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Guiding Rings — An Interview with Catch Me Bird

by Rachel Levin
March 8, 2010
Celebrate Dance 2010
Saturday, May 13
8:00 p.m.
The Alex Theatre
216 North Brand Boulevard
Glendale, CA 91203-2610
(818) 243-2539
Nehara Kalev and C. Derrick Jones make up the husband-wife duo Catch Me Bird, the Los Angeles-based dance company known for its aerial theatrics and what they call "reality performance." Their 2004 premiere full-length piece, "The Wedding Journey: Vows in Midair," was also their actual wedding. Since then, they've produced a new piece every year that is a real-life chronicle of their marriage journey. I caught up with Nehara and Derrick as they were preparing their piece "Guiding Rings" — which combines an aerial scene from previous work with new on-the-ground partnering and a video component — for their Saturday night performance at Celebrate Dance 2010.

Rachel Levin: Can you describe for me the aerial sculpture you perform in?

C. Derrick Jones: If you think of two circular rings intersecting each other, at the midpoint roughly, it creates this very unique shape. One circle's not coming across the other circle at ninety degrees, but it's set off at an angle. And what we say about these rings, when they're apart, that they represent Nehara's background, her lineage. She comes from an Eastern European, Jewish background. And so one ring, that intersects the other, in some ways represents her father and then represents her mother and then that whole ancestry. And then I have my ring that also intersects and one being my mother and my father. And then these actual two rings they can come together to create a globe-like structure, almost looking like the nucleus of an atom. And that represents our combined ancestry, with us being inside, representing our union and all that we encompass.

RL: How do you reinterpret your relationship each time you create a piece?

CDJ: Essentially we've created one body of work that evolves as our relationship evolves. It's really about the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times. And so constantly we're keeping ourselves informed as to the politics and how that affects us in our relationship, the diversity of our relationship, and in the world. We keep bringing these ideas back into the stage space because they're important to us.

RL: You're a couple within these various spheres of influence, from politics to current events — everything else that happens outside the relationship.

CDJ: Exactly. And there's not much that happens outside of our relationship! We live and breathe and eat . . .

Nehara Kalev: And work.

CDJ: And work and play. And all of that in our relationship comes out in our performances. We quite often say that we blur the boundary between our offstage partnership and our onstage partnership.

RL: What slice of your relationship are you exploring in this particular piece?

NK: This year is the sixth year of our union and the traditional anniversary element that's associated with the sixth year is iron. We did paper, which was the first year, and silk, and so we're up to iron. We're doing some research about how iron is in so many living things. It's in our body. People need iron; there's iron in soil. It's also very celestial — stars, the iron core of the earth. We were inspired by sort of the cosmic nature of this element. "Guiding Rings" is also an essential element of a telescope that allows you to see far flung places. And so we're also seeing our aerial structure in a new way. In that way our video that we are creating in collaboration with our video artist places this already existing aerial dance in a new context.

RL: What will the video portion of the piece include?

CDJ: If you think of motion capture systems, well, this is the low tech version, where we have these illuminating lights that have magnets and we've placed these on our bodies in our dark black costumes. [We move] in complete darkness, so you see an outline of what could be a body, but they look like stars moving in space, which is us really moving around. We actually put on harnesses to capture the flying aspect. So we're actually excited to see what happens from that, because it's the first time that we've done that.

NK: We kind of ran with the idea of turning ourselves into constellations and turning our own bodies into that sort of celestial material and fusing that with our own movement projected on the screen as we're moving in our harnesses.

CDJ: And I think another part of the theme…is just romance. When you fall in love with someone, and you are in love with someone, quite often you see the scenes of people outside at night looking at the stars, and the stars provide infinite possibilities. And as relationships also grow we like to think that there are infinite possibilities as we continue to grow together. And I think it's important that because we're artists we allow each other to grow individually and we allow our relationship to grow as well together from that individual place. We support each other. And there are these infinite possibilities that are happening and it's quite a nice place to be in, because we [are] on some level, I guess, pioneers, the way that we are creating work that is about our life, which is about creating art.

RL: What do you hope the audience takes away from the piece?

NK: I feel like what we really want to do is just ignite. I think the word "ignite" comes to mind, like that sense of possibility, that sense of love taking flight. Our tagline for Catch Me Bird is "Love takes flight"…that metaphor of helping each other reach new heights, helping the people you love in your life rise up to their fullest potential.

CDJ: Actually that reminds me that we're looking at creating another show…in about a year from now — "Conception." And we'll leave your imagination to decipher what that could mean.

For more information about Catch Me Bird, please visit www.catchmebird.com

For more information about Celebrate Dance 2010, please visit www.celebratedance.org
Nehara Kalev and C. Derrick Jones

Nehara Kalev and C. Derrick Jones

Photo © & courtesy of Eric Bandiero

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