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KPBS Midday Edition

San Diego Dance Theater Presents 'Happy Hour' Dance Show

Monica Bill Barnes, left, standing next to Anna Bass are pictured on stage in this undated photo.
Mallory Lynn
Monica Bill Barnes, left, standing next to Anna Bass are pictured on stage in this undated photo.
San Diego Dance Theater Presents 'Happy Hour' Dance Show
San Diego Dance Theater Presents 'Happy Hour' Dance Show GUESTS: Monica Bill Barnes, choreographer/performer, Monica Bill Barnes Dance Company Anna Bass, associate artistic director/performer, Monica Bill Barnes Dance Company

THIS IS KPBS MIDDAY EDITION. ON MORNING CAPITAL. DAUGHTER DANCE CAN BE INTIMIDATING. MIGHT --; AN ACQUIRED TASTE. ONE OF THE EASIEST WAYS TO ACQUIRE A TASTE IS HANDY -- HEADING TO SAN DIEGO NEXT WEEK. MONICA BUILD BARNS AND HER PARTNER ANNA BASS WILL PREVIEW A NEW SHOW AT LIBERTY STATION. BURNS CHOREOGRAPHY MIXES COMEDY, AWKWARDNESS, ARTISTRY AND SOCIAL COMMENTARY AND IT HAS BEEN PERFORMED AROUND THE COUNTRY. MOST RECENTLY BARNS AND BASS TEAMED UP WITH THIS AMERICAN LIFE IRA GLASS FOR A SHOW CALLED THREE ACTS, TO DANCERS AND ONE RADIO HOST. THE SHOW OPENING NEXT TUESDAY IN SAN DIEGO IS CALLED HAPPY HOUR. MONICA BUILD BARNS AND ANNA BASS ARE ON THE LINE TO TELL US ALL ABOUT IT. WELCOME TO THE SHOW. HELLO. MONICA, COMING TO SAN DIEGO SOMETHING OF HOMECOMING FOR YOU. YOU WENT TO SCHOOL AT UC SAN DIEGO? I DID. I WENT TO SCHOOL AT UC SAN DIEGO AND I FELT SO LUCKY TO BE INVITED BACK TO THE SAN DIEGO DANCE THEATER AND JEAN ISAACS SO IT REALLY FEELS LIKE ONE OF THE SAFEST MOST WELCOMING PLACES TO BE MY WORK. I WAS INTERESTED TO READ THAT YOU STARTED OUT STUDYING PHILOSOPHY. I DID. IT IS KIND OF A DIFFERENT THING THAN DANCE. IT IS A DIFFERENT THING THAN DANCE. [ LAUGHTER ] I WENT TO SCHOOL TO STUDY PHILOSOPHY AND I WAS ON MY WAY TO LAW SCHOOL BUT I TOOK A LEFT TURN AND DECIDED IT REALLY SEEMED MORE WORTHWHILE FOR ME TO SPEND MY DAYS DANCING AND I HAVE NEVER LOOKED BACK. I DID GET MY DEGREE IN PHILOSOPHY AND HONESTLY I FEEL LIKE IT IS THE BEST TRAINING THAT I COULD HAVE AS AN ARTIST, IT IS A WAY OF REALLY ASKING YOU TO ARTICULATE YOUR THOUGHTS AND I FEEL LIKE MAKING DANCES WHAT EMMA AND I ARE DOING OUR TRYING TO ARTICULATE SITUATIONS AND EMOTIONAL CONTEXT AND HUMOR THROUGH MOVEMENT. BEING ABLE TO DO THAT CLEARLY AND BEING ABLE TO COMMUNICATE WITH AN AUDIENCE IS REALLY USEFUL. I THINK IN SOME WAYS QUESTIONING THE EXISTENCE OF GOD AND MAKING UP ALL SORTS OF PHILOSOPHICAL ARGUMENTS WITH SORT OF WILDLY USEFUL TO BECOMING A CHOREOGRAPHER. WE WANT TO ASK YOU BOTH THIS QUESTION. STARTING WITH YOU, MONICA. YOUR STYLE HAS BEEN CALLED A WHOLE BUNCH OF THINGS. IT HAS BEEN CALLED AWKWARD AND QUIRKY AND UNEXPECTED. HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE THE WAY YOU SEE YOUR PERFORMANCES? I WOULD HAVE TO AGREE WITH AWKWARD. IT IS INTERESTING, I THINK A LOT OF IT HAS TO DO WITH THE ASSUMPTION THAT WE HAVE ABOUT DANCE THAT WE ARE GOING TO SEE VERY GRACEFUL SKILLED PERFORMERS. I THINK ONCE ANNA AND I STEP ON STAGE WITHIN A FEW MOMENTS YOU REALIZE THAT IS NOT THE KIND OF SHOW YOU ARE IN FOR. I FEEL LIKE A LOT OF MY STYLE JUST RUBS UP AGAINST WHAT EXPECTATIONS ARE FOR A DANCE SHOW. I THINK HUMOR IS SOMETHING THAT IS A COMMON THREAD IN EVERYTHING I DO. OFTEN TIMES ANNA AND I WILL TALK ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE MOMENT THAT WE,'S PERFORMANCE, FEEL SORT OF TRAGIC MOMENT WHERE WE FEEL REALLY WE ARE SINCERELY TRYING SOMETHING, THOSE ARE OFTEN THE MOMENTS WHERE THE AUDIENCE LAUGHS ARE THE BIGGEST. A LOT OF TIMES I FEEL LIKE THE AUDIENCES ARE LAUGHING AT, KINDLY LAUGHING AT OUR SHORTCOMINGS OR AT MOMENTS OF FAILURE. I FEEL LIKE -- I FEEL