Happy Hour
BY Jess Bass — October 18, 2021

Every Wednesday at downtown New York’s Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center, the second-floor studio is transformed into a rollicking office party meets dance performance called Happy Hour. The room is carpeted and simply decorated with a single line of streamers, a few balloons, a karaoke machine, and enough booze and snacks to go around.

Before the party can really get started, though, choreographers and dancers Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass (who performed at the 2014 FoST summit) enter the scene as a couple of modern-day vaudevillians, decked out in suit and tie. They proceed to launch into a series of strategic and delightfully choreographed movements, a balancing act of facial expressions, pratfalls, and movie-musical dance numbers. Each gesture, no matter how big or small, is carried with the duo’s signature energy, wit, and athleticism.

Much of Happy Hour was created to play off the reactions of audience, including clear visual cues that encourage them to become part of the piece. Barnes and Bass’s characters are also recognizable and complex “male bro” archetypes—at times awkward, proud, loving, and competitive.

Monica Bill Barnes & Company’s mission is to “celebrate individuality, humor, and the innate theatricality of everyday life, and to uncover and delight in the underdog in all of us.” Happy Hour does that, offering a sweet portrait of friends rallying through relationships and insecurities.