. Dancers who successfully audition in the spring for the fall semester are accepted into Orchesis for one full year. Those who audition for spring semester are accepted for spring semester only and will need to reaudition for the next fall semester and again for another fall semester to fulfill the two-year requirement (four regular semesters). The spring audition is also an opportunity for apprentices to audition for full membership. Auditions are held in the WRC rooms 185/187 (the dance studio).