Jon Lowenstein, Courtesy YBCA

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."

Read the rest of Dance Magazine's list of the most influential people in dance today.

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Rachel Papo

Our 8 Best Pointe Shoe Hacks

It turns out that TikTok is good for more than just viral dance challenges. Case in point: We recently stumbled across this genius pointe shoe hack for dancers with narrow heels.

Dancers are full of all kinds of crafty tricks to make their pointe shoes work for them. But don't fear: You don't need to spend hours scrolling TikTok to find the best pro tips. We rounded up a few of our favorites published in Dance Magazine over the years.

If your vamp isn't long enough, sew an elastic on top of your metatarsals.

Last year, Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Elizabeth Murphy admitted to us that her toes used to flop all the way out of her shoes when she rose up onto pointe(!). "I have really long toes and stock shoes never had a vamp long enough," she says.

Her fix? Sewing a piece of elastic (close to the drawstring but without going through it) at the top of the vamp for more support...and also special-ordering higher vamps.

Solve corns with toe socks

Nashville Ballet's Sarah Cordia told us in 2017 that toe socks are her secret weapon: "I get soft corns in between my toes because I have sweaty feet. Wearing toe socks helps keep that area dry. I found a half-toe sock called 'five-toe heelless half-boat socks' that I now wear in my pointe shoes."

(For other padding game-changers, check out these six ideas.)

Save time by recycling ribbons and elastics.

Don't waste time measuring new ribbons and elastics for every pair. Washington Ballet dancer Ashley Murphy-Wilson told us that she keeps and cycles through about 10 sets of ribbons and crisscross elastics. "It makes sewing new pairs easier because the ribbons and elastic are already at the correct length," she says. Bonus: This also makes your pointe shoe habit more environmentally friendly.

Close-up of hands sewing a pointe shoe.

Murphy-Wilson sewing her shoes

xmbphotography, by Mena Brunette, courtesy The Washington Ballet

Tie your drawstring on demi-pointe.

In 2007, New York City Ballet's Megan Fairchild gave us this tip for making sure her drawstring stays tight: "I always tie it in demi-pointe because that is when there's the biggest gap and where there's the most bagginess on the side."

Find a stronger thread.

When it comes to keeping your ribbons on, function trumps form—audiences won't be able to see your stitches from the stage. Many dancers use floss as a stronger, more secure alternative to thread. Fairchild told us she uses thick crochet thread. "Before I go onstage I sew a couple of stitches in the knot of the ribbon to tack the ends," she says. "I do a big 'X.' I have to make sure it's perfect because I'm in it for the show. It's always the very last thing I do."

Don't simply reorder your shoes on autopilot.

Even as adults, our feet keep growing and spreading as we age. Atlanta podiatrist Frank Sinkoe suggests going to a professional pointe shoe fitter at least once a year to make sure you're in the right shoe.

You might even need different sizes at different times of the year, says New York City Ballet podiatric consultant Thomas Novella. During busy periods and in warm weather, your feet might be bigger than during slow periods in the winter. Have different pairs ready for what your feet need now.

Fit *both* feet.

Don't forget that your feet might even be two different sizes. "If you're getting toenail bruises, blood blisters or other signs of compression, but only on one foot, have someone check each foot's size," Novella says. The solution? Buy two pairs at a time—one for the right foot and one for the left.

Wash off the sweat.

Blisters thrive in a sweaty pointe shoe. Whenever you can, take your feet out of your shoes between rehearsals and give them a quick rinse off in the sink. "If feet sweat, they should be washed periodically during the day with soap and water and dried well, especially between the toes," says Sinkoe.