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Dance review: Catch Me Bird at the Ford Amphitheatre

August 15, 2010 | 12:00 pm

CatchMeBird Where is Snooki when you really need her?  Seriously, it's bad enough that reality TV has seemingly taken over the airwaves, but must it seep onto the stage, as well?  In an ego-driven, rudderless theatrical offering ripped from the headlines of their own misguided minds, the husband-and-wife team C. Derrick Jones and Nehara Kalev -- the dancers known as Catch Me Bird --- presented a shambles of a show Friday at the Ford Amphitheatre.

Dubbed “Iron,” the element associated with the sixth year of marriage, the two-hour premiere featured incessant blathering, uninspired contact improvisational segments, Sara Stranovsky singing horribly off-key, composer Ry Welch quasi-rapping, and, well, the list goes on.  Oh, yes, there were several Catch Me Bird signature aerial numbers, but even those felt like reruns.

The Champagne bubbles have fizzled.  Having exchanged wedding vows in midair in 2004 as part of a dance-theater performance, the pair has continued to mine their relationship for art in a series of so-called reality concerts.  At this point, however, a marriage counselor seems to be in order -- or, at the very least, a director, choreographer and script doctor.

Credit them with guts, though, as during the opening sequence, the light-festooned pair dangled in the dark from each of two 60-foot proscenium towers that frame the Ford stage.  But for them to get out of their Spider-Man gear and into more comfy clothes, they needed time -- and video filler. In the first of many split-screen images, Jones and Kalev spouted existential musings (“Optimism is not optimism but fantasy…”) before taking to the air again.

CatchFordWearing harnesses and suspended by a rope, they floated, missionary style, with Jones on top.  During this Houdini-esque bit, they spun, they posed, they rose, they kissed, until they eventually touched ground, after which more videos (yawn) were shown. With the set representing rooms in a house, there were kitchen and bathroom scenes wherein the couple continued yammering -- about the Iraq war, gay marriage, polar bears drowning. They also fiddled with pots and pans in a prelude to exchanging anniversary gifts, all made out of iron, when irony would have been preferable. The amateurish act ended with a trio playing live music that smacked of bad jazz.

After intermission, Jones and Kalev, again airborne, twirled in two interlocking rings, before guest artists arrived: Crystal and David Zibalese moved around and on top of a table and chairs; Rachael Lincoln and Mark Stuver, in their own choreography, rappelled down a tower while talking; and six couples dragged themselves onstage to participate in a faux dance marathon. The final number featured Jones and Kalev reprising their aerial “love-knot” dance but now in silhouette.

How this show got green-lighted is a mystery.  The couple would be wise to call in a fertility specialist for next year's edition, “Conception."

-- Victoria Looseleaf

Photos: Catch Me Bird at the Ford Amphitheatre. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times


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Comments () | Archives (29)

While I didn't see this performance I have seen Jones and Kalev perform before, and they have great skill as performers and choreographers. Perhaps this performance was terrible as Looseleaf suggests, but she does no good through her snarkiness. Perhaps she should have stayed home and watched "Jersey Shore" since that seems to be the most important cultural touching stone for her.

Looseleaf shames herself with this review - viciousness, snarkiness, and mean-spiritedness do not make for intelligent commentary. I think that this Snookie she references would be a better and more nuanced reviewer.

Jones and Kalev - ignore this idiot.

Why is it that some critics see bile and vitriol as part of their mission?
Perhaps is a trait common to these reviewers who are themselves failed artists (check out Looseleaf’s New Age Harp effort –Harpnosis (sic!) and seek to exorcise their frustration by savaging the real guys. These desperate attempts at still appearing creative using spite and malice are pathetic, and the negativity, the misery they exude, toxic.

Granted the show, very ambitious, would have benefited from being more together, and one is entitled to have felt a bit overwhelmed with the mixed media bits which were at times distracting, and prone to the occasional glitch. However, the evening was extremely enjoyable; Kalev and Jones are remarkable artists who constantly work on their craft, have the courage of taking risks, and who know they have way enough talent so as to never have to resort to becoming a mean little scribe who relishes in slashing and smashing just because she can.
And by the way, not only was the gift exchange scene ironic, but it was hilarious and had the amphitheater in stitches.

