Susan Rethorst was born in 1951 in Washington D.C., and began modern dance studies at an early age. Tutorials with Judith Dunn at Bennington College laid the groundwork for Rethorst's artistic sensibility. Since 1975, Rethorst has steadily created dances out of New York City. Since 1995, she has divided her time between New York and Amsterdam, teaching choreography throughout Europe and Scandinavia and continuing to make work in both Europe and America.
Rethorst's work has been presented by The Museum of Modern Art; The Kitchen Center, Dance Theater Workshop, Danspace Project at St. Marks, The Downtown Whitney Museum, among others, as well as at various dance theaters, universities, and festivals throughout the U.S. Internationally her work has been produced by The Holland Festival, Spazio Zero Rome, The Kunsthalle Basel, The Aix-en-Provence Festival, Jerusalem's Room Festival, among others.
An internationally renowned teacher of choreography, Rethorst has been instrumental in devising BA and post-graduate programs in Copenhagen, Cork, Salzburg and Amsterdam. In 2001 she initiated, along with three others, a Master's program for the Amsterdam School of the Arts. In 2005 she started a summer program devoted to the study of choreography in Pennsylvania titled Studio Upson in Pennsylvania (SUPA), now moved to the Center for Performance Research in Brooklyn. In addition, she has led workshops and seminars on choreography in Helsinki, Barcelona, Jerusalem, among others; guest taught at Bennington, Ohio State University, Bard, NYU, Barnard, among others; and workshops on a choreographic approach to media in London and Amsterdam. A documentary of her teaching methods and philosophy is currently in production at La Caldera in Barcelona.
Rethorst was among the first to receive a New York Dance and Performance Award ('Bessie') for Outstanding Achievement in 1985. In further recognition of her choreographic achievements, she has been the recipient of many grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (1979-1989, 1992-1995), as well as support from the Creative Artist's Public Service Program (1979), the New York State Council on the Arts (1979-1983), the Foundation for Contemporary Performance (1988 and 2003), the New York Foundation for the Arts (1989,1993), the Ernie Pagnano Memorial Fund (1991), the Joyce Mertz Gilmore Foundation (1992), and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1999). In 2008, Rethorst received her second Bessie for 208 East Broadway: Suitcase Dreams and in 2010 she received the prestigious Alpert Award.
Rethorst has lectured on dance and choreography at Dartington College in England, Arizona State University, New York University The Laban School in London, the Theater School of Helsinki and the Amsterdam School of the Arts, among others. She has published articles on her choreographic thinking in Movement Research Journal and Choreographic Encounters and her book'A Choreographic Mind: Autobodygraphical Writings’ (Best books of 2012 New Yorker Magazine) was published in March of 2012 by The Theater Academy of Helsinki.
Rethorst is currently based in Philadelphia, PA.