Oklahoma Contemporary


A performance view shows two people in the foreground. They are facing away from the camera while one holds the other in their arms like they have passed out. In the background we can see a person on a landline phone. Everyone is dressed in shades of red.

New Light

April 30, 2024

Exploring Life and Death through RED

“Come as you are and experience it in a way that’s authentic to you”

A performance view shows three people dressed in shades of red with large red feather fans dancing together, leaning and stretching in varying directions. In front of them sits a hand-made dummy in a chair facing the performers as if watching.

Performance view of RED

What does it mean to be alive? To be human? To be queer? What role does death play in life? In our identities? How might our perspective change when we begin to realize that maybe we aren’t in this shared experience alone? How do we find the humor? The joy? RED, an evening-length performance from 2nd Best Dance Company running May 2-4, aims to explore these notions of spectacle, sentimentality, mortality and the unknown.

“A lot of things are born of this like applying to grants and residencies,” writer, choreographer and director of RED Hannah Garner says of the performance’s origin. “I sat down to apply for this residency proposal for a space in Brooklyn. I knew I wanted it to be a play, but I didn’t think I had an entire play within me: What else can I do? I Googled fairytale. The first one that came up was [Little Red Riding Hood], and I started writing. What if I used this as a vehicle to explore the things I’m interested in? That was kind of where that idea was born from. I’m a queer person; I’m interested in exploring my own story and world values through this, so we kind of just took this story and exploded it in our own way.”

A person in a shimmery black tank is looking at herself in a movie star mirror and lifting her face with her hands.

Hannah Garner

Garner co-founded 2nd Best Dance Company in 2016 as a means of gathering all her work she had created or been a part of since graduating with a BFA from SUNY Purchase in 2015.

“One of my mentors told me, ‘Just don’t stop. Just figure out a way and keep going.’ And that’s really what I did. I’ve been making work since I graduated, and I’ve been lucky and fortunate and worked really hard to see that to continue and grow and be a big part of my life,” Garner says.

“2nd Best is kind of a messy catch-all phrase for myself mostly, and my collaborators who dance for me. I had been making work outside of school and then it became a pretty consistent group of people, so it kind of made sense to gather it all together. We were kind of exploring similar worlds and themes and ideas in a medium and a vocabulary that started to become more constant. 2nd Best is a company where anything is allowed. We are a dance company, but we also act and sing and use props and invite the audience to participate inside of the performance and use traditional spaces in nontraditional ways.”

Garner and 2nd Best aim to challenge typical ideas of theater and performance, and RED offered an avenue to do just that.

A performance view shows four performers dressed in shades of red crawling on a black surface with animalistic movements and faces

“I think we are kind of shirking some of the old dance rules of trying to be perfect untouchable beings,” Garner says. “And we are trying to be human and relatable and mirror back things about the world we are thinking about and exploring. It’s not about being the best; it’s about working really hard and maybe not getting there or taking you somewhere else in a new direction and following sensation and questioning and wondering and being curious. I feel like there is a lot of 2nd Best that came out of the creation of RED.”

RED was Garner’s first solo evening-length work she had written, made and planned. From its original conception, the intention for open-minded explorations of what it means to be human roots the performance in familiarity.

“I hope that audiences can walk away feeling like, 'I've been there. I’m seeing something on stage that is maybe something that I’ve wondered about or explored in my life,’” Garner says.

A performance view shows two people fighting, with one recently been punched and the other recently swinging the punch
Will Noling (left) and Ryan Yamauchi (right)

“I don't think that the questions we are asking are exclusively for people of queer identities — I think we are getting at what it feels like to be alive and to wonder what that means. And to think about how that ends, to think about death and how death is wrapped up in identity as well. I think I was asking myself a lot of big questions when I was making this. It’s like a constant lesson for me too, to come back to these same questions year after year. We made this piece in 2019, that was five years ago at this point. My body is different, I’m not the 25-year-old dancing in it anymore. I’m someone whose knee is [messed] up, and I’m trying to figure it out as I’m doing it.”

This evening-length work walks the fuzzy, shag-carpet line between dance performance and narrative play, leaning into both text and movement to tell an abstracted version of a well-known fictional story of survival. RED explores how we confront the many-faced “big bads” that lurk on our personal wooded paths by cycling through distinct characters, either true to the original story or entirely new. This work invites all to gawk, gag and giggle at this collective existence we call life.

A performance view shows four performers shaking hands with the audience. The performers are in shades of red and hold microphones.
Courtney Barth (center)

“We try to leave a lot of space for humor,” Garner says. “I think, specifically for a lot of dance audiences, people are expecting to come, to sit in the dark, to participate as viewer. And I think we invite laughter in a way that maybe other dance performances don’t. You are part of this as well. There are moments of audience participation — completely outlined and you can choose to participate or not — and I think our relationship with the audience challenges what people are expecting. Come as you are and experience it in a way that’s authentic to you. Just be.”

RED shows May 2-4, beginning at 7 p.m., in our Te Ata Theater. Following opening night is a post-show reception, and May 3's performance will be accompanied by a post-show discussion. Ahead of the final performance on May 4 is a FREE contemporary dance workshop with 2nd Best Dance Company. All tickets are $20 with a pay-what-you-can option. Find more info here and be prepared for a fantastic and magical experience.


Performance view of RED, including performers Will Noling and Ryan Yamauchi. Photo: Max Hill.

Performance view of RED. Photo: Adan Carlo.

Artist Hannah Garner. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Performance view of RED, including performers Courtney Barth, Hannah Garner, Will Noling and Ryan Yamauchi. Photo: Adan Carlo.

Performance view of Will Noling (left) and Ryan Yamauchi (right). Photo: Adan Carlo.

Performance view of RED's audience participation, including Courtney Barth (center). Photo: Max Hill.

Tags tags
dance dance theater performance performance art contemporary artists contemporary art

Return to New Light.


Monday 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Closed Tuesday

Wednesday 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Thursday 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Friday - Sunday 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

see additional holidays


Visit us at 11 NW 11th St.
Oklahoma City, OK 73103
Phone: 405 951 0000
Fax: 405 951 0003

Oklahoma Contemporary
P.O. Box 3062
Oklahoma City, OK 73101

Newsletter Signup

Join our mailing list to learn about our events, exhibitions, education and more.