It was an exceptional night full of surprises. Looseleaf obviously just didn't get it...as someone who went to show I felt a part of the art, the experience and the celebration. Of course, there could always be things that were worked out a little better (they only had one night of performance to get it all right) but Jones & Kalev always do an incredible job of having the audience be a part of the journey with them. Those who attended, with the exception of this critic, enjoyed a magical evening. Not only was the show entertainingly funny, it was ambitious and something new that stimulated the senses. Maybe the show wasn't perfect, but it was most definitely unforgettable in a good way!

I loved the show and I love the artistry of this dancing couple. I am not sure you saw the same performance that we did. The tone of your review is sarcastic and revengeful and belittles 2 people who obviously worked very hard to make this happen. The comedy is hilarious and the aerial dance sequences are amazing, the gift exchange was hilarious.
We want to see more from this duo!

This performance was riveting. It was full of genuine passion, heartwarming scenes, witty commentary, and stupendous dancing. It is important for this kind of work to be seen at a time like this, and I am sure that these artists will rise to the top of the international performance scene.

As for Ms. Looseleaf, she might have better career luck as a writer for the trashiest tabloids on the planet.

People can have different experiences at shows, but I saw a 30-minute preview of "Iron" at the Hollywood Fringe and loved it. I look forward to seeing Jones and Kalev's next show.

i loved the show! why is she saying this? i don't get it. and i also loved the singer Ry, his tunes are so catchy!. the only thing that kinda made me roll my eyes was when they started talking about politics, could have done without.

Victoria Looseleaf is a bully. She has proven with this one article to be incompetent in her profession. Although, she is exercising her freedom of speech, she should be accountable for just being mean. It is wrong, flat out.
It reminds me so clearly of the classroom, and the kids who make good grades are tortured by the ones who are not willing or able to perform academically.

This review is an example of childhood bullying. It is concerning that such nasty speech continues to occur in the LA Times. I knew what I was doing, when I refused to take a subscription of this newspaper.

The quality of this review by Victoria has proven to me that she must be envious of the talented and gorgeous couple who are true artists in regard to talent and also in regard to taking risks. History has shown that all of the greatest minds were risk takers.

Those who challenge themselves by keeping their heads in the gutter, that is exactly where there minds remain in the gutter. In addition, such negative words can become a part of cellular memory and will only attract more negative.
So, Ms. Looseleaf, it is true, when you dig ditches for others, it is bad and nothing good will come of it.

My advice to Looseleaf is this, stop writing if you can only air out negativity that is not valid.
Our society ought to support marriage, not just support gay marriage. We need to support those who have made the serious commitment of being lifelong.

I ask you this? How many people get on stage with their spouse and tell a story? Your review does not address the talent these couples have, the education they have, the training they have, and also the commitment they have.

One should ask this, should those who do not have degrees in review be allowed to review? Although I am not certain of that, I do know this, the LA Times should not be a source to abuse others in a literary fashion.

This reviewer and many other reviewers only wish they have enough talent to get on the stage or have the perseverance to complete a work of art. But, since so many wanna be's can't or won't, they jump to the opportunity to criticize those who do what this couple did.

Also, the suggestion that the couple call in a fertility specialist is so offensive towards the performers and also couples who are struggling with infertility that it is beyond words.

Last Friday's performance was a true feast for the visual sense from bright lights on a black wall, to oven pans that stuck to the performers bodies. Contemplating life through a commode or through an oven were unique perspective for a truly imaginative stage play.

Performance art meets Dance meets Reality Stage meets acrobatics meets Ford Amphitheater. Absolutely brilliant, marvelous and awe inspiring.

The story about the ups-and-downs of marriage left food for thought for days to come. A truly memorable experience.
I applaud the players of this show and I highly recommend it to others.

I have seen lots of dance and performance over the years, even in Europe, and I will remember this Friday's Ford Amphitheatre performance for a long time. The topic of the realities of marriage now enduring into the sixth year is relevant.

Mr. Jones and Ms. Kalev exhibited bodily endurance, compelling movements, live original music, video, language; and overcome their fear of heights and the realities of their marriage. It was profound at times and trivial at times, like some marriages. I enjoyed the choreography, music, and dancers/performers. It was heartfelt, funny and engaging. They are worth checking out if you have the chance. There is no one like them that I have seen.

