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Events museum workout

The Museum Workout

Monica Bill Barnes & Company

September 13 at 6:00pm

Runtime TBA

$15 – $35

Philadelphia Museum of ArtMap

DescriptionAbout the ArtistInterviewFurther Reading

“Tackles serious questions about the relationship between artists and audiences and about what constitutes dance … with physical wit.” The New Yorker 

The experience of being physical while looking at the artwork and listening to disco will change the way the audience feels about being in a museum.” Monica Bill Barnes

Photo by Philadelphia Museum of Art.A contemporary American dance company that brings dance where it does not belong, Monica Bill Barnes & Company has created an irreverent and devotional love letter to museums.

Deep knee bends in front of Renaissance armor? Jumping jacks with Picasso? Put your sneakers on and jog along with Monica Bill Barnes and her long-time dancing partner Anna Bass as they travel through the Philadelphia Museum of Art, performing choreographed exercises in the galleries.

Creative producing director Robert Saenz de Viteri interviewed and edited commentary by author/visual artist Maira Kalman (who selected the art along the tour). He mixes her contemplative narration live during the show with high-energy songs ranging from disco to Motown, providing an infectious soundtrack to participatory performances that transform the museum tour and create a new relationship with the galleries and art.

Note: Not for the faint of heart. Participants will engage in a brisk, 45-minute workout. Exercise attire required.

$35 general / $24.50 members
$15 student + 25-and-under

Choreographed by Monica Bill Barnes & Company Narration and route by Maira Kalman Creative producing director Robert Saenz de Viteri Performed by Monica Bill Barnes, Anna Bass, Robert Saenz de Viteri.

Photos by the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Museum Workout is presented in partnership with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with support for this production from the Museum’s endowment, through The Daniel W. Dietrich II Fund for Contemporary Art.

The Museum Workout is made possible with support from Mertz Gilmore Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Bossak/Heilbron Charitable Foundation, public funds from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and Jody and John Arnhold. 

The Museum Workout was commissioned by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and premiered there in 2017.

Festival Co-Producers: Bill and Joyce Kunkle

About Monica Bill Barnes 

Monica Bill Barnes is a choreographer, performer, and the artistic director of Monica Bill Barnes & Company. Barnes founded MBB&CO in 1997 with the mission to celebrate individuality, humor, and the innate theatricality of everyday life. Her work has been performed in venues ranging from Upright Citizen’s Brigade to The BAM Opera House, and has been presented in more than 80 cities throughout the United States. Current projects include a collaborative show with radio host Ira Glass that combines radio stories and dance, Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host; a collaboration with author/visual artist Maira Kalman creating a guided Museum Workout; Happy Hour, the world’s only office party turned dance show; and One Night Only, which premiered in New York City in fall 2017.

Interview with Monica Bill Barnes

May 2018

The Museum Workout

FringeArts: How does The Museum Workout fit into the company’s other work?

Monica Bill Barnes: We describe ourselves as “a contemporary American dance company that brings dance where it does not belong.”  Within each new contexts and borrowed environments, we find humor in our awkward, everyday triumphs and failures. 

FringeArts: How does The Museum Workout reframe the way we experience the artwork?

Monica Bill Barnes: The most common response that we received after doing this performance at the Met over 70 times was that after the experience, the audience members did not think they would be able to see the museum in the same way… that they would always hum “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” as they looked at the statues in the Greek and Roman Gallery, for example. The performances invite the audience to alter their customary museum behavior by inviting them to exercise, listen to loud music, hear Maira’s commentary, experience the empty galleries and not be responsible for the selection of art work or how long to stay with each piece. Our hope is that these changes will create a new relationship with the Museum itself and with the works of art that they view.

FringeArts: What should the audience know coming in to the piece?

Monica Bill Barnes: You’re really working out. You should wear clothes that you feel good doing light exercise in. Most importantly, wear sneakers or some sort of shoe that you would wear for physical activity. You can adjust to your own comfort level, but do expect to break a sweat and move differently than you normally do around the Museum.

Excerpt. Full interview coming soon to the FringeArts Blog.

Further Reading

Working Outin a Museum by Alexis Cheung, The New York Times Style Magazine

Within the museum, Barnes and the performer Anna Bass serve as our athletic docents. They dance side by side, snaking through the museum, trotting, marching, speed-walking with ease. When objects, like a terracotta monument carved with angels, obstruct their path, they diverge like hand-holding lovers, separated by an oncoming crowd.

Read the full article

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