BWW Interview: Launch of Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet with THERESA RUTH HOWARD

BWW Interview: Launch of Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet with THERESA RUTH HOWARD

 

Internationally acclaimed dancer, writer, and advocate Theresa Ruth Howard has a diverse and multifaceted career as an artist. She began her professional career at the Philadelphia Civic Ballet School and went on to dance with the notable Dance Theatre of Harlem, collaborating with Donald Byrd and the New York City Opera, was a guest artist with Complexions, and a founding member of Armitage Gone! Dance. Her writings have been published in a number of media such as Dance Magazine, Pointe, One World Magazine, and Italian dance magazine- Expressions. She has taught at several colleges and universities including Sarah Lawrence College, New Haven University, The Ailey School, and the American Dance Festival.

Theresa's latest endeavor is the launch of Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet (MoBBallet). MoBBallet is an online platform that looks to preserve the contributions and stories of Black artists in the field of Ballet. Through the sentiment of a digital museum, MoBBallet will host "traditional" archival materials and be a site of an oral catalog. The goal is to create access to high quality content, tell the stories of Blacks in Ballet, and promote larger discussions within the dance community.

Q: What is MoBBallet and what is your hope others will get out of it?

A: I wanted to create a digital space for the stories and history of Black dancers. I wanted to have a place that represents us as Blacks. History isn't documented the way it should be. Too often, when it comes to Black history, you have to hunt for it- and that is problematic. I wanted to have a place where all the history lives. This is not just for the US, but internationally as well. We need to tell our stories. And this is meant to celebrate the achievements of the past while helping to create the next generation of Black dancers.

Q: Why create something like this and why now?

A: We are in a time we are seeing the reality of the inequities that exists, to a point where we have to acknowledge it. As a society, we are becoming hyper-aware of diversity. We are seeing the inequity in representation. We have an immediate form of awareness to maintain our rights. There is a feeling that if one group's rights are eliminated, then we are next. There is a sense of urgency to have change- sustainable change. This is a path towards that sustainable change in the field.

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Caryn Cooper Caryn Cooper is an arts administrator, educator and performer. She began her dance training at a young age studying ballet in the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) technique for eight years and has trained in other dance forms such as tap, jazz, hip hop and West African where she has had the opportunity to perform at various venues in the Greater New York City Area including, The Wild Project, Frederick Loewe Theatre, 92 Y, Ailey Citigroup Theater, Tilles Center for the Performing Arts and Radio City Music Hall. Administratively, she has worked for a number of arts organizations including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballet Hispanico and the New York City Center. She is currently pursuing her certification to become a Moving for Life instructor under the direction of Dr. Martha Eddy using dance to help breast cancer recovery patients and those with physical disabilities. Caryn holds a BFA in Arts Management from LIU Post, a MA in Dance Education from NYU, and is a member of the dance/NYC Junior Committee.