Dance Dialogues - Michigan Opera Theatre

Dance Dialogues

Welcome to MOT’s Dance Dialogues. Similar to a book club, this is a monthly virtual gathering to view and discuss dance together. MOT will share digital dance works of certain themes to view on your own. Then we will all meet via ZOOM on the 3rd Tuesday of the month at 6:00 PM (ET). Each meeting will be hosted by Jon Teeuwissen, MOT Artistic Advisor to Dance and Kim Smith, MOT Dance Coordinator. They will be joined by a guest facilitator of discussion for the selected dance works; the guest facilitators will be comprised of choreographers, artistic directors, dance scholars and dance critics. Themes will vary from comparing similar pieces of dance works, celebrations of cultures through dance, highlighting legendary artists, and more.

February - The Legacy of Katherine Dunham

Join us Tuesday, February 16 as guest speaker, Theresa Ruth Howard discusses the life and work of Katherine Dunham, considered the “matriarch and queen mother of Black dance.”  Born in 1909, Dunham was an African-American dancer, choreographer, creator of the Dunham Technique, author, educator, anthropologist, and social activist. Dunham was a force on many levels - dance and beyond.
Dunham’s groundbreaking dance aesthetic combined innovative interpretations of Caribbean dance, traditional ballet, African rituals and African-American rhythms. Our conversation will focus on Dunham’s contributions to dance, which include forming the first Black ballet company, having the first Black dance revue on Broadway, choreographing with George Balanchine, and her work in theater and film.

Dialogue Video


Katherine Dunham Performing Ballet Creole (1952)

Katherine Dunham at home in Martissant, Haiti(1962)

Alvin Ailey and Katherine Dunham, 1988

Katherine Dunham on Overcoming 1940s Racism │Jacob's Pillow Dance

Katherine Dunham: Form and Function + Dunham Technique Class | IABD Promo 2020

A look at the Dunham Technique. Here is a short video of young dancers studying the technique. Look at the precision and those hinges to flat back. Impressive.

Guest Facilitator

Theresa Ruth Howard

Former DTH dancer and dance journalist

Theresa Ruth Howard is a former ballet dancer and journalist, having performed with Dance Theater of Harlem, and Armitage Gone! Dance, and a writer contributed to the Source and Pointe, and Tanz (Germany) Opera America (US) Magazines, and she is a contributing writer for Dance Magazine. She is the founder and curator of MoB- (Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet) the digital plat- form that preserves, presents, and promotes the contributions, and stories of Black artists in the field of Ballet.

Ms. Howard has emerged as a leading voice in the conversation of Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI), and the cultural rehabilitation of the classical arts. She works as a diversity strategist and consultant assisting arts organizations better understand, design and implement programs and initiatives. She works with Artistic and executive, school directors, and Board members of Ballet and Opera organizations internationally on shifting the culture of both classical forms.

In addition to curating space of conversation and reflection, she is a sought-after speaker, lecturer and panel in both academia and the arts world having presented at: Dance USA, Position Ballet (Dutch National Ballet) Collegium for African Diaspora Dance (CADD), Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) Royal Opera House, Opera America.

She served as a member of the Design and Facilitation Team of The Equity Project: Increasing the Presence of Blacks in Ballet, a three-year learning cohort of artistic and executive leaders from 21 professional ballet organizations.

Full List of Moderators

Robert Battle became artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in July 2011 after being personally selected by Judith Jamison, making him only the third person to head the Company since it was founded in 1958. Mr. Battle has a long-standing association with the Ailey organization.

A frequent choreographer and artist in residence at Ailey since 1999, he has set many of his works on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey II, and at The Ailey School. The Company’s current repertory includes his ballets Ella, In/Side, Mass, No Longer Silent, and The Hunt. In addition to expanding the Ailey repertory with works by artists as diverse as Kyle Abraham, Mauro Bigonzetti, Ronald K. Brown, Rennie Harris, and Paul Taylor, Mr. Battle has also instituted the New Directions Choreography Lab to help develop the next generation of choreographers.


