…As an improvised piece, it coheres as a dreamlike tour through archetypes that are typically feminine but also strikingly individual. Naked shows Ms. Barnes in full command of her vocabulary. It is eerie and beautiful, and a little like being a sleepwalker through someone else’s dreamland. By restricting the audience to a group of ten people, the evening gains immensely in intimacy. There is a palpable trust between artist and audience here that spreads, I feel, to the audience itself. That ineffable power of liveness occurs only when there is a live audience aware that it is in the presence of something that will never be seen again, something special. And above all, Naked is special.

As an improvised work, each night of Naked is necessarily different; each night, too, has a different accompanist. The night I attended, Ms. Barnes’ musical accompanist was the divine Ms. Beth Fleenor. Ms. Fleenor herself is a dynamo very much like Ms. Barnes and their sympathetic relationship is immediately obvious. So is their conversational tone. From the very first moment that both women pick up maple seeds from the floor, one can see the women responding to the same stimuli and to each other: Ms. Barnes uses the maple seeds to accentuate her visual movement, while Ms. Fleenor turns them into rustling musicmakers. It is extraordinary to hear the two women in their lead-and-follow interplay, with Ms. Barnes sometimes letting Ms. Fleenor hijack the lead without so much as an audible seam. It is everything wonderful about improvisation: immediate, sensuous, palpable, fragile, irreproducible…

~ Omar Willey, Seattle Star
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…Watching Barnes’ work on back-to-back nights provided for a strong sense of what the piece was about, and gave me an experience of 2 shows that were in contrast to each other despite a similar performance on the part of Barnes. The six nights were filled with solo musicians, brought in specifically to collaborate in an improvisational manner, comprising a diverse array of styles and instrumentation. For instance, on the nights that I attended, Samantha Boshnack played a melancholy score switching between trombone and trumpet, a brassy wail permeated the space recalling emotions of loss and desperation. The following evening Julian Martlew provided a blues infused arrangement with his dobro guitar, a hint of bluegrass inciting the artist to frolic a bit more, a far more sensual air than in the previous night’s performance.

The piece was complex and beautiful, dramatically created to occupy 4 distinct areas of the small studio space. The lighting was moody, cool blues and warm reds differentiated the piece as Barnes moved about environments reminiscent of a forest floor, operating room, boudoir, and desert. The audience was taken through a performance that moved our view from the body to the soul, while the costuming consisted of only two masks and red body paint…

~ Jeremy Buben, Le Dandysme

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…Barnes was low to the ground and the audience watched from above, as though she were a secret ritual on display for an uncomprehending crowd. This sense of vulnerability was fleeting, and her movement became stronger as she stood, sweeping her arms in bird-like arcs. Without a single layer of clothing or self-doubt to cover her, the mask itself seemed to smile knowingly.

Later, she stood in front of a full-length mirror covered in red paint. The audience seemed to at once admire her beauty and chide themselves for doing so. But she did look beautiful: the graceful curves of her hips and buttocks were softened and highlighted by the red paint. However, it seemed that the point of her nudity was not to show how beautiful she was, or how sexy she could move. There was no overt sexuality about her movement vocabulary, nor her intention. She was simply a person in a body, humble but not cowering, without frills, self-consciousness, or self-indulgence.

Barnes’s enlightening (and enlightened) vulnerability suggests that nudity is the only costume she could have worn. In fact, it may even suggest that nudity is the only costume any dancer should wear. Nudity offers a particular view of the human body where all the muscles are visible, revealing the incredible machinery beneath the skin. That Barnes displayed this machinery without seeming sexy is empowering for women and men alike because she offered an alternative to the normative depiction of women’s bodies. Perhaps through dance like this, nudity — particularly female nudity — could be separated from sex. Perhaps the future of dance could be similar to ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, where women and men were always nude, and where nudity drew artistic intention and audience gaze not toward the vulgar, but toward the divine…

~ Kathryn Hightower, Seattle Dances
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…Another highlight was Coyote Adapted, choreographed and performed by Paige Barnes. Beginning with a powerful image, Barnes entered wearing all white, her hair long, and a tribal mask of a coyote head protruding from her chest. Barnes danced with the Coyote as her partner swooping, crawling, and lunging through space. Her movements were reminiscent of a tribal ritual or some kind of primal animal. The coyote was particularly successful as a prop when she arched her sternum upwards, making it appear as if the coyote was howling. When she finally removed the mask, she revealed her bare chest covered in red paint—a striking and unexpected contrast to her all white costume that made for a strong final image…

