Sans Detour Dance Review - Performance Art That Gives Inkling of Hope for Those in Search of Something New in LA

                            

A one night only gust of ingenious performance art passed through the Ford Amphitheatre this Friday, September 5, 2008.  Sans Detour, a combined two act “dance” performance, featured the works of Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project and Catch Me Bird reality-based performance group.  The evening was as diverse and eclectic as the founders and performers of the pieces of which it was composed. 

Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project opened the evening precisely on time with Gnama Gnama Mana Mana Kono/Disorder Inside Order.  Setting the tone with the combined use of various performance elements rather than strict dance, the piece was inspired by the events following the assassination of Norbert Zongo in 1998.  Zongo, a Burkinabe journalist, exposed corruption masked by government officials.  The piece used lack of motion as equally in its forty-five minutes as it did actual motion.  Stillness, pedestrian movements and scene-like moments composed the fabric of this performance.

Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project

                                                       I will say I admired the bravery and unparalleled voice of Olivier Tarpaga, the director, choreographer, co-founder and star of Gnama Gnama; Los Angeles sees far too little originality in its theatres.  To that extent, however, my passion hesitantly ends.  The piece was, in my eyes, an often-muddy collection of movements aimed to serve an idea that was, disappointingly, all too unrealized. 

The actual dance, when it thankfully appeared, was actually quite nice- a wonderful mix of both modern and, West African-inspired dance.  This combination gave birth to beautiful contractions and broad flowing motion.  The movement, however, was infrequent and often too repetitive. 

In the stillness and performance moments, futhermore, performers seemed overly engaged beyond belief.  Specific events, like when a newspaper was torn to shreds on stage, became excuses for uncontrolled convulsions and seemingly unchoreographed brutality.  I am all for surrendering rules and breaking boundaries, however, unpondered details and lack of form rendered the idea lost to disarray.  Good ideas, great base, too many holes.

A live instrumental group provided the fantastic treat of captivating music.  Deceptively complex though seemingly simplistic, the group used instruments like the Djembe drum in combination with a keyboard sound design and vocal performance by Amadou Kienou.  The blend of sounds was captivating.

Catch Me Bird was founded by C. Derrick Jones and Nehara Kalev

                                                        Act two featured C. Derrick Jones and Nehara Kalev, founders of Catch Me Bird Dance Theater, in SILK.  The two person duet - well more when you calculate audience participation and creatively used stage hands- centered around the live renewal of vows by the couple who are actually married offstage.  Jones and Kalev married four years ago in an unprecedented performance piece in Los Angeles.

This was, quite pleasantly, unlike anything I’ve seen.  The two combined aerial aerobatics, breath-taking partnering, live performance monologues and video to capsulate the exploration of their relationship.  The piece started with an absolutely serene dance piece that occurred on the sixty-foot towers of the amphitheatre as the couple harnessed their way down the edges.   And the whole piece was filled with robust scenes of monologue and dance throughout a kitchen, bathroom and living room couch.    

What was most striking, however, was the brutal honesty with which their relationship was explored.  They acknowledged not only the happiness of four years, but the developing disagreements and the minor annoyances that compose any relationship. 

Derrick Jones and Nehara Kalev are Catch Me Bird Dance Theater (Photo by Alyssa Nicol)

                                                         From their innovative use of space to the symbolic marriage of rings or even the actual dinner cooked and served onstage to participating audience members, Jones and Kalev illustrated the truly mastered depth and development of their souls.  Their performance ended the night with an optimistic high and refreshing inspiration to any socially involved and hopeless romantic patron of the twenty first century.

Look out for both companies should either land in a local theatre again.  Despite any flaws, the fresh air is welcomed and quite stimulating. 

Sans Detour performed on Friday, September 5, 2008.

www.btdanceproject.com

www.catchmebird.com

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