Susan Levine Ourada

Associate Professor of Dance, Area Head for Dance
Area of Focus: Dance

Susan Levine Ourada is Associate Professor of Dance and Director of Dance Studies at the University of Nebraska in the Glenn Korff School.

Born and raised in New York City , Professor Ourada’s dance journey began with Dalcroze Eurythymy, a philosophy of teaching music with movement and thus blending the avocations of her father and mother, a Radio City Music Hall Percussionist and Rockette, respectively.  As soon as she was old enough she began study under the strict guidance of Anna Scarpova Youskevitch at the Igor Youskevitch School of Ballet. The Youskevitches came to the US as members of the historic Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo.  Ourada discovered modern dance while an undergraduate at Beloit College as part of a Dance Collective. Her first teacher was Laura Pettibone Wright, also an undergraduate, who would become an esteemed dancer in Erick Hawkins’ company.

Ourada earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Theater and Dance from Keene State College in 1996 and a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Choreography and Performance from Smith College in 1999. She was a fellow at both Smith College and Mount Holyoke College, where she taught ballet and modern dance to undergraduate and graduate students. Professor Ourada’s first position after earning her MFA was at Keene State College. She soon moved to Fitchburg State College (now University) from 2000-2003, where she was the lone dance faculty in a department of Exercise and Sport Science.  Ourada is also a skilled Pilates instructor having been owner and teacher of Central Pilates in Keene, NH before joining the faculty of UNL in 2004, where she discovered a stellar fit for her academic and artistic interests with colleagues and students.

Ourada has been involved in many projects across disciplines both in and out of the arts.  Her collaboration with Drs. Elieen Hebets, from the School of Biology and Garrett Hope, from the School of Music, in the creation of a performance work the Schizocosa spider has been presented at the Nebraska State Capitol,  the Museum of Nature and Science in Denver, the Kansas Dance Festival and was presented as part of a TedX Talk.  She was been part of a Doris Duke Charitable Trust Fund Project uniting the Troika Ranch dance company, centered in NYC, Berlin, Germany and Portland, OR with UNL dancers, and other departments across the University.  Ourada along with Dr Carrick Detweiler, School of Computer Science and Professor Peter Oshalvsky, College of Architecture participated in a collaboration with internationally known dance company STREB in a National Endowment of the Arts funded project across their disciplines. The work was performed at the Lied Center for Performing Arts. Just a few years later, Ourada and Dr. Detweiler again collaborated with dance and “drones” to partner with the NEA and the internationally known dance company Pilobolus. This work was featured in a Nebraska Public Media story  She directed several dance performances at the Sheldon Art Gallery relative to exhibits that were being premiered and with her colleagues in the Dance Program created a vibrant First Friday presenting series with students and professionals.

Ourada has choreographed several productions for the Nebraska Repertory Theatre, and done multiple collaborations with music faculty as a performer and as a choreographer, including four times with the Cornhusker Marching Band.  Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra has commissioned Professor Ourada’s work two times the most recent having been performed by Ourada with her professional dance company, sloDance, just days before the pandemic shut down in 2020. Days later she had the distinction of performing with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in their production of “What Problem?” and was honored to appear in “I know” a digital performance commissioned by Holland Performing Arts (the Netherlands). 

Ourada has performed or had her work shown nationally in places like New York City, New England, Vancouver, BC, and Edinburgh, Scotland. She was part of a team who brought the opera “Most Happy Fella” to the Waterford (Ireland) Festival of Light Opera, where it won First Prize. She has taught dance/choreography nationally and internationally, including Catawba College in North Carolina, Ursinus College, in Collegeville, PA and Korea National School of the Arts in Seoul, South Korea.

Ourada and her colleague in Vermont, Paul Besaw, have been involved in a multiyear exchange, traveling to one another’s campus to teach, to  create original work and to have students be part of the process. To date, UNL dance students have performed in Vermont six times, including having the opportunity to tour around New England showing work at public schools in Vermont, New Hampshire and Boston, Massachusetts. Ourada and Besaw are longtime collaborators and their most recent work, having just been shown at the Cohen Arts Center, in Burlington, will be presented in Lincoln in April 2022. The project will move forward to other venues starting in the Fall 2022. 

Ourada has been a faculty advisor on two UCARE research projects and recently was co-advisor in an honor thesis “A Kinesiological Analysis of Dancers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln” that ultimately allowed the student to graduate with highest distinction and begin her study of dance medicine in London, UK, at one of Europe’s most prestigious conservatoires. Ourada collaborated with Music Theorist, Dr. Gretchen Foley on a dance piece that was based on an exploration of how familiarity with Perle’s twelve-tone tonality, as analyzed by Dr. Foley, impacted the choreography of George Perle’s String Quartet No. 5. This work was accepted for presentation at both the International Conference of the Society for Music Theory in Baltimore, MD and the College Music Society in Salt lake City, UT and later published the blind peer reviewed journal “Theory and Practice”. She is Chief Advisor in the Dance Program.

Ourada has served on many committees in the Glenn Korff School including the Executive Committee for four (non-consecutive) terms, Undergraduate Curriculum Committee and was part of the steering committee for the School’s recent strategic planning undertaking. She was instrumental in the Dance Program’s planning for and moving to the $1.9 million new spaces in the Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts. She serves the Hixson Lied College on the Executive and Title IX Committees. She is a proud member of the UNL Faculty Senate and was chosen for the 2021-22 cohort of Faculty Fellows for Student Success.

Ourada currently serves on the Board of Directors of the American College Dance Association and has been a grant reviewer for the Nebraska and Wisconsin Arts Councils.