Susan Van Pelt Petry History

Susan Van Pelt Petry is a choreographer, performer, writer, and arts advocate. In addition to her concert dance work, she has choreographed for operas, site specific projects, and film and has published in some online journals. She arrived in Ohio attending Oberlin College graduating in 1979, returning to Ohio in 1983 as a visiting artist at OSU, where she then became a graduate student, then Assistant Professor. She quit her tenure track job in 1989 to pursue a decade of free-lance career, much of it throughout Ohio. She started at Ohio University as Associate Professor leaving after four years, starting a family. She returned to OSU in 2008 as Assistant Dean, then chaired the Department of Dance from 2006-2015. She stepped down to teach and make again, retiring in 2023 after a final year as Interim Chair.

During the 80’s and 90’s she 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. Her background is in Erik Hawkins technique, Iyengar Yoga, Bartenieff Fundamentals, Ballet, Improvisation, and Alexander Technique.

She has received eight Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards over the years, The Greater Columbus Arts Council’s Raymond J. Hanley Fellowship, and OhioDance’s award for Contributions to Dance Education. In 2018, The International Festival for Contemporary Dance in Mexico City invited her 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, she performed her one-woman show, The Linen Closet and Other Collections. In 2021, her 19 ChoreOVIDs collection of video works and essays was chosen by the Urban Arts Space for their online gallery. 

She served on the Board of National Association of Schools of Dance for six years, on the board for Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP), was OhioDance President and board member in the 90’s, and helped support Columbus work with the Alliance for Dance and Movement Arts and later with Columbus Dance Alliance. She served as an evaluator and consultant for programs in dance education and was the Arts Faculty Fellow for Ohio State’s Global Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme.

In her work, she explores meaning making through motion, pattern, breath, and design, and in her retirement, through words. Throughout her 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.


Graduation from Interlochen Arts Academy, High School, Traverse City, Michigan
Graduation from Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio
Danced in Sara Rudner Performance Ensemble, New York City
First self-produced program at The Cubiculo Theatre, New York City
Self-produced program at White Dog Studio, New York City
Visiting Artist at The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Master's program at The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Assistant Professor, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Van Pelt Dance Ensemble (VPDE), Columbus, Ohio
Headlands residency, Fellowship Award, Sausalito, California
First Residency at Cleveland Summer Dance
Taught at Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Taiwan National University of Arts, and Rehearsal Director for Cloud Gate Dance Company, Taipei, Taiwan
Associate Professor, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
Assistant Dean, College of the Arts, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Chair, Professor, at OSU Dance
Ray Hanley Award for Artistic Excellence; Greater Columbus Arts Council
Professor, OSU Dance
OhioDance Award for Contributions to Dance Education
Chair, Professor, at OSU Dance