LIKE HUMOR FINDS ITS WAY INTO EVERYTHING WE DO. AND A, YOU ARE A CLASSICALLY TRAINED DANCER YOURSELF SO WHAT WAS IT THAT APPEAL TO YOU ABOUT USING DANCE IN THIS DIFFERENTLY? HIGH. I AM A CROSS BETWEEN -- MONICA AND I BOTH GREW UP STUDYING BALLET, TAPPAN JOSEPH RANDLE OF THAT. I WAS ACTUALLY ON THE ROAD TO PURSUING VALLEY PROFESSIONALLY AND GOING TO CONSERVATORY HIGH SCHOOL FOR THAT AND DECIDED TO CHANGE GEARS AND NOT GO THAT ROUTE AND REALLY GO THE ROUTE OF MORE MODERN DANCE. WORKING WITH MONICA HAS BEEN SUCH A JOY REALLY BECAUSE OF THE HUMOR IN HER WORK. I FOUND THAT I JUST CANNOT TAKE MYSELF THAT SERIOUSLY IN MY CAR ON STAGE AND THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT OUR WORK TOGETHER AND HER CHOREOGRAPHY THAT REALLY GIVES ME PERMISSION TO WRITE IN THAT -- I THINK THERE IS ALSO SUCH A QUALITY OF BOTH ENTERTAINMENT AND HAVING FUN AND MONICA DOES -- IN MONICA'S CHOREOGRAPHY WE ARE NOT AFRAID TO SHOW THAT. AND WE USE OUR TECHNIQUES BUT THE WAY THAT WE CAN SHOW THAT WE ARE HAVING FUN AND ENTERTAINING IS SUCH A JOY TO BE A PART OF. YOU CAN DEFINITELY SEE YOUR TECHNIQUE. YOU CAN DEFINITELY SEE THE BOTH OF YOU [ LAUGHTER ] KNOW EXACTLY, EXACTLY WHAT YOU'RE DOING. AT EVERY MOMENT. MANY PEOPLE LISTENING TO US ARE FAMILIAR WITH IRA GLASS AND THIS AMERICAN LIFE. IT IS HEARD EVERY WEEK ON THIS RADIO STATION. I BELIEVE NOT MANY PEOPLE HAVE ACTUALLY THOUGHT ABOUT DANCING TO IT. [ LAUGHTER ] I THINK WE MIGHT HAVE A CORNER ON THE MARKET. HOW DID THAT COLLABORATION COME ABOUT? IT'S FUNNY. NEW YORK CITY IS A REALLY SMALL CITY WHEN YOU GET RIGHT DOWN TO IT. IRA AND I CROSSED PATHS THROUGH ANOTHER PERFORMANCE EVENT AND HE CAME AND SAW THE COMPANY PERFORM AND WAS REALLY -- THERE WAS SORT OF A KINSHIP BETWEEN WHAT HE IS DOING ON THE RADIO AND WHAT WE ARE DOING ON STAGE. HE AND I JUST SORT OF STARTED TALKING ABOUT WE FELT LIKE WE WOULD -- OUR AUDIENCES WOULD BE THE SAME KINDS OF PEOPLE BUT THAT SO OFTEN PEOPLE DON'T CROSSOVER AND START GOING TO MODERN DANCE. IN YOUR INTRO YOU SAID IT SO WELL, IT IS A RATHER INTIMIDATING ARTFORM AND I THINK SO OFTEN PEOPLE DON'T REALLY KNOW HOW TO GET STARTED AND SOMETIMES WILL JUST MISS IT ENTIRELY. IRA REALLY FELT LIKE WE SHOULD JUST HAVE THE RADIO AUDIENCE SEE WHAT YOU GUYS DO. THAT LED TO US BEING PART OF HIS LIFE CINEMA WHERE ANNA PERFORMED A SOLO AND SHE AND I PERFORMED A DUET WE WORKED WITH DAVID RACKHAM AND CLEOPATRA SOLO. THAT TIME WORKING WITH IRA I THINK JUST SORT OF MADE THE THREE OF US SAY THIS REALLY IS INTERESTING AND HONESTLY BEING AN ARTIST YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE SO OFTEN LOOKING FOR PEOPLE THAT YOU WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH, AS MUCH AS PEOPLE WHO YOU WANT WORK WITH, AND IT JUST SEEMS LIKE A GOOD IDEA EVEN THOUGH IT WAS WILDLY SORT OF IMPRACTICAL AND HOW THESE TWO THINGS WOULD EVER END UP TOGETHER BUT IT FELT LIKE IT IS WORTH TRYING TO MAKE A SHOW COMBINING RADIO AND DANCE. ONE PIECE OF THE TIME WE SORT OF WHITTLED AWAY THE SHOW THAT WE HAVE AND WE ARE THRILLED TO STILL BE TOURING. WE JUST GOT BACK FROM ALASKA LAST WEEKEND. MONICA, TELL US ABOUT THIS NEW WORK COMING TO SAN DIEGO, HAPPY HOUR. IT IS CALLED HAPPY HOUR. I FEEL LIKE -- I AM SO ENJOYING THIS WORK. I FEEL LIKE THIS SHOW HAS BEEN 20 YEARS IN THE MAKING. WE HAVE BEEN DANCING TOGETHER FOR 12, 20 -- I THINK I MEAN 10. WE HAVE BEEN DANCING TOGETHER FOR 12 YEARS AND I FEEL LIKE THIS SHOW TAKES EVERYTHING THAT WE LOVE DOING ON STAGE AND MIXES IN A FEW THINGS THAT REALLY TERRIFY US THAT WE HAVE NEVER DONE STAGE AND REALLY SORT OF WELCOMES THE AUDIENCE INTO AN EXPERIENCE THAT I HOPE IS REALLY UNIQUE FOR A DANCE PERFORMANCE. THE ENVIRONMENT OF THE SHOW IS A HAPPY HOUR. THERE WILL BE COCKTAILS AND A