As part of my History/Theory/Literature of Postmodernism class with Dr. Hannah Kosstrin we are required to hone our movement description skills through short writing assignments on specific performances. Since I am a big fan of both Monica Bill Barnes and Ira Glass, I was thrilled to write about Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host:
Clad in sneakers with costumes that ranged from sequined dresses to lumpy full-length winter coats, Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass commanded the 2,500 seat Mershon Auditorium stage alongside Ira Glass, longtime radio host of This American Life. With show-your-work spectacle, Barnes and Bass charged through foot patterns from ballet and jazz vernaculars: step-ball-change, pas de bourrée, quick runs and three step turns contrasted with space-grabbing arm gestures and boxing-inspired upper cuts, fist rolls and “gun” (bicep) kissing. Almost always in exuberant unison, Barnes and Bass routinely emerged from behind a small red curtain upstage to respond to or comment upon Glass’s narratives, their weight bounding and rebounding off the floor with suspensions punctuated by elbow pumps, head tosses, and ample mugging to the audience. In one section they went so far as to flash their bellies, first coyly and then with increasing swagger, directly at the audience. When Glass danced too, his self-aware strides and simple footwork made Barnes and Bass’s own rapid-fire execution all the more impressive.
Yet Barnes and Bass’s most powerful moment of physicality was not their high kicks and music-driven phrase work but rather a duet crafted in close proximity atop a table while Glass shared the poetry of a man slowly losing his wife to a terminal illness. The dancers’ steps into and out of one another’s space and the precarious lifts that sprung Barnes into Bass’s, conjured the physicality of a lifelong partnership alongside the reality of mortality.