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      Monica Bill Barnes in Monica Bill Barnes & Co: Another Parade
      Photo by Julie Lemberger
      Monica Bill Barnes
    Ladies with Belly Buttons

    Monica Bill Barnes & Company show their inner beasts


    As Another Parade begins, a woman in sensible black skirt and grey sweater strides purposefully across the stage to classical music. What sounds like the beginning of a stodgy evening leads quickly to anything but. Monica Bill Barnes & Company threw down a James Brown-flavored danceoff by four women in sensible clothes finding their inner ferocity, as part of the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Festival presented at the Ailey Citigroup theater.

    Deborah Lohse as the woman in grey and black is pretty hard to ignore. Everything she does is sharp, clear, elastic and beautifully timed. But she is just the opening shot and instigator of a series of dance "parades" to various songs ranging from Burt Bacharach to Bach to homey country to plenty of James Brown. Monica Bill Barnes is clearly the co-leader of these ladies who lunch, critically appraising newcomers and throwing down a high standard to match. Her musicality, precision and flow are a joy to watch. Anna Bass and Celia Rowlson-Hall complete the quartet with plenty of their own flavor and energy.

    Choreography by: Monica Bill Barnes.
    Dancers: Monica Bill Barnes, Deborah Lohse, Anna Bass, Celia Rowlson-Hall.
    Costumes by: Kelly Hanson.
    Lighting design by: Jane Cox.
    Production stage manager: Emily Park Smith.

    Related links: 92nd Street Y
    92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Festival
    Ailey Citigroup Theater
    March 4,5,7,8, 2009

    Most of the movement and character development themes of the evening are introduced in Lohse's opening solo. There are recurring bits of shadowboxing and skin-baring offset more and more weakly by tsk-tsking appraisal. And there is a tantalizing selective synchronicity between music and movement, with for instance Lohse occasionally doing big, deep movements to big, deep cello chords in the opening Bach music. This selective synch is done especially well to the later James Brown songs, with only certain screams or bandmate responses echoed by the dancers' movement.

    Though there are some thirteen different songs throughout the piece, the action feels almost nonstop, with only one real break for an audience participation bit when each dancer leads an audience member onstage to "teach" them various hip waggles and dance moves. When the new junior members have met some elusive approval point, the sensible ladies confer temporary status to the newbies by taking their brooches off and pinning them on the inductees, before dancing an intimate slowdance with them. It is a welcome if slightly awkward break that conveys both a basic goodheartedness and a vivid reminder of how really good the four dancers are at what they do.

    Monica Bill Barnes, Deborah Lohse, Anna Bass, Celia Rowlson-Hall in Monica Bill Barnes & Co: Another Parade
    Photo by Julie Lemberger
    Monica Bill Barnes, Deborah Lohse, Anna Bass, Celia Rowlson-Hall

    Other favorite moments are the bouncy group linedance to Bacharach's "I'll Never Fall in Love", an increasingly wacky duet between Lohse and Bass battling for top-dog status which includes a briefly out-of-control leghumpingish bit, and an abrupt blackout ending in the midst of a James Brown group jam.

    The group tug between being naughty and wild versus being prim and proper is funny in itself and not overdone, and it is so refreshing to see James Brown music brought onstage and used with intelligence and humor. Another Parade is truly fun and far more than just another parade.

    MARCH 9, 2009

    Reader comments on Monica Bill Barnes & Co: Another Parade:

  • This American LIfe   from Joy MacKinnon, May 11, 2012

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