SENSE OF KARAOKE AND FUN AND YOU ARE ENTERING INTO A VERY IRREVERENT SPACE AND THE SHOW THAT UNFOLDS IN THAT SPACE IS SOMEWHAT INSPIRED BY THE ACT OF KARAOKE. IT IS SORT OF GETTING UP IN FRONT OF PEOPLE YOU DON'T KNOW AND ATTEMPTING SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE NOT REHEARSED EVEN THOUGH, OF COURSE, WE HAVE REHEARSED IT BUT HAVING SOME ELEMENTS OF SPONTANEITY IN OUR PERFORMANCE. REALLY INVITING THE AUDIENCE IN FOR SORT OF A WILD RIDE OF SEEING US GO THROUGH ALL SORTS OF SITUATIONS AND WHERE OUR HEARTS ON HER SLEEVES AND ATTEMPTS THINGS AND WITH THE AUDIENCE SORT OF OPENLY AND GET REJECTED AND MAYBE EVEN SING A TUNE. I SHOULD NOTE WE ARE ABSOLUTELY NOT TRAINED SINGERS IN ANY REGARD. [ LAUGHTER ] THE THING -- EVEN WITH A BRIEF ASSOCIATION WITH WHAT YOU HAVE A DRINK WITH IRA GLASS AND THINGS ON YOUTUBE AND SO FORTH THESE PERFORMANCES ARE REALLY VERY, VERY FUNNY. IT JUST MADE ME WONDER DO YOU CRACK EACH OTHER UP WHILE YOU ARE DANCING? THE WAY SOMETIMES PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY WORK IN SPOKEN COMEDY DO? WE DO. THIS NEW SHOW IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YET FOR US IN TERMS OF THAT. WE ARE TRYING SO HARD TO NOT DO THAT AND WE HAVE FAILED MISERABLY IN REHEARSALS. WE DO, THERE IS SO MUCH SPONTANEITY AND BASED ON AUDIENCE RESPONSE SOMETIMES WE GO IN A WILDLY DIFFERENT DIRECTION THAN THEY ARE EXPECTING US TO GO. PERFORMANCE WISE. IT IS ONE OF MY GREATEST PLEASURES OF WORKING WITH MONICA, JUST SEEING WHAT THE HECK HAPPENS WHEN WE ARE UP IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. YES, WE JUST CRACK EACH OTHER UP ALL OF THE TIME. MONICA, I WONDER DO SOMETIMES LONG TO CHOREOGRAPH LIKE A BEAUTIFUL DANCE MOVE? GORGEOUS GRACEFUL DANCE? JUST SO PEOPLE CAN SEE THAT YOU CAN DO IT? [ LAUGHTER ] THAT IS GREAT. I THINK THAT WOULD BE THE TITLE OF THE PIECE. SITCOM I CAN DO IT. I FEEL SO FORTUNATE IN HAVING HAD SUCH AN INCREDIBLE TRAINING AS A YOUNG DANCER WHERE I HONESTLY JUST FEEL LIKE I THINK I GOT ALL OF THE BEAUTIFUL DANCING OUT OF MY SYSTEM AND I RECOGNIZE RIGHT AROUND 18 I ACTUALLY MOVED TO NEW YORK AND WAS STUDYING BEFORE COLLEGE AND I REALLY -- THOSE DANCERS ARE JUST SUCH INCREDIBLE PERFORMERS AND SUCH PERFECT BEAUTIFUL POWERFUL BODIES AND I REMEMBER THINKING I CAN DO THAT I HAVE THE SKILL SET AND HAVE THE FACILITY FOR BEING ABLE TO BE A REALLY TECHNICAL DANCER BUT I SORT OF FEEL LIKE OTHER PEOPLE REALLY HAVE THIS WRAPPED UP. I WANT TO EXPERIMENT SOME OTHER THINGS THAT PEOPLE -- THAT I AM NOT SEEING AS MUCH A. I DON'T KNOW, I REALLY, I LOVE THE WAY WE ARE ON STAGE. I FEEL LIKE IT FEELS SO EXCITING AND REALLY AUTHENTIC. WHAT AND A SAID EARLIER, THERE IS A WAY IN WHICH I FEEL LIKE WE ARE ABLE TO BE OURSELVES AND NOT TAKE OURSELVES SO INCREDIBLY SERIOUSLY EVEN THOUGH OUR WORK ETHIC IS RIDICULOUS AND WE ARE IN REHEARSAL ALL OF THESE DAYS AND TRAVELING WE TAKE OUR JOBS VERY SERIOUSLY BUT I THINK AS A WORKING AUDIENCE IN AMERICA IT HAS HELPED US CULTIVATE A SENSE OF HUMOR. I THINK THAT HUMOR AND THAT IS HAVING A SENSE OF FUN AND HUMOR ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR PERSONNEL -- PERSONALITY ON STAGE IS SOMETHING I LOVE. I HAVE YET TO REALLY STRIVE FOR THE BEAUTIFUL DANCE. I WILL SAY SOMETIMES I DO FEEL LIKE I HAVE MADE SOMETHING QUITE BEAUTIFUL AND I'M SHOCKED EVERYBODY IS LAUGHING AT IT. [ LAUGHTER ] ONE WAY OR ANOTHER IT TENDS TO BE FUNNY. I WANT TO TELL EVERYONE THAT THE SHOW HAPPY HOUR, THE COCKTAIL PARTY DANCE SHOW WITH MONOCLE BURNS AND PASS WILL PREVIEW MARCH 24 THROUGH THE 26 AT WHITE BOX LIVE ARTS AT NTC AT LIBERTY STATION. I WANT TO THINK YOU BOTH SO MUCH FOR SPEAKING WITH ME. IT HAS BEEN SO MUCH FUN. THINK YOU FOR HAVING US. IT WAS A PLEASURE. THANK YOU.

