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Choreographer Monica Bill Barnes Choreographer Monica Bill Barnes

Posed and Answered with Monica Bill Barnes

Monica Bill Barnes is a choreographer, performer and the Artistic Director of Monica Bill Barnes & Company Productions, a New York City based contemporary dance company. Barnes founded MBB&CO in 1997 with the mission to celebrate individuality, humor and the innate theatricality of everyday life.  She is joined by a core of long-time collaborators: Associate Artistic Director and performing partner, Anna Bass; Lighting Designer, Jane Cox; Set and Costume Designer, Kelly Hanson and Creative Producing Director, Robert Saenz de Viteri. The company creates full-length shows that tour the country’s biggest stages and tiniest rooms, bringing dance where it doesn’t belong: making site-specific dances in public places, mounting collaborations with radio hosts and bringing down the house at comedy shows. MBB&CO has performed in more than sixty cities throughout the United States, been commissioned and presented by The American Dance Festival, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and performed all over New York City in venues ranging from Upright Citizen’s Brigade to The BAM Opera House. Barnes has been an invited guest artist at many universities and has choreographed for various theater productions. She began working with radio host Ira Glass in 2012 when she created a solo for David Rakoff for This American Life Live! In 2013 Barnes collaborated with Glass to create, choreograph and direct a new show that combines radio stories and dances: Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host. This show premiered in New York at The Town Hall in September 2014 and will tour to 30 US cities throughout 2015. Upcoming projects include a collaboration with author/visual artist Maira Kalman creating a guided museum workout, and Happy Hour, the world’s first-ever office party dance show.


Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host Trailer by Monica Bill Barns & Company

What is your favorite part of each day?

I love the mornings. If I manage to get up before most people are awake I feel like I can think without any responsibility or agenda.

 When was the last time you saw a work of art and were left speechless, in any art medium?

Honestly this happens often which is one reason why I love living in New York City – it affords me the opportunity to see so much.  This past weekend, I had speechless moments watching Catherine Galasso’s “Fall of the Rebel Angels” and David Bryne’s “Contemporary Colors.”  I also sat with my mouth wide open at the end of “Mad Men” for several speechless minutes.


What do you look for when hiring a dancer?

Something distinct and hard to write about, but mostly I look for a generous spirit and a sense of humor.  I cannot express strongly enough how important it is to be a human being who you would look forward to seeing at 5am at JFK with an unreasonable amount of luggage.


 What are other passions and interests in your life?

Lots of interests, few other real passions.  I am really happy to have a passion for making and performing dances. I am obsessive about it and this takes up a good part of most days.  Outside of this, I am passionate (although that word feels a bit funny) about the people in my life – my husband, my family and my friends.  I also love to read and I’m a sucker for poetry.


 Why not follow the above passions? Why dance?

Dancing and making dances just makes the most sense to me as a way of spending my days.

In the spirit of full disclosure, Kenna asked me to say more about this and I am realizing that it is hard to put words to.  It’s a funny idea to organize your life around making something that no one asked for and then even funnier to hope that you can continue to do this unlikely thing for a long time. Somedays my career feels a magic trick that I am just pulling off.  I was a philosophy major in college and thought I would go to law school and become a judge.  Then when I was looking into which law school to apply to, I realized that I did not want to spend my days doing this.  I wanted to spend my days making dances.  The funny thing about that decision is that you end up also spending your days running a non-for profit organization, touring, making budgets, answering an endless number of emails, training, sound editing and sweeping stages.  As I sit here, on this sunny morning answering these questions, I realize that I am willing to do so much in order to have a few hours a day to make dances.  I’m not sure why making dances makes the most sense to me, but I do understand that it feels important enough to my happiness that I am willing to do so many other things to support this endeavor.


 Favorite restaurant in NYC?

Sam’s Deli.  It is not a restaurant, but Sam makes the best egg sandwich and I eat there most often.


 Do you cross train?

I swim as often as I can in any and every body of water.  The bigger, the better.  I also take yoga often.


 What kind of body doctor healer do you use for injuries?

I met Katinka Locascio about eight years ago – she does Cranial Sacral Therapy and massage.  She is amazing and has been a central part of my health maintenance.  I could not recommend her more highly:

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What would you like to know about the many talented and interesting people involved in the dance community? Follow “Posed and Answered” and leave your questions (and suggestions of artists!) in the comments.


Post by Kenna Tuski

Kenna Tuski, a Portland Maine native, graduated from SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance with honors in the spring of 2013. Kenna was given the opportunity to study abroad at Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan in her Junior year at Purchase. In 2013–2014 Kenna worked with pop singer Betty Who as her personal assistant and tour manager. Kenna danced with Nimbus Dance Works and was assistant coordinator of their 2013 Nutcracker Production. She has toured nationally and internationally with Shen Wei Dance Arts and in 2014 became a performer in Punch Drunk’s Sleep No More.

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