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Radio meet Dance in Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host

by Joanna G. Harris
December 12, 2015
Zellerbach Hall
Bancroft Way at Telegraph
(2430 Bancroft Ave.)
Berkeley, CA 94704
510.642.9988
Joanna G. Harris Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
Ira Glass seems to be known by everyone who listens to his public radio show “This American Life.” His fan club in California is enormous and many of them seemed to be in Zellerbach Auditorium on the campus of UC Berkeley December 12. They love his banter, asides, quips and his range of storytelling about life and death interjected with jokes and commentary.

The problem presented in Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host was how to combine what Glass does with the antics of New York dancers Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass. Well, of course dance has been working with words for centuries (does Glass know this?) and for these three the goal was to balance the amount of talking and dancing. For the most part they succeeded, though Glass can and does go on and on. The program choreographed and directed by Barnes even got Glass dancing at times.

Act I consisted of Glass’ considerations on the hard, short life of the dancer. To illustrate this Barnes and Bass repeated a short dance phrase traveling back and forth across the stage adding appropriate arm gestures and arabesques to illustrate. The two are about the same size and, dressed alike, the moved alike. Yes dance (as all other art forms) takes repetition, but is enlivened by some variation.

The most charming event of the evening was enacted by the performers to recall the days of junior high school dances. They decked the stage with balloons and lights, enlisting six audience members to be crowned as school royalty. Lots of stage effects, lots of poignant talk, too much like a kids’ show.

For this reviewer, the best piece of dancing was a slow solo (not clear which dancer) concerning the loss of a friend. Glass’ narration was lost to me, but the dancer’s effective simple action, opening up and letting go, was dramatic and convincing.

Glass offered a long poetic spiel on the death of friends who were both poets. A dance depicted that also.

At the end Glass donned a clownish costume and with great bravura joined the two as a central figure. That was the best illustration of getting into the act that these three brought to the stage.
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

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