Sunday, October 21, 2012

This American Dance: Monica Bill Barnes & Company at Skirball

This is sort of a follow-up to Yeah. What Ira Said. So, read that first. Then hurry back....

Okay, welcome back!

So, as I left NYU's Skirball Center last night, Ira Glass had just retaken the stage after the concert and was asking the audience how many of them had been dance fans before tonight, how many dance shows they had attended in the last year, and the like. I'd wondered about that, too, since it looked more like an NPR audience--his NPR audience--and it probably was.

In any case, it's well known that Glass and his audience now love Monica Bill Barnes & Company since Glass welcomed Barnes and troupe into a This American Life event shown in "more than 600 movie theatres across the US, Canada and Australia." Barnes & Co. did so well with that audience, that what was originally planned as a one-shot appearance--and a kind of victory lap-- at Skirball has been extended: If you can still get a ticket (try here), you can see MBB & Co. with Ira Glass today at 3pm.

If you do get to go, I hope you like glitter, because you'll see lots of it glinting from Kelly Hanson's costumes and gusts of it flying through the air. So much that Glass--unexpectedly, because he'd missed a crucial email--had to get on stage and vamp for four minutes--with a nifty balloon trick and one awkward story--while stage hands cleaned up half the stage.

I happen to love glitter and soul music and perfectly calibrated physical comedy. So, when it comes to Barnes, all good. Give up your leisurely Sunday if you agree.

Anna Bass and Monica Bill Barnes dance Luster (photo by Christopher Duggan)

There's something about Anna Bass, Barnes's partner in crime, that reminds me of Carol Burnett; both have genius. Barnes, I can't quite describe. She is a performer unto herself. Barnes and Bass often dance side by side, at great length, in related though not identical movement. I just realized last night that I must choose. I can just go ahhhh and settle into enjoying the talented Bass or I can stay on high alert for all the rapidfire, formidable changes Barnes goes through and try to figure her out. I can switch, but I can't watch both.

The nearly two-hour program includes two lively Barnes/Bass duets--Luster (a New York City premiere) and I Feel Like--you know, the one with the James Brown sex machine song? It also features Mostly Fanfare (a 2010 trio with Christina Robson and chairs gorgeously held aloft in the dancers' jaws) and Everything Is Getting Better All The Time (a 2011 quartet including Robson and an adorable Giulia Carotenuto). Because, for Barnes, the glamor of the stage and its performers is clearly something to be celebrated even while she's poking affectionate fun at it all, lighting designer Jane Cox makes a fantastic team player. 

NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
566 LaGuardia Place, Manhattan
(between Washington Square South and West 3rd Street)
(map/directions)

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