On February 3 Theresa Ruth Howard, a former ballet dancer, educator, diversity strategist and founder/curator of Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet (MoBBallet), gave a virtual lecture on “Black in Ballet History” to students in Tina Fehlandt’s “Approaches to Ballet: Technique and Repertory” spring course. Using MoBBallet’s virtual Timeline exhibition, Howard illustrated the comprehensive and ever expanding contributions of Black artists to ballet.
Howard is a respected advocate and leader in the conversations and work surrounding diversity and culture in ballet and the arts. In January, she launched the Cultural Competency and Equity Coalition (C2EC), a membership-based program comprised of leaders working collaboratively with peers to embed the foundational tenets of inclusion, diversity, equity, anti-racism and cultural competence into their organizations and the performing arts field at large. Princeton faculty member and Lecturer in Dance Tina Fehlandt, an integral founding member of Mark Morris Dance Group, works alongside Howard and other experts on the new collaborative coalition.
Theresa Ruth Howard is an internationally sought-after diversity strategist, speaker, consultant and coach to artistic, executive, and school directors, and board members of performing arts organizations. Her background as a dancer (Dance Theater of Harlem and Armitage Gone! Dance) and dance educator (The Ailey School, Joffrey Ballet School) help her target, address and facilitate much-needed cultural shifts in ballet leadership and the performing arts more broadly. Howard has shared her expertise with Dance/USA, IABD, Dutch National Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, The Royal Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Opera America and more. She is a contributing writer to The Source, Dance Magazine (US), Pointe (US), Tanz (Germany), and Expressions (Italy) magazines.
Howard has visited courses in Princeton’s Program in Dance for several years to share her expertise and passion with students. Last fall, students in Fehlandt’s “Introduction to Ballet” course contributed research to MOBBallet’s “Constellation Project: Mapping the Dark Stars of Ballet.” The virtual installation chronicles the lives and careers of dancers such as Arthur Mitchell, Mel Tomlinson, Lavina Williams, Mable Freeman, Doris Jones, and Claire Haywood and reveals the connections between them and other artists, institutions and white allies. Later this spring, the research conducted by Princeton students will be published as part of the digital project.
Fehlandt’s spring studio course delves into Classical and Contemporary Ballet technique for experienced dancers, with explorations into neoclassical and contemporary choreography through readings, viewings, and the learning of and creation of repertory. Howard was invited as a guest artist to the course to help students explore ballet’s response to recent social movements as part of their coursework.