Susan Levine Ourada: Dance Takes Center Stage at Nebraska
When she first came to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Susan Levine Ourada thought she’d be in Lincoln for a year. But the temporary position turned into an academic career that has lasted 16 years. As head of the dance department at Nebraska, Ourada has watched the program flourish in its goal to provide serious dance training to students. In this episode of Faculty 101, we take a tour of the new dance space at the Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts. And learn how this native New Yorker found her home at UNL. Show Notes: Learn more about UNL Dance ›› arts.unl.edu/music#Dance; Learn more about Susan Levine Ourada ›› arts.unl.edu/music/faculty/susan-levine-ourada
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[00:00:00.550]When I talked yesterday about precision,
[00:00:02.570]I wanted to be a little bit more specific today.
[00:00:04.457]I feel like there are four ways
[00:00:06.150]that the precision needs to be addressed
[00:00:09.150]for the next couple of days.
[00:00:10.130]Susan Levine Ourada sits on the floor
[00:00:12.680]of the dance studio surrounded by students
[00:00:15.210]taking her choreography class.
[00:00:17.110]When things are supposed to be in unison.
[00:00:19.130]On the agenda, an upcoming performance.
[00:00:21.920]First of all, the rehearsal yesterday
[00:00:23.300]was really quite good, the fact that...
[00:00:25.050]Professor Ourada is an East Coast transplant
[00:00:27.500]to the Midwest.
[00:00:28.800]She grew up in New York City,
[00:00:30.290]and was teaching at a University in Massachusetts
[00:00:33.010]when the dance program was cut.
[00:00:35.100]I happened to see a position here at Nebraska
[00:00:37.750]and I applied for it,
[00:00:38.790]it was a one year temporary position
[00:00:40.930]and I came, and got a cute little apartment in Lincoln,
[00:00:44.530]and I thought I'd be here for a year.
[00:00:46.130]She went on to apply for a permanent position
[00:00:48.740]as a modern dance professor.
[00:00:50.530]And the rest is history.
[00:00:51.550]I've been here for six, this is my 16th year.
[00:00:54.240]In that time, Professor Ourada remade the dance program
[00:00:57.460]at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln,
[00:00:59.500]an evolution that is still underway.
[00:01:02.410]But no matter what changes are made,
[00:01:04.430]her goal has always been,
[00:01:06.550]To really change the idea that when people said
[00:01:09.360]dance in Nebraska it wasn't a question anymore,
[00:01:11.730]it was a statement.
[00:01:13.370]That people knew that we were doing like
[00:01:15.810]serious dance training here.
[00:01:19.270]And I think that we've been pretty successful.
[00:01:23.076]In this episode of Faculty 101,
[00:01:24.370]Susan Ourada talks about bringing a global flavor
[00:01:27.720]to the program, and why the new home for dance
[00:01:30.450]at UNL is pure bliss.
[00:01:33.770]Okay, you should switch partners now.
[00:01:35.970]To be able to inspire young people.
[00:01:38.470]Today is your finals.
It's really rewarding.
[00:01:40.570]I love the students.
[00:01:42.550]Welcome to Faculty 101, life hacks
[00:01:45.570]and success stories from Nebraska faculty.
[00:01:52.104]Time for orientation.
[00:01:52.937]Who is Susan Levine Ourada.
[00:01:55.660]So anyway, this is our beautiful space, and..
[00:01:58.310]Professor Ourada takes us on a tour
[00:02:00.250]of the dance department located in the new Carson Center
[00:02:03.470]for Emerging Media Arts.
[00:02:05.440]As head of the department and an associate professor,
[00:02:08.260]she oversaw the department's move last year,
[00:02:11.420]and she says it's a great fit.
[00:02:13.830]When visitors come, we're right across the street
[00:02:15.770]from the visitor's center.
[00:02:16.670]And if we're collaborating with music, it's across the way.
[00:02:18.680]If there's a guest artist from Lied Center,
[00:02:21.030]we're across the way.
[00:02:22.690]Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company is coming here
[00:02:25.370]in February, and we're gonna be doing
[00:02:27.580]a collaboration with them.
[00:02:28.550]He's doing kind of a community piece,
[00:02:30.970]and a bunch of our dancers will be performing in that.
[00:02:33.570]He will be giving a master class,
[00:02:35.390]and giving a talk right in here, so it's just, it's bliss.
