Unorthodox choreographer keeps doors open

His striped oxford shirts and graying hair make him appear more like a modest businessman than a modern dance maker. But Michael Mizerany, the man known for steering Malashock Dance, sexy partnering, and juicy theater collaborations, is unabashedly provocative.

“In most of my work, I try to elicit a visceral response,” Mizerany said “and I try to align myself with dancers, actors, and directors who break rules and boundaries.”

The choreographer often creates flawed, sympathetic characters desperate for love, and he asks dancers to take tremendous physical risks.

Michael Mizerany keeps a busy calendar producing and choreographing for dance programs and theater. Courtesy photo.

Michael Mizerany keeps a busy calendar producing and choreographing for dance programs and theater. Courtesy photo.

“Partnering is all about trust, and I got a lot of ideas from John Malashock,” Mizerany said. “I took it all in.”

Mizerany joined Malashock Dance when he moved to San Diego in 2004. After 15 seasons, four as artistic director, he left in February, sort of.

“My leaving had nothing to do with John (Malashock),” Mizerany said, “but I couldn’t do marketing and social media anymore.”

Mizerany joined Visionary Dance Theatre as resident choreographer and teacher, but he’s still teaching at the Malashock school and assisting with productions. And this week he made a big announcement.

“I’m going to turn 50, so I’m reluctant, but I will come out of retirement [as a dancer] to perform in the next phase of John Malashock’s CHAGALL, to be presented at La Jolla Playhouse in June,” Mizerany said. “I’ll dance the role of the ‘Older Chagall’ and be involved in three or four scenes.”

Mizerany has hardly retired though. San Diego audiences can experience his choreography and directorial hand in at least five productions through the summer.[php snippet=1]

“I enjoyed making fun of Catholics and Gays in Ion’s “Altar Boyz,” Mizerany said, “and I’m glad to be working with Ion again in the dark musical “Gray Gardens,” based on real mother and daughter recluses with 52 cats and raccoons. That runs through April 20th. I’ve learned so much from Ion, and Diversionary too.”

He says Diversionary Cabaret approached him last year about a dance show that could make money and fit a gay demographic.

“So I said, ‘let’s have all male dancers, but have them do real modern dance, not pole stuff, and call it Hot Men Dancing,’” Mizerany recounted, “and that title drew people in.  It wasn’t what they expected, but provocative. Diversionary is thinking of another “Hot Men” show, a neo-Burlesque variety show with singing, kind of wild –wild-west, to coincide with the Gay Pride Festival in late summer.”

Blythe Barton balances on the chest of Bradley R. Lundberg in "Tethered."  Photo: Tim Agler

Blythe Barton balances on the chest of Bradley R. Lundberg in the physically challenging duet “Tethered.” Photo: Tim Agler

While summer’s not here yet, the White Box Live Arts Fest at Dance Place is in full swing this month with 13 nights of dance.  Intimate dance, puppetry, theater, music, and light installation performances are happening at 7:30 p.m. from Friday, April. 5 through Sunday, April 21.

For the festival, Mizerany presents three dances on April 11th:  the premiere of “Relentlessly Yours;” the jaw-dropping duet “Tethered,” danced by Blythe Barton and Bradley R. Lundberg; and his award winning solo, “Tin Soldier.”

“I’m too old to dance ‘Soldier’ now,” Mizerany said, “but Justin (Viernes) makes it his own.  It was bittersweet to win a Horton Award (in 1994) for it – because of its premise.  My brother had cancer, and I watched him die. He had the soul of a soldier, but his body was broken. He was struggling when I made the piece. That’s my story. Justin has to channel his, and he does it well.”

Mizerany says acrobatic partnering and balances in the other two dances will liven up the experience.

“Dancers are courageous people,” Mizerany said. “I ask them to try a lift and grab a leg and experiment. They trust me, and they try it, and everyone’s involved with the process.”

Viernes performs “Tin Soldier” again at Visionary Dance Theater’s “Seasons” at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27, at the 10th Ave. Theatre.

Justin Viernes reaches upward in "Tin Soldier."  Photo: Manny Rotenberg

Justin Viernes reaches upward in the revival of Michael Mizerany’s “Tin Soldier.”  Photo: Manny Rotenberg

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The “Seasons” concert also features choreographers Blythe Barton, Gina Bolles Sorensen and Kyle Sorensen of somebodies dance theatre, Visionary artistic director Spencer John Powell, and assistant, Zaquia Mahler Salinas.

Salinas’ “Proprioceptive Rhythm,” a “collision of explosive and subtle movement,” took third at the 2013 San Diego Young Choreographers Showcase and Prize.

Mizerany will also help produce Visionary Musical Theatre’s “Visions on Broadway: A musical celebration of the music of Kander and Ebb,” May 16 through 19th.

And remember the second wilder version of “Hot Men Dancing” at Diversionary planned for late summer?  Along with that, Mizerany will help produce the infamous, San Diego Fringe Festival from July 5 through 7, at the 10th Avenue Theatre.  “I’m producing ‘5 choreographers present 5 duets,’” Mizerany said, “all inspired by real life ‘infamous’ couples, including Leopold and Loeb and Bonnie and Clyde.”

All that from a man who likes to say he’s retired.

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White Box performing arts space
Jean Isaacs San Diego Dance Theater
2590 Truxtun Road, Studio 205 San Diego CA 92106 Work Phone: 619-225-1803
Categories: Dance, Music, Visual Arts
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  1. GBS on April 9, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Thank you for this article on Michael. It is wonderful to see a choreographer with a modern dance sensibility leaving his stamp on San Diego’s theatre scene.

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