Over the years I have been astounded by the way that Ms. Looseleaf sees, and her willingness to forego educating herself in order to better understand the dance art now emerging in Los Angeles. Where she could be of service, could offer a much needed critical yet supportive eye, she often decides to feign disinterest, excuse herself from any responsibility to engage the work, or just say she did not like it.

But NEVER have I witnessed her so obviously attempt to eviscerate a company. This is startling.

Just for comparison, her review of Viver Brasil, a show which she admitted needed "trimming" still managed to be a very even handed, if not positive review. They are getting ready to tour, and Ms. Looseleaf's review is a welcomed contribution to that endeavor. But Catch Me Bird is interested in touring, too, and this review positions itself to block any future work for this daring company.

a moment of direct address to the writer:
Let's assume, Ms. Looseleaf, that you simply like your dance straight up, no talk, no media and no direct address to the audience. Fine. Removing those elements from consideration would not eviscerate "Iron," however, as the physical prowess, technical execution, and artistic risk-taking were all quite high. Could you not find it in yourself to address those positive attributes with as much verve as your dislike for what you thought were unnecessary trappings?

I could psychoanalyze the corpus of Ms. Looseleaf's reviews in a style as acrid and mean spirited as her review, but that is not an effective use of time. Such an article would only manage to silence newer critics and stifle the much needed exchange between dance artists and local critics. We should help develop each other.

No, instead, I would like to do something else:

"Victoria Looseleaf needs to retire as dance critic from the LA Times in a manner far more graceful than her review of Catch Me Bird Dance Theater's "Iron." The assertion that they call in a fertility specialist for next year's show is despicable. She needs to be done. NOW."

Retire, Ms. Looseleaf. Do us all a favor. I'll send you a loving card to mark the occasion.

Dr. Anna B. Scott

Is this reviewer the same woman who had that God-awful public access show?

If so, why is she critiquing anyone? Let alone, a wonderful show that while flawed was a wonderful expression of love and artistry.

Could the 2nd act have use a little editing? Sure.

But it was still an original, very personal statement by two amazing dancers.

IRON was an amazing, thrilling and humorous event of which I do not regret a single minute of attendance.The aerial and the ground choreographies were well-commposed, athletic, aesthetic and by no means "yawn". I really laughed about the present-giving sequence and the online-guru, among other things. The shift of perspective though the aerial dance was really breathtaking. It is a pity that so mny newspaper readers now got an obviously biased and misleading information. Nehara and Jones, ignore it and move on !

This review is shockingly uneducated for someone writing for the LA Times. First of all, she's discussing her opinion of the genre used rather than discussing levels of quality within the genre. (Like going to a classical ballet performance and complaining that the dancers all kept their spines straight and didn't go down to the floor.) Then - the cardinal sin for a critic - the majority of her comments were criticisms of taste. Her personal taste should be irrelevant to her reviewing skills.

The performance I saw was breathtakingly beautiful, witty, insightful, and clever; and Jones and Kalev moved with fearless grace. The audience was responding favorably throughout the evening, and cheering at the end.

The LA Times should choose writers that know the craft. A review doesn't have to be flattering, but it does have to be intelligent.

I can not believe this review! I was at this performance and
I thought the show was fantastic! It was better than I had hoped. This reviewer obivously doesn't know anything about what "Catch me Bird" is or maybe she is just insane. Whatever her problem, she's way off base here. These performances are amazing and very moving. I loved every minute of IRON and I'm as jaded as they come. This just proves how disfuncual reviewers are. We don't have many artist like these two in LA, we should be very nice to them. They give us something we've never seen before.

I was at this performance and it was wonderful. This reviewer is way off base here. I can't believe she has a job doing this. CATCH ME BIRD does something totally different and we should embrace them for that. I loved every minute of this performance. I thought it was amazing.

Those who can, do. Those who can't, become vitriolic critics. Apparently, Ms Looseleaf is in love with the shallowness and predictability of her own limited artistic perceptions of what's "best", what's "hot" and what's "not." Hold up the mirror, Ms Looseleaf. Let me know if cultural vampires reflect an image.

