Home & + | Search
Featured Categories: Special Focus | Performance Reviews | Previews | DanceSpots | Arts and Education | Press Releases
Join ExploreDance.com's email list | Mission Statement | Copyright notice | The Store | Calendar | User survey | Advertise
Click here to take the ExploreDance.com user survey.
Your anonymous feedback will help us continue to bring you coverage of more dance.
SPOTLIGHT:
PERFORMANCE REVIEWS
ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
ExploreDance.com Kickstarter Campaign

The ExploreDance.com Kickstarter campaign is live! Please consider backing our campaign to help us expand our coverage of dance.
www.kickstarter.com/projects/1306220552/exploredancecom
ExploreDance.com (Magazine)
Web
Other Search Options
Robert Johnson
Music and Dance Reviews
Performance Reviews
Modern/Contemporary
Town Hall
USA
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY
ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
******* ** **
exploredance.com

Tripping The Light Not So Fantastic: Monica Bill Barnes And Ira Glass Confess To The Pathos Of Appearing At The Town Hall

by Robert Johnson
September 11, 2014
Town Hall
123 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036
(212) 840-2824
Holding a chair in your teeth and balancing it overhead requires skill, as choreographer Monica Bill Barnes can tell you. Barnes and her loyal dancing partner, Anna Bass, must take care so the chairs don't pinch their lips.

Radio host Ira Glass didn't attempt this stunt in the program he shared with them on September 11 at The Town Hall, a quirky and engaging show called "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host." Although he's game to try some of Barnes' other routines, hoofing between the two women and hustling to keep up; twirling a baton (more or less); and even performing some hat tricks, the creator of "This American Life" needs to keep his lips in good shape so he doesn't mumble as he delivers his spiel. With years of experience as an interviewer, however, Glass can ask shrewd questions. Gently nudging his fellow performers, he wants to know: Is balancing a chair in your teeth supposed to be impressive? Or is it desperate and sad?

Barnes chooses not to answer that one.

At another point, Glass reveals he pursued Barnes as a collaborator after seeing her perform. They make an odd couple: the lanky radio host who chatters until finally his resistance wears down and he spills something personal; and the taut little dancer who doesn't say much, but whose eyes crinkle humorously. As it turns out, they complement each other. He can be the straight man, making deadpan conversation while Barnes and her accomplice putter in the background or take center-stage presenting excerpts from their zany repertoire.

While Glass remains himself all evening, the dancers transform themselves into characters whose chutzpah barely conceals their neediness. Emerging from a portable proscenium wearing drab coats and spraying air freshener, they go on to become gaudy circus performers with feathers on their heads; and a pair of stand-up comics roughed up by unspecified assailants while Dean Martin croons a love song to Las Vegas. In an excerpt from Barnes' "Another Parade," a relentlessly upbeat number haunted by the fore-knowledge of failure, they jive awkwardly but determinedly to James Brown's "Sex Machine," lifting shapeless, woolen sweaters to tease us with glimpses of skin.

Performing side-by-side and reaching for the stars with a gesture that implies they won't make it, the women often wear expressions brimming with hope. Barnes' choreography is punchy but weighted with effort. She and Bass work hard prancing, shuffling, pausing for effect and then building to the moment when—ta da! — -they open their arms to show us how much they love us. Evidently they want us to love them back; and when they pick up the chairs we see how far they're willing to go. Their routines come packed with climaxes that telegraph success; but pathos is the invisible hook waiting to yank them out of the limelight.

If collaborating with Glass is Barnes' latest stunt, he has some tricks of his own. He plays pre-recorded interviews on his iPad, and frames Barnes in a hand-held spotlight as she adopts poses that illustrate the story he's telling. When he turns his microphone on the dancers, we learn that from an early age Barnes possessed a tragic sense of a dancer's career; and that Bass pouts when she observes Barnes trying to upstage her.

As a theatrical prop Glass is better than a cheerleader's baton or a confetti-cannon, because he comes with his own following of people who like to hear stories but may not have discovered modern dance. This public-radio crowd is a curious, open-minded bunch that wants to learn what's really going on in the world. They seem primed to take the next step forward, but just in case the dancing confuses them Glass recounts stories like the one about the "Riverdance" company whose exhausted performers become obsessed with winning the lottery. Seduced by their own magic, these dancers convince themselves the jackpot is a sure thing guaranteed by their energy and massed concentration. Likes Barnes' vignettes in movement, this tale reveals the physical toll of dancing and the emotional machinery behind the theater's façade — -a combination of fatigue and dreaming that leaves performers vulnerable to let-downs.

Glass also tells stories drawn from the theater of life. Act II incorporates his interviews with kids who describe the awkwardness of the recreational dances at their Middle School. Here the stakes seem comparatively low, but whether the prize is winning a standing ovation from a packed house Off Broadway or merely sparking a teen crush, performing for the approval of others can be painful.

"Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host" seems likely to enhance Glass' reputation as an off-beat personality willing to put some skin in the game. For Barnes, the show is a marketing initiative; and it commands higher fees than dancers like her typically earn when performing on their own. While admiring her resourcefulness, we must still ask: Is this shtick with a radio host supposed to be impressive, or is it also desperate and sad?
Ira Glass, center, with Anna Bass, left, and Monica Bill Barnes in 'Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.'

Ira Glass, center, with Anna Bass, left, and Monica Bill Barnes in "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host."

Photo © & courtesy of Adrianne Mathiowetz


Ira Glass, center, with Anna Bass, left, and Monica Bill Barnes in 'Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.'

Ira Glass, center, with Anna Bass, left, and Monica Bill Barnes in "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host."

Photo © & courtesy of Adrianne Mathiowetz


Anna Bass, center, with Monica Bill Barnes, left, and Ira Glass in 'Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.'

Anna Bass, center, with Monica Bill Barnes, left, and Ira Glass in "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host."

Photo © & courtesy of Adrianne Mathiowetz


Ira Glass, center, with Monica Bill Barnes, left, and Anna Bass in 'Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.'

Ira Glass, center, with Monica Bill Barnes, left, and Anna Bass in "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host."

Photo © & courtesy of Adrianne Mathiowetz


Ira Glass, center, with Anna Bass, left, and Monica Bill Barnes in 'Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.'

Ira Glass, center, with Anna Bass, left, and Monica Bill Barnes in "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host."

Photo © & courtesy of Adrianne Mathiowetz

ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
* **** ****


ExploreDance.com
ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
******* ******
exploredance.com


home || view our calendar || the store || copyright information || join our mailing list || mission statement
Search for articles by
Performance Reviews, Places to Dance, Fashion, Photography, Auditions, Politics, Health