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Is That Ira Glass or Baryshnikov?

This American Life’s Ira Glass has many talents listed on his résumé (radio host, movie producer, geek sex symbol), but professional dancer wasn’t one of them—until now.

ira glass three acts, two dancers, one radio host ellen cushing

Anna Bass, Ira Glass and Monica Bill Barnes perform.  

This month, City Arts & Lectures hosts Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host, featuring Glass telling stories and shuffling his feet alongside Anna Bass and Monica Bill Barnes from Barnes’s eponymous contemporary dance troupe. Here Glass gives us the recipe to creating a show that doesn’t result in interpretive dance.

Add a pinch of ridiculous: “Monica directed and choreographed a really beautiful show. She rose above the premise. We know that the idea is ridiculous. But hopefully it’s ridiculous enough that we have a hook, but not so much that people roll their eyes.”

Skip the corn: “The show sounds like it’ll be some corny thing where they act out the stories. But it feels like putting on an episode of the radio show, with the way we use music and stuff like that, plus lighting cues and choreography. It’s adding a layer to something that already exists.”

Talk less, move more: It’ll be live, but otherwise much like TAL: some recorded elements and a lot of storytelling from Glass. Nevertheless, he promises, “It’s not just me standing on a stage and talking. This is way more gratifying."

Visualize NPR: “I saw this dance company a couple years ago, and the sensibility of their work seemed exactly to me like the radio show, even though what they were doing used no words.”

Dance like no one’s watching: “I sit on my ass at a computer all day, and I’ve never been athletic in any way. So I practiced dance inordinately—like, for months. I’ve moved from having no relationship with my physical being to moving my body by a command from my brain.“

The trio performs Saturday, Nov. 16th & Sunday, Nov. 17th at the Nourse Theater (unfortunately, tickets are already sold out). 


Originally published in the November 2013 issue of San Francisco

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