New York Times: She’s Been a Force for Change in Ballet. The World Is Catching Up.
By Siobhan Burke
6 August 2020
On May 29, four days after George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis police, Theresa Ruth Howard posted a call to action on Instagram:
“Demonstrate your outrage
Demonstrate your allyship
Demonstrate your authenticity
We don’t need shadow heroes, step into the light …”
Ms. Howard, a former ballet dancer who founded the digital platform Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet (or MoBBallet), was addressing the institutions she has worked with for the past few years, in a role she sums up as “diversity strategist and consultant.” Those institutions, which include some of the world’s most prestigious ballet companies and schools, are predominantly white, onstage and behind the scenes. They know they need to evolve, and she is helping them.
So when protests against systemic racism and police brutality began sweeping the country, she found their silence disconcerting. “You can’t say you want us, and when we are in peril, not be there for us,” Ms. Howard, 49, said in an interview.
Over the next few days, companies answered her call, or tried, posting statements of support with a hashtag she had started: #balletrelevesforblacklives. (Relevé, a ballet term, is a way of saying “rise up.”) Their messages drew both appreciation and criticism, with many commenters demanding action, not merely words. In an opinion piece for Dance Magazine, Ms. Howard expanded on her thoughts about what leadership should look like in this moment, under the headline “Where Is Your Outrage? Where Is Your Support?”
On Aug. 14, leaders from more than a dozen ballet companies and schools will convene for an online discussion titled “#balletrelevesforblacklives … Or Does It?,” a chance to reflect, beyond social media, on the Black Lives Matter movement and its impact on their institutions. The public event is part of Ms. Howard’s second annual MoBBallet symposium, a series of conversations and lectures that, in her words, “centers Blackness but welcomes all.”
Read the full article in the New York Times.
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