Renowned Columbus Dancer Susan Van Pelt Petry Returns to Stage to Premiere Her New Works

Sep 6, 2017

"We are born and we die, and in between we wear clothes."

That's dancer, choreographer and Ohio State University dance professor Susan Van Pelt Petry's whimsical summary of the role of fabric in the lives of women the world over.

"Fabric is literally part of our lives," Van Pelt Petry said. "It’s the fabric of our lives."

For that reason, fabric is the inspiration for Van Pelt Petry’s new dance theater piece The Linen Closet, an exploration of women’s work and roles over time through dance and spoken texts. Fabric is also the headliner of The Linen Closet and Other Collections, Van Pelt Petry’s first full-length solo dance performance in nearly 20 years.

In The Linen Closet and Other Collections, Van Pelt Petry will give the world premieres of her newly choreographed works The Linen Closet and The Gift Project, along with a reprise performance of her dance piece O Mortal, in four performances this weekend: Friday, Sept. 8 and Saturday, Sept. 9 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. each day, in the Van Fleet Theatre at the Columbus Performing Arts Center.

A dancer of international renown and founder of the Columbus-based Van Pelt Dance Ensemble and the Alliance for Dance and Movement Arts, Van Pelt Petry spoke with me recently about her return to extended solo performing and her newest dances.

For most of the last two decades, after having curtailed her international performing career, Van Pelt Petry has served in a wide variety of administrative and service roles in the dance community, including nine years as chair of Ohio State's renowned Department of Dance. She also raised two children, who are now well into their teens.

"It was a real opportunity—in fact, a need, a desire, a yen—to return to fulltime art-making," Van Pelt Petry said. "I said, 'OK, I’m going to perform again.' And so I am, and I'm quite excited about it."

Van Pelt Petry’s experience as a mother has directly informed her work on The Linen Closet, which is a sequel of sorts to Is a Woman, a dance she created in the 1980s and which also explores women's experience.

"So fast-forward to now, having had two children and gone through all that that entails, I bring to the woman onstage (in The Linen Closet) a whole 'nother level of understanding, or another aspect of womanhood," Van Pelt Petry said.

You can hear more about The Linen Closet, The Gift Project and O Mortal, and also get a window into the mind of one of Columbus' most prominent exponents of contemporary dance, by listening to our conversation above.

And watch a sneak peek of Van Pelt Petry dancing two segments from The Linen Closet and a selection from O Mortal here:

Video by Chris Summers

Susan Van Pelt Petry performs The Linen Closet and Other Collections on Friday, Sept. 8 and Saturday, Sept. 9 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. each day, in the Van Fleet Theatre at the Columbus Performing Arts Center.