Former member of the Batsheva Dance Company in Israel and the 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 (1970), Minneapolis.; a student at the California Institute of the Arts (1972-73) with Donald McKayle, Bella Lewitzky, and Mia Slavenska.
Douglas has been a guest teacher and choreographer at more than 40 universities throughout the United States and abroad. He was a Rufus Putnam Professor in residence at Ohio University and a Sage Cole Chair at the University of Minnesota, and guest faculty at New York University Tisch School of the Arts, full time dance faculty member at Cal Arts (1997-2000), California State University Long Beach (2000-06), and The University of Arizona School of Dance (2006-2016). 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 has served on adjudication panels for The American College Dance Festival in Virginia, Texas, Idaho, Georgia, Kansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Ohio, and California. 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.
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.
Since 1979, Douglas has created over 150 dances for his own company (Douglas Nielsen Dances) and others including the Batsheva Dance Company (Tel-Aviv), 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), Scottish Dance Theatre (Glasgow) and the Pasadena Dance Theater.
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 pioneered the founding the first modern dance company of Mainland China (The Guangdong Dance Company).