The Most Influential People in Dance Today: Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Chief of program and pedagogy at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Q: How has your role evolved since joining YBCA five years ago?
"I bring a social practice ethic to performance. You could call me the architect of a program that connects communities to the work that we present."
Q: The Bay Area is known for being a source of fresh ideas, whether about art, gender, politics or technology. How do you see that reflected in the dance you're seeing?
"It begins with a phenomenon of displacement, from refugees leaving Syria to what folks call "gentrification" or "resegregation." Then you have the recent attacks on broad support for the arts, and on voices of dissent. Compound that with the longstanding tradition of the Bay Area as a place for radical performance, put all that together in a cocktail, and you have both an expertise and an unabashed urgency around confronting economic inequity in particular.
"I would name two artists off the bat who are responding to those impulses: Kim Epifano, whose work The Last Blue Couch in the Sky we're presenting, and Amara Tabor-Smith, who's making House/Full of blackwomen. Both artists are putting creative lenses on the notion of cultural erasure. A third and fourth might be Alicia Garza, one of the cofounders of Black Lives Matter, who is rooted in Oakland, and Nicole Klaymoon of the Embodiment Project."
Q: What's the future of dance?
"What I think is awesome is the diversity of dance expression, from folks taking J-Sette and voguing out of queer clubs, to expanding the notions of ballet, to the continuing formalization of hip-hop culture within a proscenium space. The role of dance in political resistance is very much alive. We need our voices of dissent, and we need to be in touch with beauty, which is something that dance provides us all."
As you're prepping your Thanksgiving meal, why not throw in a dash of dance?
This year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is stuffed (pun intended) with performances from four stellar Broadway shows, the Radio City Rockettes and students from three New York City dance institutions.
Tune in to NBC November 28 from 9 am to noon (in all time zones), or catch the rebroadcast at 2 pm (also in all time zones). Here's what's in store:
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Last week, Variety reported that Sergei Polunin would reunite with the team behind Dancer for another documentary. "Where 'Dancer' looked at his whole life, family and influences," director Steven Cantor said, " 'Satori' will focus more squarely on his creative process as performer and, for the first time ever, choreographer." The title references a poorly received evening of work by the same name first presented by Polunin in 2017. (It recently toured to Moscow and St. Petersburg.)
I cannot be the only person wondering why we should care.
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.