Senior Dance Ensemble Encourages Health, Expression

Dr. Theresa Howard is a dance instructor at both Kennesaw State and Emory University.

Myke Johns / WABE

When we think of a dance troupe, images of youthful athleticism come to mind. The Edeliegba Senior Dance Ensemble, flips that image in beautifully expressive ways.

The dance troupe for people 60 years and older is performing at the Aviation Community Cultural Center as part of Fulton County’s Dance Week 2019. The performance takes place May 3 at 11 a.m.

The group were dubbed “Edeliegba” in 2005 after a performance at the 14th Street Playhouse with the Manga African Dance Ensemble. The founder of the group, Ramatu Afegbua-Sabbatt, gave them the name, which is a Nigerian word for “the elders have gathered with completion.”

Edeliegba is led by Dr. Theresa Howard, a dance instructor at both Kennesaw State and Emory University and is open to anyone over 60, no audition required. She visits senior multi-purpose facilities and says she sees so many of them being active.

“They’re so engaged in the physical manifestation of who they are and how they can heal themselves,” she tells “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes.

As important as movement is to health, Howard points out the equal importance of the group as a social unit.

“Seniors get ill when they’re not social, when they’re home alone, by themselves, not getting out into the community. It helps them to age quicker and to get sicker.”

Howard says that the group consists of a lot of people who have never really danced, who “never felt they could give of themselves on a stage in that manner.”

Even still, they caught the eye of Atlanta artist and musician Lonnie Holley, who included the group in his video for “Sometimes I Wanna Dance.”

“He gave the cue, we went across the street, and we created. We connected, we reached, we stretched. We were transforming self from within and without. It was so powerful.