Ho ho ho! The Dreaded Dragon is at it again. Poison Pen, yes, art review, no. Why is Looseleaf still sent on critique assignments by the Times? We don't need personal raves that do nothing but titillate those who love detruction derby.

What a surprise: another snarky, bitter, jaded, and poorly written review by the inglorious Victoria Looseleaf. This is precisely why members of the upcoming generations like myself don’t care to subscribe anymore to what shriveled opinions some of the so-called reporters and reviewers of the Los Angeles Behind-the-Times put forth. Is she what they mean by the monster in Culture Monster – frightening indeed! Good-bye tired old rusty media, hello 21st Century alternatives, but thanks for all the fish and the ability to leave comments. Words as weapons of mass obstruction and those who write such drivel belong ejected alongside past presidents and their pathetic legacy. Can such critics of the world not leave such vile and bile sentiments behind and embrace the new? Obviously not, as it seems this type of writing infects even me so as I must express my own pent up frustration with a humanity that fails time and time again to evolve toward any kind of actual change in the status quo. Now, as a person who possesses both a brain that can actually function to properly analyze a sophisticated piece of theatre and a heart that understands what it means to be in a long-term loving relationship, I enjoyed the show. But since the jealousy over the performers abilities to command both the sky and the stage for the evening was obviously shouting out from between the lines of the review along side a general Grinch-iness, I will attempt to possess more heart for her and stop the critic critique and get on with the show.

As was apparent from overwhelming amount of “oo’s and ah’s,” laughter and the standing ovation, IRON proved to be a crowd-pleasing mix of awe-inspiring dance and aerial work with poignant and humorous, reality based meta-theatrics. It’s a refreshing pleasure to watch a couple deal with the ups and downs of their relationship literally and figuratively in such an inventive manner. While reality television and media continues to be mere empty indulgence, Catch Me Bird elevates the form to new heights alongside the performers bodies. While it wasn’t as balanced or as completely polished as some of their previous work, Derrick and Nehara obviously know how to pull off a layered piece of theatre that requires both physical skill and intellectual savvy. The show knew just when to show off the spectacle, then deliver depth about modern situations, then offer us comforting laughs, then spectacle again. Yes, a few of the video pieces went on too long, but rarely do works of dance or multimedia let the audience have fun with the performers like Catch Me Bird does time and time again. Whether they are in the air, scaling walls, or with feet on the stage, their dances leave you wishing you could do it too (which I noticed is fortunate that we can by taking an upcoming workshop called Soar).

As for the music of the evening, what struck me was that it was so diverse! I may not possess the most trained ear for music, but I found myself moving along in the seat most of the night. My lover whispered in my ear that he loved the ethereal music during the aerial sequences and wished we had it for doing yoga. While Randy Jackson would have called the singer “pitchy”, it had a whimsical charm to it not unlike Bjørk or Rufus that I didn’t mind, but some of us like quirky voices as opposed to the rubber stamp of most American Idols. As Derrick did a groovy dance to some hip-hop music that sounded like it came direct from the radio, I was completely surprised to look over and find it being sung live on stage by a white guy in a suit. The fact that all or most of the music they used throughout the evening was composed by one guy is an astounding feat. Such an artist should be praised for his abilities, not reprimanded by bitter incapable harpists (oops, I lost myself there again).

But a reader shouldn’t have to take my words or anybody else’s for what they missed. It’s the type of evening that really needs to be experienced and rarely gets a chance to blossom in this form. Catch Me Bird produces a show that nobody else does in combination like they do. I can think of few other performances that I could recommend to all audiences. Their work is reaffirming of what it means to be alive and in love, with one foot planted firmly on the ground and another lifting off into the air to do incredible things. I hope we’ll get to see them fly for years to come.

I was at the show, “Iron,” and I have to agree with Looseleaf. It's not that the couple aren't talented, but this performance did not hold up. I happen to see there show two years ago and thought that this was too similar. The aerial work was practically the same (shouldn't an artist grow), and I had to scratch my head, thinking, ‘Didn’t they do this kitchen, bathroom stuff before?’ Sometimes an artist needs a third eye (something Nehar talked about), to shape a show. A critic should fasilitate conversation, which is what Looseleaf obviously did, so take her points and be done with it. I am a huge fan of dance and I will always support them, maybe they need to consider their audience more and not just themselves.

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