Monica Bill Barnes is one of the funniest choreographers working today. And though the style of physical humor she's crafted with her frequent collaborator Anna Bass could elicit laughs even in dead silence, the pair's antics are often supplemented with—or juxtaposed against—music choices that feel both unexpected and yet somehow perfectly fitting.
It turns out that music plays a significant role in Barnes' creative process, too: Even songs that don't end up in her shows help her develop material and figure out the tone of a work. Barnes talked to us about her relationship with music, and made us a playlist of songs that "feel supportive in nature," she says. "They're go-to hits that help me understand something about the material; good fallbacks when I'm not sure where a particular show is heading."
As anyone who follows her on Instagram knows, when Emma Portner isn't working on high-profile projects—like Netflix's "Umbrella Academy" and a collaboration with Vogue and Saks—she's in the studio, dancing to a wide array of music that the word "eclectic" doesn't even begin to capture. She describes her taste as: "Audio-theater meets spoken word meets lo-fi meets classical. I could hop from Carnegie Hall to a jazz club to an underground DJ set to a Mitski concert all in the same night if I ever wanted to."
Choreographer Kyle Abraham makes captivating, dynamic dances. But did you know that he makes just as many captivating, dynamic playlists?
Abraham creates a custom playlist for every piece he makes. They don't include songs that are actually in the piece; rather ones that capture the atmosphere or energy of it. His 2011 work Live! The Realest MCreturns to New York this weekend, and in honor of the occasion, Abraham made us an updated version of his original playlist for the work.
We talked to Abraham about his prolific playlist-making, and where he finds all those deep cuts that find their way into his work:
For choreographer Raja Feather Kelly, music is simple: "There's good music and there's bad music and I love good music and I love to hate bad music."
But, true to form, Kelly—whose past few months have included choreographing the Skittles Super Bowl musical and earning one of our first-ever Harkness Promise Awards—had some surprises up his sleeve when he made us a playlist he describes as "for moody Geminis who work over 12 hours a day and need a playlist that can shuffle and never disappoint."
Though the playlist has some whiplash-inducing twists and turns—from Coheed and Cambria to Carly Rae Jepsen to Missy Elliott to Schubert—there is a through-line: "Music that makes you feel like you're in your own movie. I love walking through the street feeling like I'm on a runway, living my best life."
At our cover shoot for the November issue, Bobbi Jene Smith curated one of the best lineups of YouTube music videos that I've heard in a long time. From Bob Dylan to Tom Waits, they felt like such perfect choices for her earthy, visceral movement and soulful approach to dance.
Keigwin's playlist will have you grooving. Photo via keigwinandcompany.com
If you've ever seen Larry Keigwin's work, you probably guessed that he's a fun guy. His choreography is cheeky and humorous; unexpected and electrifying. And though his aesthetic is decidedly contemporary, there's a touch of that classic modern dance style that makes his partnerships with troupes like Paul Taylor Dance Company and Martha Graham Dance Company so fitting.
His musical taste is pretty similar: eclectic feel-good bops from the contemporary (Justin Bieber) to the classic (Dionne Warwick.) He made us a playlist of the songs that make him move, whether in the studio or in his bedroom:
What we're saying is that we'll have some of whatever it is he's having. And it turns out that a hype playlist is part of the secret to his endless energy. Lucky for us, Wong shared his go-to warm up songs: