Creative MVP: Marc Bamuthi Joseph

Marc Bamuthi Joseph

Marc Bamuthi Joseph is creating in theater, site specific performance, and creative ecosystems.  

He is an inaugural recipient of the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship, the winner of the 2011 Alpert Award in Theater, and an inaugural recipient of the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award. He is the founding Program Director of the exemplary non-profit Youth Speaks, and is a co-founder of Life is Living, a national series of one day festivals designed to activate under-resourced parks through hip hop arts and focused environmental action.

Marc recently premiered the Creative Time commission “Black Joy in the Hour of Chaos” in New York’s Central Park, and is currently completing a new work with Bill T. Jones for the Philadelphia Opera while serving as Chief of Program and Pedagogy at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. His evening length piece “/peh-LO-tah/” has been commissioned by the Kennedy Center and the Guggenheim Museum and will premiere at YBCA in November of 2016.

What are you creating?
I’m currently making a dance piece called /peh-LO-tah/ that explores the matter of black life and the ecology of egalitarianism played out inside the world’s game, futbol. It is a story of my body in its late summer years; the physics of a globally networked economy running in tandem with the fragile network of a dancer’s anatomy. It is a bet that visible bodies and the dramatized shadow can co-exist as complementary modes of narration; that sweat will have as much currency as silhouette to transition both narrative point of view and visual dimension.

For my company of collaborators, it is a structural experiment: physically demanding, visually deft, viscerally reaching, linguistically twisted in hip hop and hope.  Ultimately, I’m intrigued by the elusive riddle of equality, and am fascinated by the curiosity that soccer is the only thing the entire planet can agree to do together. It is the official sport of this spinning ball.

My inquiry involves the joy of the game against the complexity of the global south sites of the last two World Cups. It acknowledges that all conversations tied to ecology are ALSO tied to democracy and economy. The work is sprung from the bliss of a goal scorer’s run, it shares what his countrymen do after the ball beats the goalie, the closest thing going to freedom…

What inspires you?
My family… Harriet Tubman… hip hop culture… Leo Messi…

Who has influenced your creative journey? 
Bill T. Jones, Chinaka Hodge, Tongo and Biko Eisen-Martin, Chuck D, Ntozake Shange, A Tribe Called Quest, and the thousands of teen poets I’ve met since working with Youth Speaks and the Brave New Voices Festival.

What’s been the biggest surprise?
The biggest surprise is that the work never stops. There is no ‘there,’ no point at which it’s all been said or sweated out and you can just sit back and live on the equity and interest of your labor. Growing up in a world framed by the half hour sitcom, I guess I was conditioned to think that all resolutions come swiftly and imminently, but the truth is every minute we live is an opportunity to earn the next level, but indeed, it MUST be EARNED.

How do you define success?
Joy in the journey… a balance in the personal ecosystem… a connection from my individual creativity to the collective transformative moment…

Explore Marc’s work on his website, Twitter, and Instagram.

Photo by Jon Lowenstein

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