[00:02:38.520]The new space includes a large main dance studio
[00:02:41.600]and a second studio in the basement.
[00:02:43.920]A smaller dance space where faculty
[00:02:45.960]can work on choreography, a dedicated classroom,
[00:02:49.088]and a few features that were on
[00:02:51.700]Professor Ourada's wish list,
[00:02:53.700]like the washer/dryer.
[00:02:55.410]They didn't understand why I might wanna
[00:02:57.650]have a washing machine.
[00:02:58.910]They thought I was kind of silly,
[00:03:00.340]until I told them I've been bringing costumes home
[00:03:02.570]for the last 16 years to do the laundry.
[00:03:05.590]But the studios, the location, the newness of it all
[00:03:09.050]would be nothing without the students.
[00:03:11.590]I love what I do because I think it makes a difference.
[00:03:14.420]I think that our students are,
[00:03:17.560]it's wonderful to teach young people, you know,
[00:03:20.820]and college students are a fantastic age.
[00:03:23.260]They're just getting started.
[00:03:24.350]They're gonna go and do their careers,
[00:03:26.250]whether it's dance, or we have students
[00:03:27.950]in medical school right now.
[00:03:29.020]We have students who open studios.
[00:03:31.540]I mean, we had a BA, so our students
[00:03:33.440]can do whatever they want,
[00:03:34.770]and that's a really beautiful thing.
[00:03:37.430]Ready for office hours.
[00:03:38.850]How did Susan Levine Ourada get here?
[00:03:45.550]As an accompanist plays the piano in the main studio,
[00:03:48.630]modern dance students move to the music.
[00:03:52.480]It's the style of dance Professor Ourada discovered
[00:03:55.270]when she was the same age as her students.
[00:04:00.750]I went to to the white college first
[00:04:02.150]and I discovered modern dance this was a revelation to me
[00:04:04.620]even though I'm from New York city I was into ballet.
[00:04:08.230]So once I discovered modern dance there was no looking back
[00:04:10.780]and I have been involved ever since.
[00:04:12.540]You might say dance is part of Professor Ourada's
[00:04:16.220]Thanks to a very romantic story involving her parents.
[00:04:22.920]My mother was a rock cat and my father was the drummer
[00:04:25.730]at Radio City Music Hall.
[00:04:27.110]And she actually lost her shoe in the pit
[00:04:30.020]and my father retrieved her shoe
[00:04:31.720]and gave it back to her little Cinderella story.
[00:04:34.150]And so I was always surrounded by the arts.
[00:04:36.550]I was at Radio City all the time I wanted to be a rock cat
[00:04:39.530]and then discovered I wasn't ready to tap dance.
[00:04:42.490]So, you know my parents always wanted me
[00:04:44.900]to take musical instruments flute and clarinet and piano,
[00:04:47.670]I hated it, I wanted to dance.
[00:04:55.870]And the dance world became her career.
[00:04:58.400]In fact she really can't picture a life without it.
[00:05:01.620]Cause I feel like dance has,
[00:05:03.590]It has its visual artistry but it also has this like
[00:05:06.210]emotional and healing kind of quality to it
[00:05:09.580]that I would love to still be involved with.
[00:05:11.190]In fact, I'm currently certified to teach yoga
[00:05:14.680]because I want to incorporate more of that into my teaching.
[00:05:17.460]And so even though I've been a yogi for 1000 years,
[00:05:20.020]I wanna sort of understand more of the teaching side of it.
[00:05:23.590]So I've been working on that.
[00:05:24.770]So there's always a way to grow myself,
[00:05:27.510]I think as a mover and as a teacher of movement.
[00:05:38.830]Next up, lab work, a deep dive
[00:05:41.530]into research and creative activity.
[00:05:50.350]Dancers share the stage with drones provided
[00:05:53.390]by UNL computer scientists.
[00:05:55.610]The collaborative performance merged art
[00:05:57.890]and science in a unique way.
[00:06:01.860]In another project, Professor Ourada worked with faculty
[00:06:04.820]in music and biological sciences to create a dance based
[00:06:08.440]on the movements of a type of spider.
[00:06:10.820]That performance added the arts to the so called STEM areas
[00:06:14.540]of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
[00:06:17.730]You know, it's just great to show people
[00:06:20.410]that art can enhance the learning of science.