~Jessica Fishman, Seattle Dances
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Ms. Barnes’ exquisite use of the Hedreen Gallery space as a quality rather than as a limitation aided the dancers in their focus on unconscious archetypes and brought out things that would have been more difficult otherwise. Relationships that would have been simply abstract in a larger space became downright uncomfortable here. The dance represented a self in pieces: dyads of anima/animus, human/animal, civilized/primitive animated before the audience, while the dancers themselves moved fluidly through solos, duos and trios as they finally achieved unity at the end of the piece. It is always a pleasure to watch Ms. Barnes dance and her co-conspirators in this venture, Alice Gosti, Pol Rosenthal, Vincent Cuny, Paris Hurley, and Nadia Losonsky, clearly had a sympathetic connection with the work, each playing with abandon. It was quite bizarre in the best way, as a trip through the subconscious should be, and augmented by the silent and lyrical bits of interstitial videos of Mr. Gruber between the movement sections. The animations provided a not only oblique context but also surreal humor and refreshing levity.

~ Omar Willey, Seattle Star

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Paige Barnes has created her own bizarre world. Part installation, part performance, Barnes’ Lead Bunny creates a strange and fascinating world through the collaboration of numerous artists, from costume designers to dancers to animators. With her performance space located at the Hedreen Gallery in the Lee Art Building at Seattle University, Barnes has chosen to transform a non-traditional space, and also to begin at 9:30 pm, a non-traditional time. Clearly, for this show, Barnes makes her own rules.

The dancers enter dressed in elaborate costumes by Jme Frank—structured shirts and dresses assembled from layered black, white, and grey garments. Over their heads are striking grey headgear that are a cross between a luchador and a Jason mask—bars cross their face, giving a horror movie vibe. Overlapping duets ensue: the first between Pol Rosenthal and Vincent Cuny, who seem to be at once fighting and hugging in flurries of action. An act of violence followed by an earnest “I’m sorry” illustrates the line these two walk. The second duet between Barnes and Nadia Losonksy alternates between liquid and sharp, and moves in and out of unison with clarity. In the very downstage corner Alice Gosti shifts around on a squeaky folding chair, which she later throws repeatedly, letting it crash to the floor. Both these actions add to the atmospheric sound score, composed by a sound team of Barnes, Bob Barazza, Julian Martlew, and Paris Hurley, a dancer who at one point sings drawn-out eerie notes with her rich and intoxicating voice…
~ Kaitlin McCarthy, Seattle Dances

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About her work, Barnes says, “I see a lone wolf pup howling juxtaposed with the most complicated and layered human relationships,” and as strange as that sounds, you can pick that up from her choreography (and Jme Frank’s sci-fi-meets-aborigine costumes with masks by Ret Harrison). The piece opens with Vincent Cuny and Pol Rosenthal sitting in chairs across from each other, when Cuny (I believe) makes a startling chest-slapping move that comes to seem like a territorial signal–the two end up wrestling, shoving, carrying one over the other’s shoulder…
~Michael van Baker, The SunBreak

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“Since 1998 Paige Barnes has boldly cut her path as one of the finest dancers in the city, stroke by stroke. Beginning with her collaborations with Pablo Cornejo that took her through Latin America all the way to Ecuador and continuing all the way through her latest work with the Seattle Chamber Players and their two versions of Jean Cocteau’s Marriage at the Eiffel Tower, Ms. Barnes’ work has been striking. Blessed with a brilliant dance mind, she has created some of Seattle’s most interesting movement work. She has created work with extremely strict settings (Ten Tiny Dances and Ayudapii) and work that extends well beyond traditional dance into film, video and music as well (War Is Over, Stenophobia, Here/Now). She attracts strong collaborators and brings out the best in them, experimenting ceaselessly with their physical and psychic limits as well as her own. ”
~Omar Willey, Seattle Star

