Though the secret may still be contained within its borders, this city has been able to tout itself as the birthplace of one of the most innovative contemporary dance companies to come about in recent years. And on March 8 and 9, John Malashock, the creative mind behind Point Loma-based Malashock Dance, will kick off the company’s 25th anniversary season with a celebration showing just how far the company has come over the last two and a half decades.
“There have been some great things about developing in San Diego,” Malashock said. “We were starting at a point when there was a limited number of people working here. It really allowed me to find my own style, my own voice, without feeling like I was in one of those place like New York or San Francisco, where there’s so much cross-influence that it almost tends to become a little homogeneous in terms of trends.”
Malashock — who grew up in La Jolla and attended La Jolla High School before moving to New York and cultivating an enviable career with the acclaimed Twyla Tharp Dance company — said he has always relied on his own “inner vision,” as opposed to the influences of popular choreographers or companies.
“And to be honest,” he said, “it has worked for me and in some ways, it has worked against me. People tend to go for the very recognizable.”
At next month’s 25th anniversary celebration, audience members will get a taste of what Malashock has developed since he came back to his home town in 1988. Though the performance won’t necessarily reflect on the company’s past — though half of the show will revisit an earlier work — it will show the innovation Malashock brings to the stage. Showing his penchant for blending different art forms, Malashock will collaborate with a locally grown musician, the internationally acclaimed pianist Gustavo Romero. Titled “A Man Found Wanting,” the work will blend Romero’s live interpretation of Leos Janecek’s piano suites with a series of solos, duets, trios and quartets danced by his company members. Malashock calls the work “intimate and emotional,” in line with Janecek’s haunting musical score.
The other half of the show will see a resurrection of “Fathom: The Body as Universe,” originally staged in 2006 in collaboration with Japanese artist Junko Chodos. Though he didn’t want to parade only works that he had created in the past for the anniversary show, Malashock said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to revive “Fathom.”
“[‘Fathom’] was one of the most memorable works we’ve done,” he said. “I wasn’t interested in a retrospective. I tend to be more forward looking, always looking at the next project rather than looking back, and I was certainly not going to pull out something I had done 15 or 25 years ago. But ‘Fathom’ was really a thrilling production, and I felt like people would appreciate seeing that again.”
As for his tendency to blur the lines between music, dance and visual art (he has collaborated with the Old Globe Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego Opera and the San Diego Museum of Art, to name a few), Malashock said that, apart from creating an experience unique to anything else, it also pulls together audiences who may appreciate only one of the different forms in one universal event.
“Part of it is that I like mixing my style of work with something else’s. It makes for a different animal entirely,” he said. “I love making my own productions as well, but I like the expanded vision sometimes, where it’s more than just me and my choreography. I also like drawing on the energy of other artists, brainstorming and inspiring each other. And on a more practical level, I like reaching audiences other than our regular dance audience.”
So how has a quarter-century of developing his vision in San Diego shaped him, especially considering the tendency of the art and dance world to overlook anything south of LA?
“I’ll admit it places some limitations,” he said. “I’m aware of not having the caché of being a New York-based dance company, especially since most of my career was in New York. But like anything, there are pluses and minuses. [Being located in San Diego] also creates an element of surprise. When work comes out of here that’s of a certain caliber, it gets noticed.”
Malashock Dance will present its first 25th anniversary performance on March 8 and 9 at the Birch North Park Theatre, 2891 University Ave. Proceeds from the show will benefit the organization as a whole, including its educational programs like Academics in Motion, Math in Motion and Dance with thisABILITY!, which partners with St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center to introduce people with disabilities to dance. For tickets or more information, visit www.malashockdance.org.