[00:06:24.100]You know, we would love to have more opportunities for STEAM
[00:06:29.240]including the A with arts around,
[00:06:32.240]because I think it's a great way for people
[00:06:35.309]to access science in a kind of way
[00:06:37.830]that feels less intimidating perhaps at times.
[00:06:41.167]Guest artists who come to campus
[00:06:42.180]also enhance the student experience.
[00:06:47.910]In this master class students throw themselves
[00:06:50.730]atop thick blue tumbling mats.
[00:06:53.300]The class is led by performers with the internationally
[00:06:56.040]known STREB extreme action company.
[00:06:58.710]Their high energy show is a fierce blend
[00:07:01.240]of athletics and dance.
[00:07:03.110]A star performer Casandra Joseph shares with students.
[00:07:10.470]We came here to teach Nebraska students how to fly.
[00:07:14.280]And that's the basic principle
[00:07:15.920]of the STREB extreme action company.
[00:07:18.300]Is that we like to fly,
[00:07:19.930]in order to fly we have to learn how to fall.
[00:07:23.308]Professor Ourada says, guest artists enjoy coming
[00:07:25.420]to the UNL campus and students benefit from their expertise
[00:07:30.933]We bring in three professional guest artists a year
[00:07:33.690]right into our program for 10 day stints.
[00:07:36.460]So these are people who are famous in our world.
[00:07:39.140]So what these artists do is they choreograph a piece
[00:07:43.030]or maybe they set repertory work, either one is fine
[00:07:45.700]then they teach that for a whole week
[00:07:47.500]and they work on the weekends with the students.
[00:07:49.570]So they have this, our students have this opportunity
[00:07:52.600]to work intimately with professional dancers
[00:07:55.300]who are really in the field right now.
[00:07:57.230]They have contacts now in New York and San Francisco, in LA
[00:08:00.280]and Minneapolis and all these different places
[00:08:02.570]where these artists come from and the artists love to come
[00:08:05.370]here because again, going back to an earlier comment,
[00:08:07.530]you know, you don't think about Nebraska
[00:08:09.210]as a place for dance.
[00:08:10.480]And they come in our students are talented
[00:08:12.680]and they're open and they're hungry,
[00:08:14.260]and they're very dedicated
[00:08:15.750]and they work for this 10 day period of time.
[00:08:18.540]And they make beautiful work.
[00:08:25.675]Although her background is modern dance,
[00:08:26.830]Professor Ourada is moving the department in a direction
[00:08:29.910]that embraces diversity.
[00:08:34.980]Looking at global it lies in our program, we're bringing
[00:08:38.515]in dance of like the African and Asian diaspora
[00:08:42.250]and diaspore and you know bringing in things like
[00:08:46.780]hiphop dance or jazz dance maybe referring
[00:08:50.760]to our dance techniques as contemporary dance.
[00:08:54.590]So we can have kpop or hiphop or different things
[00:08:58.510]that broaden our horizons.
[00:09:01.690]Because you know, having just kind of Eurocentric focus
[00:09:04.966]in western modern dance is limiting.
[00:09:08.000]And we really want our,
[00:09:10.070]I think UNL is becoming a more global university,
[00:09:13.320]and we would like our dance program
[00:09:14.770]to reflect that as well.
[00:09:21.160]Professor Ourada has her own dance company and continues
[00:09:24.450]to perform with colleagues in Lincoln and in other cities.
[00:09:27.920]Right now she's focusing on developing dances
[00:09:30.500]that can be performed by people of all ages.
[00:09:33.400]She describes her creative process as fluid.
[00:09:36.690]Sometimes it's political, I made a piece about
[00:09:40.500]the current political situation a couple of years ago,
[00:09:42.840]sometimes I hear a piece of music
[00:09:44.350]and I think oh my gosh I really wanna work to that.
[00:09:46.530]Sometimes a lot of times it has to do
[00:09:48.520]with the cast that I have,
[00:09:49.580]particularly as a person who choreographs a lot
[00:09:51.760]of the students here, I look at who they are
[00:09:54.820]and I wanna make work that really enhances who they are,
[00:09:59.170]so they can grow as dancers and also feel good
[00:10:02.190]about what they're doing.
[00:10:05.840]Now it's time for a pop quiz.
