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Part Five Orchesis Group

Although Ruth’s dance education courses were grudgingly tolerated her first year at UNO, as her reputation as an excellent instructor grew, so did her reputation within Omaha and the Midwest as a dance pioneer. Former student Adeline Speckter admiringly remarks, “Ruth was an excellent teacher—clear, disciplined and disciplining. I guess she was the prototype of the young, eager, committed teacher” (qtd. in Wittman 33). Ruth was eager for her students not only to enjoy what they were doing but also to understand what kind of political, social, and cultural change they were affecting in Omaha. The interest in dance education in Omaha only increased during Ruth’s years at UNO, as evidenced by the growing number of participants, performances, and audience members each year (4243). Ruth’s dancers were often front-page news in The Gateway. Tommy Thompson, author of A History of The University of Nebraska at Omaha: 19081983, writes that “[Ruth] was a strong believer in physical education for women as a means of developing their health, poise, strength and coordination … By the end of the decade Miss Diamond had gained national recognition for her work in the field of modern dance” (57). Ruth’s reputation, though, was not easily earned; she consistently approached her career and profession with hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm

One of Ruth’s most notable contributions to UNO was her creation of the UNO advanced dance group, Orchesis.

Although not formally associated, Ruth’s Orchesis group was modeled after Beatrice Richardson’s Orchesis group at UNL, where Ruth had studied during her undergraduate days, and after the original Orchesis group founded at the University of Wisconsin by H’Doubler, one of Ruth’s biggest influences. By 1938, UNO’s Orchesis group had gained recognition all over campus.

The word “orchesis” is derived from a Greek word meaning expressive gesture (Anderson 111). The UNO Orchesis group was composed of students who desired to continue to the advanced level of dance education and to develop a more extensive understanding and skill in creative dance (Wittman 8). Ruth was creating remarkable opportunity for these girls to express themselves in meaningful ways; they were no longer confined to conventional forms of dance such as ballet and folk. Her advanced students often gave public performances at the Joslyn Memorial, helping Ruth pioneer and popularize modern dance in the Midwest. Read an announcement of an upcoming performance for Ruth’s dancers.

 

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Part Six The Men’s Modern Dance Group

After breaking tremendous ground in Omaha with her advanced women’s dance group, Orchesis, Ruth continued her pioneering in the field of modern dance and disrupted traditional gender roles with her establishment of the first men’s dance course and group at UNO in September of 1939 (75). Community response to the men’s group was widely varied; many resisted the idea of men engaging in an activity that was traditionally associated with femininity and worried that modern dance had gone too far (75). Ruth, supported by faculty men and women, persisted in her efforts, and thirteen male students signed up for the first course: “They danced in bathing trunks and wore no shoes. And they received full physical education credit, as they would have done for any other sport” (75).