Insights: Gender Barriers in Opera: A Global Perspective

What does working toward gender equality in opera look like globally? As Engender develops a relationship with artists in South Africa and the SWANA (South West Asia, North Africa) region, chair Theresa Ruth Howard and artistic leaders from South Africa and Egypt come together to explore barriers to opera specific to their countries and situations. From physical and psychological safety to class, opportunity and freedom of speech, this conversation, in association with Shubbak Festival and the British Council, will discuss gender equality through a different lens.

Engender is The Royal Opera's initiative to change gender imbalance in opera and music theatre and drive towards gender equity in all areas of the opera field. The annual Engender festival celebrates the work of women and gender minorities in opera and provides a platform for discussions with audiences.

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Theresa Ruth Howard is the founder and curator of Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet a digital platform that preserves, presents and promotes the Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet. She is a respected advocate and leader in the conversations surrounding diversity and culture in ballet and the arts, is an internationally sought after diversity strategist, speaker, consultant and coach to artistic and executive directors, school directors and Board members of ballet and opera. Her background as a dancer (Dance Theater of Harlem and Armitage Gone! Dance) and dance educator makes her uniquely qualified to target, address and facilitate the much needed cultural shifts that will support not only the idea but the organisation overall. In 2018 she was a member of the Design and Facilitation Team of The Equity Project: Increasing the presence of Blacks in ballet, a three year initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with assembled a cohort of 21 North American Ballet Companies.

As a curator Howard, through MoBBallet Symposium (MBBS) has presented both in person and virtual symposiums. In October 2019 they held their first MoBBallet Symposium a multi-generational personal development and educational intensive which convened an elite and diverse faculty of Black ballet professionals and pre-professional ballet students. in August 2020 during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) uprising MoBBallet hosted a 3 weekend virtual symposium that centered blackness and promoted education, communication and restoration. In March 2021, the Ballet IS Woman symposium celebrated female artistic and executive directors in ballet.

Howard has been a member of the design team for the Dutch National Ballet's (DNB) bi-annual conference Position Ballet a convening of over 40 European and international companies, and curated their 2019 Black Achievement Month photo exhibition paying homage to all of the Black ballet artists who have danced with the company since 1961. In 2019 Ms. Howard curated The Royal Opera House's inaugural Young Talent Festival 2019, Symposium Exposure, Access and Opportunity: Exploring the Cultural Barriers to Ballet Training. Most recently she has been asked to curate a week of ballet for the Kennedy Center's 2022 season. In addition Ms Howard is a dance journalist, having contributed to The Source, Pointe, Expressions (Italy) and Tanz (Germany) Opera America (US) magazines. Currently she is contributing writer for Dance Magazine. Alistair Macaulay cites her as, "One of the most valuable writers on dance today."


Wed 14 July 2021

4pm BST


Free. Available on YouTube at 4pm on Wed 14 July.

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