Keith Glassman is a gentle-spirited choreographer with a hard-core aversion to hyped performance energy. A veteran of the New York troupes of Kenneth Rinker and Bebe Miller of the 1980s, Glassman keeps it cool and low key. I find his witty body-puzzles and multicultural noodlings honest and engaging.
Lately he’s been staging dance happenings in the cafes of Los Angeles County. There he finds a distractable audience of satellite laptop workers who glance up from their Macs to peruse the scene. It’s out of context, unanticipated, and the audience is not primed. Los Angeles County Arts Commission likes Glassman’s guerrilla art concept, and has supported it with a grant.
White afternoon sunlight poured through the big glass window to animate Glassman’s dancers at Cafe de Leche in Highland Park on Wednesday.
His choreography has a whimsical tone. In a signature work, “White Guy Swell Dance,” Sara Fenton balances on a modest folding chair while enacting a mellow ride on a surfing-friendly wave. The echo-chamber sound-score of Tibetan chanting helps focus the cafe’s web-surfers onto a dance about wave-surfing.
Glassman’s duet, “Slip Knot,” set to a tremulous Maria Callas aria from Bellini’s “Norma” has Ms. Fenton literally all over her partner, Louie Cornejo. She climbs him like a mountain, up one side of his body and down the other, her feet never touching the ground. The joke is enhanced because Fenton is a good deal taller than her sturdy partner.
All the ambient happenstance of cafe goings-on — new arrivals unnerved by an art happening, a crying baby, the noise and smell of spurting espresso machines, auto traffic streaming across York Avenue — flavor the performance. As does the chocolate drizzled atop the delicious cafe mocha.