Dr. Theresa Howard


African Dance

Office: 115 Rich Building

Email: thowa22@emory.edu


  • EdD, instructional leadership, Argosy University
  • MS, dance movement therapy, Hunter College


Theresa M. Howard is an enthusiastic professional that has combined expertise in Health and Human Services and the Arts. Ms. Howard has committed over 40 years in a career in Mental Health, Substance Abuse, Prevention, Aging Services, Dance and Education. She has a unique balance in her work, by blending the Arts and providing supportive services to those in need. She has worked in a variety of Healthcare, Government, and Education settings. Her strength comes through her passion of bringing out the best in people.

Ms. Howard is a native of New York and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Dance Theatre and Education from Herbert H. Lehman College, Master of Science in Dance Movement Therapy from Hunter College, and a Doctor of Education in Instructional Leadership from Argosy University. She is a registered Dance Movement Therapist, Certified Preventionist iV, Certified Addiction Counselor II, and a Certified Yoga instructor.

Theresa M. Howard is an accomplished professional dancer and dance educator, proficient in African dance, classical ballet, modern dance, jazz, tap, and belly dance techniques. Ms.Howard has performed and been a guest performer with many prominent dance ensembles for over 40 years. These included: Chuck Davis African-American Dance Ensemble, Joan Miller and the Chamber Arts Players, Eleo Pomare, Rod Rogers Dance Company, Giwayen Mata, Barefoot Ballet, Manga African Dance Ensemble, Alvin Ailey's "Revelations" at Herbert H. Lehman College, and has performed in several of Ballethnic Dance Company’s signature dances: Urban Nutcracker, Leopard Tale, Flying West, and Jazzy Sleeping Beauty. Ms. Howard performed in several DanceAfrica events, the 1996 Summer Olympics and Para Olympics, and has danced in several music videos, and performed as an extra in the movie "Remember The Titans." Ms. Howard was the choreographer for several plays, including the award winning play “Ruined” which was performed at Kennesaw State University. She has performed for dignitaries such as Andrew Young, Desmond Tutu, The King and Secretary of Travel for Oshogbo State, Nigeria, four-time defensive player of the year Dikembe Mutumbo, Fulton County Commissioners, and mayors for the City of Atlanta, East Point and College Park, Georgia.

Ms. Howard is a part-time Assistant Professor of Dance at Kennesaw State University and has conducted dance classes and workshops at Gwinnett Technical College, Emory University, Georgia Tech University, Swarthmore College, Pace Academy, The Lovett School, Trinity School, Gate City Elementary School and has choreographed Coronation Events for Clark College. Ms. Howard has been a guest artist and dance educator for artist in residency programs throughout the United States. She also instructs African dance classes at Ballethnic Academy of Dance, Lilburn School of Dance, Fulton County Aviation Cultural Community Center, and Dance Canvas Summer Intensives.

Ms. Howard's community involvement includes providing dance and African drum instruction to Youth Enrichment Programs, Senior Citizen programs, and Fulton County Drug Court. Ms. Howard 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.                                            

Ms. Howard has travelled to West, North, and East Africa as a cultural exchange dance instructor/educator and has shared her knowledge both in Africa and in the states.

Theresa M. Howard 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. 

Teaching Statement

The dance in Africa is not an isolated art form, but an intrinsic and interwoven complex aesthetic of community life, culture, tradition, and ritual practice. (Hanna, 1965), purports that the aesthetic proponents of African dance are intertwined and designed as applications that represent the daily phenomenon of a peoples social, political, economic, and religious aspects of life. 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. Through the articulation of African dance styles, greater insight is developed about the culture and traditions of Africa.

In African dance, the movements of the body are multi-dimensional, complex, with high degrees of physicality, body isolations, and repetition. The dance is exciting, stimulating, and unifies people and communities of all age groups, while demonstrating the virtues, challenges, joy and sorrow of the life cycle, and life’s journey from birth to death. Moreover, the African people dance various ceremonial and celebration dances for harvest, rain, conception, marriage, naming ceremonies, warfare, hunting, mask and masquerade dances, male and female puberty rites of passage initiation dances, dances that celebrate men, and women, mixed dances, and dances that give honor and homage to the ancestors. There are dances performed by village healers, dances to celebrate chiefs and statesmen, funeral dances, dances that unite children through story-telling and games, religious dances, sacred dances, circle dances, and modern day social and recreational dances such as: Highlife, Afro-beat, Reggae, Soul, Synchro, Lulu, to name a few.  The African dancer honors the earth’s space, from the highest sky to beneath the soils surface while giving homage to the ancestors.

African dance is synonymous with the African drum, and various percussion instruments that compliment the dance. Movement and motion in the African dance should not be separated from the rhythms produced by the drum, they are a unified whole. African dance and drum create a harmonious language without words. The drum is the heartbeat, the rhythm, the instrument of communication that informs the dance and the dancer. The language of the drum and the rhythms that it emits, are complex with polyrhythmic textures and patterns. African drummers are skilled craftsmen that frequently begin training to drum at early childhood. In many West African cultures, the drummer observes and follows the dancers movements and plays rhythms on the drum that clearly reflect the dancers feet and body motions. While there exists a synchronization of music and movement in African dance, the non-verbal conversation between the dancers dance and the drummer’s drum exemplifies the mastery of the drummer and the intrinsic quality of the dancer. Musicians play rhythms on the drum that compliment the uniqueness of each dancer. Therefore, every rhythmic improvisation should also be unique.  (Diallo &Hall,1989). To further understand this process, dancers should study the intrinsic rhythmic patterns and drumming technique, while drummers should study and explore the complexity of dance movements. 

The elements of African dance and drum rhythms accompanied the African people during the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade, and influenced the dances of South and Central America, Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, Caribbean Islands, and the United States. In today’s world the influence of African dance continues to permeate the dance world, and is apparent in many contemporary dance styles.