Two choreographers will attempt to make modern dance a little less intimidating.

Choreographer Monica Bill Barnes, a UC San Diego alumni, and her partner, Anna Bass, will preview a new show at a Liberty Station theater.

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The new production is called "Happy Hour." The show's website calls it "a cocktail hour dance party," featuring Barnes and Bass dressed in men's suits as "they dance their way through the guys in ties that we all recognize."

Jean Isaacs, the artistic director for San Diego Dance Theater and a UCSD professor, said she’s proud of what Barnes has accomplished.

"We're always happy to have her back in town,” Isaacs said.

Barnes has also choreographed several performances for San Diego Trolley Dances. Her work mixes comedy, awkwardness, artistry and social commentary.

San Diego Dance Theater's Happy Hour
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“I have to agree with awkward,” Barnes told KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday. “Once Anna and I step on to stage, you realize that it’s not the kind of show you’re in for. A lot of the times the audience is kindly laughing at our shortcomings.”

Bass said working with Barnes has taught her to not take life as seriously.

“Working with Monica has been such a joy because of the humor in her work,” Bass said.

Most recently, Barnes and Bass teamed up with public radio host Ira Glass of "This American Life" for a show called, "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.”

"Happy Hour" is at the White Box Live Arts at NTC at Liberty Station at 7 p.m. on March 24, 25 and 26. Tickets are $20 each.

For more information, go to sandiegodancetheater.org.

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