Humor-infused dance that riffs on gender roles and corporate behavior

Rebecca Bailey, Hopkins Center Publicity Coordinator/Writer

Sept. 9, 2019—We've probably all seen this happen: you're at an office party, having a drink, chatting pleasantly, when one or more of the other partygoers begins to cross the line, behavior-wise—perhaps subtly at first, then not. The web of etiquette and expectations that normally hold us in place is being stretched and snapped. Suddenly, the evening has gotten a lot more interesting.

That's the situation you as an audience member walk into in Happy Hour, a work of interactive dance theater by the dance jesters of Monica Bill Barnes & Company, coming to Dartmouth's Hopkins Center for the Arts Thursday to Saturday, September 19 to 21. Shows are at the happy hour time of 6 pm each day with an additional 9 pm show on Friday and Saturday.

The show takes place on the stage of the Moore Theater, set for an office party with folding chairs, tacky decorations and a refreshment table. You grab a drink and a handful of munchies, chat up people. Then two guys in suits enter—OK, two women dressed in men's suits, playing to the hilt the part of clueless dudes. Vying to be the Alpha Male at the event, the two execute increasingly competitive dance sequences, revealing the humor and pathos in gender roles and behavioral norms in the workplace and social sphere.

Choreographed by Monica Bill Barnes and performed by her, her dance partner Elisa Clark and fellow MBB & Co. member Robbie Saenz de Viteri, this hilarious and revealing work has been performed everywhere from a barn in upstate New York to a villa in Italy.

Wrote DC Metro, "Happy Hour breaks all the rules of theater… it offers not merely terrific entertainment, but more than a measure of poignancy, a sense of loss even amid the fun-and-games."

"They dance, they joke around, they mug and do pratfalls. ... In a setting straight out of 'The Office' … [and] transform themselves into guys with ties, working the crowd with characteristic exuberance," wrote The New Yorker.

Wrote the Boston Globe, "Though it may sound corny, Barnes—pitch-perfect not only in humor, but in humanness, too, it turns out—seems to invite us all to shed our insecurities and relax, maybe even glory, in our imperfect selves."

Tickets to Happy Hour can be purchased separately or as part of a package, "Immerse Yourself," focusing on "arts experiences in unexpected settings and innovative combinations engage your senses in new and surprising ways." Buyers get a 25 percent discount when they purchase a ticket package.

A native of Berkley, CA, who came to New York in 1995, Barnes founded MBB&CO in 1997. Over the years, it's become known for works that celebrate individuality, humor and the innate theatricality of everyday life. Other recent shows include The Museum Workout, in which the performers lead a choreographed exercise routine in an art museum; One Night Only (Running As Long As We Can), which announces dance performance play by play like sports; and Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host, where they turn radio stories into dance. The company has performed in over 20 venues in New York City ranging from the DancemOpolitan Series at Joe's Pub to Fall for Dance at New York City Center; has been presented in more than 30 cities throughout the United States; and has been a part of major dance festivals including Bates Dance Festival, The American Dance Festival and Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.