**excerpt from a 4 part series: The Working Artist, Seattle Star by Omar Willey. To read more:

The Artist

In the Studio

Teacher, Student, Artist


…I’m Hungry kicked-off the second. In this work, Paige Barnes’s red, painted skin (except her face) and Monica Mata Gilliam’s yellow dress and heels, as she growled and gasped, began to present a predatory perspective of hunter and prey. Barnes’ body torqued in a frenzy of movement, her fingers walked like spiders around her body as she hovered above the floor to the haunting music. Mata faced the audience with a mouth red-smeared like a clown’s lips and she stared out with a shocked expression. Next, a projected slide show of lions and their freshly-killed prey played behind Paige as she stood and shed her clothes revealing her fully-red painted body paralleled with the bloody compositions on the screen and joined by audio of a woman speaking about indulging appetite; a compelling message.
~Nalisha Rangel, Seattle Dances

The entire piece holds its center around a boxing metaphor–or several metaphors–in which a woman is fighting with herself. The use of multiple projected images on screen behind the dancer makes this quite explicit. Then it takes a turn into a series of earthbound, sensual images that are quite striking and memorable and ends with an inversion of the first section, where the dancer begins to box with her shadow which turns out to be, well, herself of course. For me there is a connection missing between the three sections that would raise it above the obvious. I submit that the fault probably lies within me and not the wonderful Ms. Barnes, whose dancing is very beautiful.
~Omar Willey, Seattlest


“Barnes and her other soloists spent the entire performance in the awkward place between standing and sitting. She put little articulations and unconventional shapes in the foreground, taking big kinetic risks in tiny spaces. There was an undercurrent of discomfort all the way through, yet it was extremely beautiful, close-quarters work….The work has several arresting images: dancers scrambling on all fours through the maze of the audience, pausing to sink onto their haunches, then turn in the same direction as if they could smell scat with their backs; the beautiful coordination of their arms and legs in crawling; the satisfying thwap of their tails hitting the ground as they shift direction…. By rejecting standard dance maneuvers, Barnes’ piece developed a series of alternatives for human animals that were not easily categorized.”
~Sandra Kurtz, Seattle Weekly

“Set against the wistful live music of composer Christopher Hydinger, the main part of the performance unfolds through the audience itself. The dancers are almost entirely covered by their black costumes, the most notable feature of which is a prosthetic tail that brings to mind the creepy surrealist works of H.R. Giger. As the dancers weave their way through the audience, seeing how your fellow audience members are reacting is all part of the show. Choreographer Paige Barnes and Hydinger have created something really interesting here. This is immersive performance: art from all directions and engaging all of your senses. The choreography is smart and the visuals are fascinating.”
~Matthew Echert, The SunBreak

“Faceless, uniformly clothed in a black armor of sorts – complete with tails – they move like huntresses, stalking in an aimless pack. Yet human elements break though, most strikingly one forehead-to-the-ground kneeling gesture, made while grasping the head with both hands. It is powerful. It feels like watching machinery begin to malfunction.”
~Amy Mikel, Seattlest


Listed as ‘Top 3 Dance Moments of 2009’
“At Open Flight Studio, composer Christopher Hydinger had the charming idea of scheduling Ayudapii in the waning natural light of a late August sunset. Paige Barnes created a group of solos where her dancers never stood up and never laid down. Her program was all about the off-center dynamic between the vertical and the horizontal. Sitting close in the audience, we could see each shift of weight or shape cascade through several different moments. Then the sun went down, and we were done.”
~Sandra Kurtz, Seattle Weekly – ‘Top 3 Dance Moments of 2009’


The program opened with the intensely physical duet “Molt” by Seattle choreographer Paige Barnes. The energy of the dancers’ movements – fast, furious and highly articulate – stays dynamically confined within their bodies; arms and legs whipped, sliced and thrust as though sprung from a switchblade, as muscular internal moves pulsed beneath. A desolate streetscape and a video of a girl flinging herself around were projected on four scrims, juxtaposing the professional and childlike, and grainy image of dilapidation with pristine choreography.
~Camille Lefevre, Star Tribune / Minneapolis – St. Paul, Minnesota

With dizzying velocity, fluent partnering, and puzzling physical conundrums on the floor, Molt delivered the evening’s zingiest dance fireworks.
~Lisa Kraus, The Philadelphia Inquirer