Malashock Dance: Inspired, Athletic and Beautiful
By Jeff Britton
The Oct. 10 and 11 presentations of “Surface Tension”, Malashock’s latest ode to the seemingly limitless possibilities of how the human body can be shaped, stretched and choreographed into unlikely contortions, seemed to win over audiences nicely at downtown’s Lyceum Theatre.
The program, which included two world premieres, was a rather poignant look at relationships, told in the language of abstract athleticism and inspired impressionism. For longtime fans (Malashock’s been doing this for 22 years in San Diego), it was familiar turf: the push-pull of intimacy and the need for trust and compromise to keep it thriving.
Opening with “After Dust,” a triptych of two duets and a work for a trio, Malashock parallels the state of houses and human relationships. In the first, Christine Marshall and Theresa Anton display amazing upper body strength as they alternated in lifting each other in various ways. The message here was that both houses and people are in different states of deterioration and require loving attention to keep them viable. The women displayed a touching tenderness in their movements.
At first the strident strings of a recorded score by the Kronos Quartet seemed to overwhelm the dancers, but by the time the two guys took over, the music seemed more harmonious and complementary.
Bradley R. Lundberg and Nicholas Strasburg bore each other on their backs, displayed trust in flying leaps into the other’s arms and turned their ample torsos into fulcrums and seesaws. While kneeling, Lundberg lifts Strasburg over his head and just holds him there, a sight that is beautiful and sculptural. Perhaps they are meant to represent a house’s firm foundation, albeit one with cracks developing. The choreography is a nice balance of habit and adventure, a paradox of the tried-and-true with the need for adventure and striking out in a new direction.
By the time Michael Mizerany, Christine Marshall and Theresa Anton brought the work to an amicable conclusion, this world premiere had shown its hand as a vehicle primarily for Malashock’s love of the athletic and his metaphors about the durability of relationships. It’s a great combination that has long endeared him to local dance fans.
Never afraid of a little theater, “Apologies from the Lower Deck” is a vintage piece that has noted British actor Ron Choularton narrating a strange tale of an inheritance in Sardinia that goes terribly wrong for five cousins who stand to gain some wealth. If nothing else, it gives the cast some of the most whimsical moves of the evening to a story line so surreal that even the central monster, a creature named Humunculus, seems ludicrous.
The choreography is exciting, demanding and fully illustrative of this odd tale, as Choularton reels off the details with rapid-fire speed. Malashock’s dancers are not typical. Some tend to be short and muscular, rather than elongated and graceful, as one finds in ballet and some modern dance troupes. This seems to inspire him to bring a lot of gymnastic moves and floor work into the dance idiom.
The evening concluded with another world premiere by Malashock principal dancer Michael Mizerany, now a choreographer in his own right as well as co-director of the company.
In “Wayward Glances,” the formula of the master has been taken to an even more high-energy, almost frenetic level at times, yet irresistibly athletic and theatrical. Solid as a fireplug, Nicholas Strasburg performed a solo that could almost qualify as an Olympic gymnastic event. The duet that followed with Blythe Barton dominating Matt Carney proved a pleasant synthesis of balletic extensions and down-home sensuality. The leaps and lifts were testament to both dancers’ skills.
Mizerany maintains the company’s tradition of emotionally charged choreography, one that can tackle the epic human struggles while remaining playful and entertaining. He used a haunting German countertenor, Klaus Nomi, to set the musical tone for his piece with a score that ranged from English opera to standards. It worked like a charm and sent the audience out with an adrenalin rush.
This more than anything else explains why Malashock Dance has been around so long and is more popular than ever with San Diegans.
For upcoming performances: www.malashockdance.org