Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: A Poet, a Musician and A Dancer Walk into a Coffeehouse. . .

This Friday night (the first Friday I have had available in what seems like an eternity), I got into my little gold Nissan Sentra, Google-mapped the Kaldi Coffee Shop and headed out of suburbia and into the city for a performance produced by Keith Glassman Dance and Performance

I had taken a Glassman movement class once a couple years back at the Annenberg House.  I knew he liked working with diverse dancers and even "non-dancers," and since that is right up my alley, I thought the adventure, costing only gas and the price of my Matcha Latte, was well worth it. 

The performance space was a typical small coffee shop, hip with organic teas, vegan cookies, and decorative cactus.  The show started with a poet, Santa Perversa, a Chicana poet who specializes in erotic poetry and bilingual poems.  The acoustics of the shop were less than ideal, so I missed much of her wordsmithing, which was a little frustrating. However, she hit her stride in her self love/ erotic series in which her performance carried the words effortlessly through the space.  This reminded me how the sentiment and delivery can make communication so easy in difficult performances spaces.

The second segment of the show was a duet choreographed by Keith Glassman in collaboration with the two performers.  The female performer, Klyda Mahoney is a stately performer, at ease in her skin.  I was not surprised that she is a mature dancer (I found out online that she is an impressive septuagenarian).  And, I bring up her age in celebration of the dancer. I loved seeing this beautiful woman moving through the space, clad in a brown tie dyed skirt, hip wrap, ankle rattle and painted red palms.  Her simple movement vocabulary was rich with references to tribal and folk dance forms, often traveling with rhythmic steps: small, patient, elegant, purposeful. 

The piece started with a recorded spoken word piece (which I couldn't make out very well because of the recording and the coffee shop noise).  What I did manage to capture were clear references to light and dark, white (man?) and black.  After her initial circling around the audience, she surprised the audience with a beautifully sung, blues-based scat.  Her voice was clear and vibrant.  She was then joined by a fantastic saxophonist, Charles Sharp (whose circular breathing was quite impressive to me-- How do they do that??).  Thus began the duet, an exchange of movement, gesture and sound.  Sharp moved as well (while continuing to play) even laying down at one point and sitting back up with no aural indication of his effort.  Mahoney, then sang her blues scat again, painting her dark skin with white paint, reinforcing the tribal references both Native American, but also perhaps Australian Aboriginal. But, the blues harmonics kept me glued into the African American story as well. It seemed a dance of loss, mourning, power and solidarity.  I am sure if I heard the opening spoken word again I would have more context for the work, but as it was, even without a title or a context, the piece was a successful celebration of pairing music and movement in time and space.

The last segment of the hour long show was a Jazz trio including Charles Sharp on saxophone as well and a finessed drummer and technically savvy bassist.  If you have never heard avant garde jazz, their style may have been a surprise, but for those who thrive off of the avant garde jazz style, this trio is for you.  The first piece started off with a thick and harried texture, frenetic on all accounts, as each musician rallied their energy in bursts of activity.  The piece settled into a groovy swing  that was then extra satisfying after the quite shocking opening section.  The second piece was more atmospheric in tone, allowing more space and laying out a horizon of sound that for me as a choreographer was very inviting. 

I had to leave at that point, my parking meter had run out because the show had started a bit late so I needed to get going.  But, the adventure overall gets a thumbs up. My favorite points being:

1.  Shared stage time with words, dance and music
2.  A beautiful mature dancer who exemplified fearlessness
3.  Avant garde jazz (which I haven't enjoyed live in ages)
4. Dance in an unexpected and untraditional space

The audience (some unsuspecting) got a taste of the performing arts that are gritty and gusty in that Post Modern, make-a-statement kind of way.  In a time when dancing on TV has become so popular, these informal, unglittered performances are the real gems.  They challenge how we view the arts, why we view the arts and just how far we are willing to take ourselves away from the feel good commercialized world to discover something new about ourselves and the world around us. 

Conclusion: See more live arts! And, be prepared for the unexpected.

They have two more performances in this series: Click Here for info.

Note: I am sorry I didn't get the names of the two other musicians, they really were excellent. So please, if you know their names, share it with the other readers in a comment below (and I will update the blog post as well)

Did you see the performance? What did you think?  What shocked, surprised, impressed you?  What did it get you thinking about? What did you order at the counter?


  1. Thanks for the nice review! The drummer was Alan Cook and the bass player was Anthony Shadduck.

  2. Dr. Klyda Hill Mahoney happens to be Ms Senior California of 2002 who placed fourth for Ms Senior America in Beloxi MS. She teaches Dance, Aerobotis and sings Gospel, Jazz, Opera and is one hell of a person.

  3. Dear Charles and Captain Bill, Thanks for the additional information. I love having extra input about the show, performers and other insights observations! I look forward to seeing you all in performance again soon!