An oddball, but successful, pairing

ON DISPLAY: Arm gestures, jaunty kicks and fancy footwork.
ON DISPLAY: Arm gestures, jaunty kicks and fancy footwork.
(Ken Hively, Los Angeles Times)
Special to The Times

It was a night of love, hate and the power of movement. Some dreams were crushed, others were realized; and it all took place under the stars -- and on the towers, literally -- of the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood. In an oddball but successful pairing, a concert Friday titled “Sans Detour” featured the emerging talents of two husband-and-wife-teams: Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project and Catch Me Bird.

The former, directed by Esther Baker-Tarpaga and Olivier Tarpaga, drew on Tarpaga’s roots in the West African country of Burkina Fasa. “Gnama Gnama Mana Mana Kono/Disorder Inside Order,” choreographed by Tarpaga with assistance from his wife and Wilfried Souly, was inspired by events after the 1998 assassination of Norbert Zongo, a Burkinabe journalist who had exposed government corruption. Merging a West African dance vocabulary with a postmodern sensibility, the simplest moves in this work -- body-slapping, quaking arms and rhythmic hops -- turned into unifying forces, and group spoonings and arched backs emerged as portraits of resilience.

Tarpaga, as a metaphorical victim, resembled a punch-drunk fighter, rising and falling; his nemesis was a wandering Souly, who repeatedly tried to squeeze the life from him. Josette Wiggan, Laurel House, Shelley Wilcox and Baker-Tarpaga provided sustenance for him and themselves with unison arm gestures, jaunty kicks and determined footwork.

Live music enhanced the emotional tableaux. Ibrahim Boro sang plaintively, his guitar twangs resonating; Amadou Kienou’s drumming throbbed; and Michael West’s keyboard vamps (West also designed the sound) were awash with pain and promise.


Coincidentally, a promise that Nehara Kalev and C. Derrick Jones made to each other four years ago during onstage wedding vows at the Wilshire Ebell was what brought them to the Ford on Friday. Suspended from each of two 60-foot proscenium towers, the dancers known as Catch Me Bird began their work, “Silk” (the element associated with marriage’s fourth year), as a way to renew those vows. Strewing rose petals while hanging upside down may not be the average couple’s idea of nuptial heaven, but for Kalev and Jones, apparently, it helped keep the relationship alive and, well, kicking.

Accompanied by a lush taped score by Ry Welch, the dancers worked their way down many yards of red fabric, assuming a variety of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” poses. They were then seen in silhouette performing an aerial dance while ensconced in two interlocking hoops that resembled Tiffany love knots.

Once on terra firma, though -- and on a set representing rooms in a house -- Kalev and Jones entered the banalities of daily life: They talked while preparing a meal; they revealed anxieties in the bathroom (she’s a list-maker, he’s disorganized); they bounced on and around a black leather couch.

There were mini-duets between talking points, with lunging, lifting and improvisational push-pull antics. But when “Silk” veered into audience participation mode, the mood, however celebratory, got lost in a too-cute theatrical shuffle. It was only after the stage was cleared of ordinary mortals and the couple took to the air again in a single spinning hoop that art resurfaced and all was right with the world.