Douglas Nielsen studied dance at the California Institute of the Arts in the early 70’s with Donald McKayle, Bella Lewitzky, and Mia Slavenska. He later returned to California to teach at Cal Arts (1997-2000), and California State University, Long Beach (2000-2006). He is currently Professor at the University of Arizona School of Dance, Tucson, AZ. Recipient of the 2003 Lester Horton Dance Educator Award for excellence in teaching, and the 2007 American Dance Festival Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching.
Nielsen is a former member of the Batsheva Dance Company in Israel and Gus Solomons, Pearl Lang, and Paul Sanasardo dance companies in New York. He has performed solo works by Viola Farber, Beverly Blossom, Anna Sokolow, Murray Louis, and Charles Weidman. Douglas began dancing shortly after earning a B.A. in psychology at Augsburg College, Minneapolis.
Nielsen is the recipient of four fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Performing Arts Fellowship with the Arizona Commission on the Arts. In 1988, Douglas pioneered the founding of the first modern dance company of Mainland China (The Guangdong Dance Company). Other international assignments include L’ecole-Atelier Rudra Bejart Lausanne (Switzerland), The Beijing Dance Adademy (China), Palucca Schule (Dresden, Germany), University of the Americas (Mexico), and representing the American Dance Festival in Korea, Russia, China, Czech Republic, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Mongolia. Douglas has been a guest teacher and choreographer at more than 40 universities throughout the United States and abroad. He has served as the Rufus Putnam Professor in residence at Ohio University and as the Sage Cole Chair at the University of Minnesota, and guest faculty at New York University Tisch School of the Arts.
Since 1979, Douglas has created over 100 dances for his own company (Douglas Nielsen Dances) and others including the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company (Salt Lake City), Dancers Unlimited (Dallas), The Repertory Project (Cleveland), Dances We Dance Company (Honolulu), Pittsburgh Dance Alloy, Chrysalis Repertory Dance Company (Houston), Harbinger Dance Company and the Eisenhower Dance Ensemble (Detroit), Tenth Street Dance Works (Tucson), Kauhsiung Contemporary Dance Company (Taiwan), Guang Dong Dance Company (Guang Zhou, China), Kathryn Ricketts Dance Company (Copenhagen), and the Scottish Dance Theatre (Glasgow). Nielsen has served on adjudication panels for The American College Dance Festival in Virginia, Texas, Idaho, Kansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Arkansas, California, and Ohio. He has also served as a distinguished panelist for the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Awards, The National Association for the Advancement of the Arts, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the McKnight Foundation, and the NEA Learning in the Arts Dance Panel.