[00:10:07.960]Random questions, life hacks and wisdom for all of us.
[00:10:13.870]Like many of us, Susan Ourada likes to chill out
[00:10:16.810]and watch Netflix.
[00:10:18.390]She loves the Crown, or The Great British Baking show
[00:10:21.550]and probably not surprising for a dancer,
[00:10:24.230]her favorite way to distress.
[00:10:26.760]I'm always moving, when I don't move in some way, yoga,
[00:10:30.340]pilates, dance, barre class, spin.
[00:10:33.425]I am obsessed with spin now,
[00:10:35.060]it's my new favorite way to stay fit.
[00:10:37.210]Because that parallel motion is good for a turn'd up dancer.
[00:10:42.690]Her recommended life hack?
[00:10:45.186]I think it's really important to know
[00:10:46.220]how to make really good coffee at your house,
[00:10:48.540]Some money saving thing but also
[00:10:51.885]some really nice way to start your day.
[00:10:53.330]If you are a coffee drinker or if you make chai,
[00:10:54.470]start your day with something delicious and warm.
[00:10:58.490]Professor Ourada fully endorses dance
[00:11:01.639]as a healthy option for children.
[00:11:03.280]Kids need to be active and you know if the world today
[00:11:06.910]makes it so difficult for them to be active outside
[00:11:09.570]or you know they can take dance class.
[00:11:12.140]And even if you didn't dance as a child,
[00:11:14.360]it's never to late.
[00:11:18.330]I mean it's so helpful for the adult
[00:11:21.350]to move in innovative ways
[00:11:23.640]and to challenge their minds and their bodies.
[00:11:25.530]I mean even zumba is fabulous, you know people are moving
[00:11:28.880]creatively, rhythmically, following directions,
[00:11:32.500]able to do some of their own mojo I think.
[00:11:36.090]I love to teach adults beginning dance classes,
[00:11:39.510]it's one of the great joys
[00:11:40.690]and I'm hoping that with our new space,
[00:11:42.580]this is something that we can incorporate.
[00:11:49.722]And now graduation day, final thoughts
[00:11:51.440]from Susan Levine Ourada.
[00:11:54.410]We have this beautiful lobby.
[00:11:56.080]During our tour of the building,
[00:11:57.390]we meet a couple of dance students sitting at a table
[00:11:59.850]in the expansive lobby area of the Carson center.
[00:12:02.550]Working on a project for you Susan.
[00:12:06.030]Junior dance major Cody Hartshorn says, the dance program
[00:12:09.410]is special in large part because of his professor.
[00:12:12.900]Susan has taught me a lot about really being
[00:12:15.850]and bringing out my individuality
[00:12:17.509]and really expressing my movement
[00:12:19.340]and has really shaped me to be the choregrapher
[00:12:21.760]and the dancer that I am today
[00:12:23.210]and I'm really thankful for that.
[00:12:28.440]Professor Ourada has built a career by combining
[00:12:31.460]two passions, dance and teaching.
[00:12:34.520]As a dancer it was a great career for me
[00:12:36.830]because I was good at it and I love to do it.
[00:12:40.630]But as a dance professor I really
[00:12:44.608]I get to use both sides of my brain
[00:12:47.440]that right brain left brain interaction.
[00:12:49.840]How do I teach something? How do I teach the movement
[00:12:53.070]in really creative ways? How do I teach the academic side?
[00:12:55.350]The pedagogy, the kinesiology, the history.
[00:12:57.860]The payoff comes when she watched her students succeed.
[00:13:03.850]I Just feel joyful for them you know,
[00:13:05.730]I know that at some level I influence them.
[00:13:08.850]You know it's nice to be part of their path
[00:13:11.370]and thrilled to be there.
[00:13:16.400]That's it for this episode of Faculty 101,
[00:13:18.960]in the show notes we linked you a video
[00:13:20.850]showing the collaboration between UNL dance
[00:13:23.340]and the STREB extreme action company.
[00:13:29.080]Faculty 101 is produced by
[00:13:30.970]the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
[00:13:38.480]What's something you know now
[00:13:39.530]that you didn't know when you were 18?
[00:13:42.034]That I could survive outside of New York city.
[00:13:43.400]I miss New York city very much,
[00:13:45.220]I go couple times a year at least.
[00:13:47.547]But I now know that I could be happy in Nebraska.
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