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Both in her choreography and her personal performance, Monica Bill Barnes knows how to entertain and engage audiences. Her company’s ADF performance included three works: Luster, a world premiere duet that explored themes of endurance and triumph; Mostly Fanfare, a trio that examined the trials of showmanship; and Everything is Getting Better All the Time, a quartet that pushed the boundaries of excess in entertainment.

Anna Bass (L) and Monica Bill Barnes in “Luster.” Photo credit: Christopher Duggan

Barnes has a distinct choreographic style; her work has clear thematic overtones, employs elements of surprise, and challenges its performers’ physical endurance in a variety of dance styles. Company dancers demonstrate clarity and consistency in traditional modern dance- and ballet-based choreography, in addition to being skilled baton twirlers and chair balancers.

Barnes’ company is also notably more facially expressive than most modern dance companies. Though I often dislike overdone “facials,” as they are called in competitive dance, pom and cheer circles, Barnes employs them with a purpose. In some instances, the heightened performance quality speaks to the very themes that Barnes is exploring, and in others, it simply adds a humorous overtone.

“Everything is Getting Better All the Time” / Photo Credit: Christopher Duggan

Though not all of the work that Barnes presented at ADF was silly (in mood, not in quality), Luster set up a precedent that it was okay for audience members to laugh in response to what they saw onstage. This established a sense of freedom that allowed audience members to foster deeper connections to Barnes’ work throughout the evening.

From this concert, it was clear that Barnes understands how to push her choreographic limits – how to balance excess and brevity in the same show while keeping the audience constantly engaged, and how to incorporate new movement vocabulary while staying true to her artistic aesthetic. I can’t wait to see more work by this rockstar company!

If you saw the show, leave me your thoughts!

Monica Bill Barnes and Company

Artistic Director: Monica Bill Barnes

Tuesday, July 2, 2012

Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham, NC

Presented by The American Dance Festival