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

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 from Long Island, NY. She began her dance training at a young age studying ballet in the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) technique and other dance forms such as tap, jazz, hip hop, modern and West African. She has had the opportunity to perform at various venues in the Greater New York City Area including, Radio City Music Hall, Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, the 92Y, Ailey CitiGroup Theater, Central Park, and The Wild Project. Administratively, she has worked for a number of arts organizations including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballet Hispanico, and the New York City Center. Currently at Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts, she works to plan arts education programs for schools and seniors in underserved communities throughout Queens and the New York City Metropolitan area. Caryn is currently a Moving for Life Certified Instructor (MFLCI) where she uses dance to help breast cancer recovery patients and those dealing with pain caused by chronic illnesses. She is currently pursuing a certification as a BodyMind Dancing (BMD) Instructor, under the direction of Dr. Martha Eddy, to guide students as they reflect and learn about the 3-dimenionality and repatterning of the body. Caryn is a member of Americans for the Arts, the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO), the New York State Dance Education Association (NYSDEA), and sits on the Young Professionals Committee of The Possibility Project and the Board of Trustees for Moving for Life, Inc. She is also a Contributing writer for BroadwayWorld Dance. She is the proud recipient of the 2016 Field Diversity Award and the 2017 Jessica Wilt Memorial Scholarship through the Americans for the Arts.