Susan Van Pelt Petry

Susan Van Pelt Petry

Susan Van Pelt Petry

she, her

614 292-7977

306 Sullivant Hall
1813 North High Street
Columbus, OH

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Professional Website

Office Hours

Flexible! Write to to set up a virtual office visit

Areas of Expertise

  • Contemporary Movement Practice and Improvisation
  • Composition/Repertory
  • Pedagogy and Professional Practices
  • Kinesiology and Somatic Practices


  • MA in Dance, The Ohio State University
  • BA in Dance, Oberlin College

Action Statement:
I am listening, I am learning, I am acting. I will not let my black friends, colleagues, students, and strangers fight racism alone. After the giant wake-up call with George Floyd’s death on the heels of many others, I am one of those well-intentioned, liberal, seriously privileged, suburban white women who is guilty of being “more devoted to order than justice” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr). For the years left for me on this planet, I pledge daily attention, vigilance, growth, support, love, and action. My reading list has changed, my creative work will stretch, and my teaching will change.

Biography, as of summer 2020:
I am a choreographer, solo performer, and arts advocate. In addition to my concert dance work, I have choreographed for operas, site specific projects, and film. My journey with Ohio State is unconventional. I arrived at OSU in 1983 as a visiting artist, became a graduate student, then Assistant Professor. I decided then to quit my tenure track job in 1989 to pursue a decade of free-lance career, and I’m very glad I did. Reaching 40, it was time to settle, so I started at Ohio University as Associate Professor only to leave that tenure track job after four years, starting a family. I returned to OSU in 2008 as Assistant Dean, then chaired the Department of Dance from 2006-2015. I stepped down to teach and make again, and have happily done so for the past five years.

During the 80’s and 90’s I was the Artistic Director of The Van Pelt Dance Ensemble in Columbus, Ohio and was a guest artist at universities and residencies. Highlights include a residency at Headlands Center for the Arts in California, teaching at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and at the Taiwan National University of the Arts, and serving as company teacher and rehearsal director for the Cloud Gate Dance Company of Taiwan. I bring my background in Erik Hawkins technique, Iyengar Yoga, Bartenieff Fundamentals, Ballet, Improvisation, and Alexander Technique to my teaching and work.

A little boasting now, but it reflects my absolute joy in making dance. I have received eight Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards over the years, most recently in 2018, The Greater Columbus Arts Council’s Raymond J. Hanley Fellowship in 2013, and OhioDance’s award for Contributions to Dance Education in 2016. In 2018, The International Festival for Contemporary Dance in Mexico City invited me to a program of performers over 40. Opera credits include Opera Columbus’ 2018 Madama Butterfly and 2017 Carmen with director Crystal Manich, and OSU’s 2016 Dido & Aeneas, directed by A. Scott Parry. In 2017 with grants from Critical Difference for Women, Greater Columbus Arts Council, and The Puffin Foundation, I performed my one-woman show, The Linen Closet and Other Collections.

I served on the Board of National Association of Schools of Dance for six years, on the board for Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP), and currently with Columbus Dance Alliance. I serve as an evaluator and consultant for programs in dance education and am currently the Arts Faculty Fellow for Ohio State’s Global Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme’s, and a Second Year Transformative Experience Program mentor. As I continue with organizations, I will dedicate my energy to dismantling racist structures, language, and practices.

In my work, I explore meaning making through motion, pattern, breath, and design.  I make performance work for myself, I create work with other dancers, and I work for directors.  I’m interested in how performing makes the work come into being, and I am rigorous with elements of structure and form. Throughout my work, themes emerge that have to do with vulnerability and tenacity, women’s stories and triumphs, and the relationship of the body to the natural and built environment. Incorporating video, costume design, music, and text are frequent elements in my work.

Current projects include 19ChoreOVID’s (see website), a new duet with my colleague Crystal Michelle Perkins about race, and a solo, “Unfinished”. The latter two will premiere in May 2021.