Dr. Theresa Howard

For this feature, I have the gracious honor to present to you Dr. Theresa Howard, whose journey through dance and healing exceeds the margins of this blog. I will try my best to capture the essence of her as well as her life’s work.

Dr. Howard holds a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts in Dance Theatre and Education from Herbert H. Lehman College, a Master of Science in Dance Movement Therapy from Hunter College, and a Doctor of Education in Instructional Leadership from Argosy University. She is the recipient of the Ballethnic Academy of Dance 2017 Service Award, 2012 Legacy Award, 2012 Fulton County Focus Award, 2008 Pinnacle Leadership Award, 2007 Winterfest Volunteer Angel Award, and 2006 W.O.M.E.N Award. She also holds many certifications as a Certified Preventionist iV, Certified Addiction Counselor II, and Certified Yoga instructor.

Growing up, Theresa was a track and field star whose dream was to compete in the Olympics. In high school, she was placed in modern and ballet classes which didn’t like and would even find ways around it. “I started to bandage my knees so I could sit on the side”. One day, walking in class with her bandages she found her mother there waiting for her. “O, you best believe I never missed class again!” Theresa’s focus shifted from track to dance and she worked diligently in African dances, classical ballet, modern dance, jazz, tap, Balinese, and belly dance techniques. When she started Hunter college under the instruction of Claire Schmais and Eilssa Queyquep White, Theresa’s focus shifted again as she explored and discovered her “natural organic dancing self” versus the “performative dancing self”. Theresa explained her journey through dance:

“…[I]didn’t like dancing; then all of sudden started dancing all the time; now I’ve being told(laughs)… you’re in dance movement therapy… you are not a performer here”.

Within a 40-year career span in New York and Atlanta, Theresa was a dance movement therapist, director of recreational therapy at multiple sites, and a creative arts advocate in a variety of settings. She worked with mental health, substance abuse, day treatment and prevention, special needs, aging services, and homeless populations. She introduced dance movement therapy to many therapeutic settings, initiated and coordinated day treatment programs, overseen a case management program, hired other creative art therapists on her staff, and became a highly respected voice using her dance movement therapy lens in clinical meetings.

Throughout her career as a therapist, performer, and educator, Theresa was influenced by the Afro-Indigenous traditional dance styles, Eilssa Queyquep White, Judith Jamieson, and her experience working with multiple different populations of people.

“Although, in today’s society African dance may be considered entertaining, there is a direct link to individual self-expression, community engagement, symbolism, education, socio-cultural norms, and ritualistic traditions”. 

Dr. Howard’s approach to the work was always “starting where the client is”. Howard valued being present in her client’s current state before later looking into their chart or diagnosis. “I don’t pre-assess… where they were in time and space is where I needed to be and that is ok”.

Throughout her profession, Theresa impressively was able to balance her many talents in healthcare, performing arts, and education. As a dancer, Theresa has graced the stage with several notable dance ensembles and companies including Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations”, Joan Miller and the Chamber Arts Players, Chuck Davis African-American Dance Ensemble, Ballethnic Dance Company and DanceAfrica. She has performed for dignitaries such as Andrew Young and Desmond Tutu. Theresa, whose childhood dreams were to compete in the Olympics, performed for the 1996 Summer Olympics and Para Olympics.

Dr. Howard have been a guest artist and dance educator throughout many colleges, dance academies, schools and was the part-time Assistant Professor of Dance at Kennesaw State University where she choreographed the award-winning play “Ruined”. In addition, she has travelled to West, North, and East Africa as a cultural exchange dance instructor/educator spreading her scholarship throughout Africa and the United States.

As a mother, grandmother, dance movement therapist, Doctor of Education, educator, dancer, and choreographer, Theresa Howard’s has had incredible journey through life, arts, and mental health. Currently Dr. Howard is retired but hasn’t slowed down as she instructs dance and African dance instruction to Youth Enrichment Programs, Senior Citizen programs, and Fulton County Drug Court. She is founder, director, instructor, and choreographer for the M.O.D.E.”Edeliegba,” Senior Dance Ensemble, a traveling dance troupe comprised of male and female senior citizens aged 60 years and older.

Dr. Theresa Howard is an amazing individual who have and continues to accomplish so much for the arts and mental health, and it is with great honor to highlight Theresa Howard life’s work to the ADTA community!

By: People not in the Books:the Voice of Multiplicity in Dance Therapies
An Independent Historical Archives Project
Patricka James
Siyao Li
Krystal Garvia
Ruta Pai