Suzanne Carbonneau is a dance critic and historian whose writings have appeared in The Washington Post, the New York Times and other publications. She founded and directed the NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Dance, and she has served as Critic-in-Residence at the American Dance Festival and at the Joyce Theater. Carbonneau is a Scholar-in-Residence at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and has also served as the Resident Scholar at the Bates Dance Festival. She regularly writes and lectures for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She holds a Ph.D. from New York University and is a Professor at George Mason University. Her authorized biography of Paul Taylor will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and she serves as Artistic Advisor to Paul Taylor American Modern Dance. Carbonneau is a MacDowell Fellow, a Yaddo Fellow, a Bogliasco Fellow, and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

David Lyman is a freelance arts writer and former dance reporter for the Detroit Free Press. He is the dance and theater writer for The Cincinnati Enquirer/ and is a contributing writer to Movers and Makers and Cincy Magazine. For nearly a decade, he was a consultant and panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, traveling around the country to evaluate choreographers and dance companies. He is also the author of “Cincinnati Ballet Celebrates 50,” a detailed history of Cincinnati Ballet’s first 50 years and the English adaptation of “Ballettens kommende superstjerner” (“The upcoming superstars of ballet”), about Konpagni B, the performing company of the School of the Royal Danish Ballet.

Alastair Macaulay is a British critic and historian of the performing arts, working in London and New York. Between 2007 and 2018, he was chief dance critic of the New York Times. Between 1994 and 2007, he was chief theatre critic of the Financial Times. In 2019, he was a Director’s Fellow at the New York University Center for Ballet and the Arts. He has written for numerous other publications, including The New Yorker and the Times Literary Supplement, and was the founding editor of Dance Theatre Journal. He has also written a biography on dance legend Margot Fonteyn and a book of interviews renowned choreographer Michael Bourne. In 2020, he is curating an online series of ballet masterclasses for New York City Center Studio 5 Live @ Home and lecturing for Dansox, the Oxford (U.K.) society of dance research.

Eduardo Vilaro is the CEO and Artistic Director of Ballet Hispánico. He has been part of the Ballet Hispánico family since 1985 as a dancer and educator, after which he began a 10-year record of achievement as Founder and Artistic Director of Luna Negra Dance Theater in Chicago, where he created more than 20 ballets. He has also received commissions from the Ravinia Festival, the Chicago Sinfonietta, the Grant Park Festival, the Lexington Ballet and the Chicago Symphony. Vilaro has infused Ballet Hispánico’s legacy with a bold and eclectic brand of contemporary dance that reflects America’s changing cultural landscape. Born in Cuba and raised in New York from the age of six, he is a frequent speaker on the merits of cultural diversity and dance education.

Theresa Ruth Howard is a former ballet dancer and journalist, having performed with Dance Theater of Harlem, and Armitage Gone! Dance, and a writer contributed to the Source and Pointe, and Tanz (Germany) Opera America (US) Magazines, and she is a contributing writer for Dance Magazine. She is the founder and curator of MoB Ballet (Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet) the digital plat- form that preserves, presents, and promotes the contributions, and stories of Black artists in the field of Ballet.


Subject: “Swan Lake”
Videos: Bolshoi Ballet (traditional) and Mathew Bourne/New Adventures (contemporary)
Guest Facilitator: David Lyman, dance critic

Subject: Paul Taylor Dance Company
Videos: Signature Paul Taylor repertoire
Guest Facilitator: Suzanne Carbonneau, dance scholar; Paul Taylor dancers

Subject: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Ballet Hispánico
Videos: “Tiburones” (“Sharks”) by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and "Mambo" from “West Side Story” by Jerome Robbins
Guest Facilitator: Eduardo Vilaro, artistic director and CEO, Ballet Hispánico

Subject: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Videos: "Grace" by Ronald K. Brown, "Revelations" by Alvin Ailey
Guest Facilitator: Robert Battle, artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Subject: “The Nutcracker”
Videos: New York City Ballet by George Balanchine and Ballet West by William Christensen (oldest US version still performed)
Guest Facilitator: Alastair Macaulay, dance critic

Tuesday, Feb. 16, 6 p.m.

Subject: Katherine Dunham
Videos: Alvin Ailey and Katherine Dunham, 1988, Katherine Dunham Performing Ballet Creole (1952), A Caribbean Rhapsody, Katherine Dunham, Holland Festival 1949, Katherine Dunham at home in Martissant, Haiti (1962)
Guest Facilitator: Theresa Ruth Howard, journalist and former DTH dancer

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Winter and Spring activities are supported by:

Dance activities are also made possible with the support of:
Joanne and Richard Brodie
The Maxine & Stuart Frankel Foundation
The Marvin, Betty, and Joanne Danto Family Foundation
Kevin Dennis and Jeremy Zeltzer

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