Dancer John Malashock stays in step with progress on the arts in San Diego

John Malashock
John Malashock

John Malashock brings more than 35 years of experience in dance, theater and film to his current endeavors as Artistic Director of Malashock Dance & The Malashock Dance School. He has created some 60 choreographic works, dance/theater collaborations, theater and opera productions, and award-winning dance films.

John founded Malashock Dance in 1988 after a distinguished performing career with Twyla Tharp Dance in New York, where he danced from 1979 to 1984. Under his leadership, Malashock Dance has grown to become one of California’s premier dance companies and his work has now been presented throughout the United States, Central America, Japan and Central Europe.

He has garnered four Emmy Awards for his own dance films (“Love & Murder,” “The Soul of Saturday Night,” “Apologies from the Lower Deck” and “The Gypsy’s Wife”), which have aired on 30 affiliate PBS stations nationwide.

Malashock took a leadership role in conceiving, developing and establishing Dance Place San Diego, an 11-studio facility that is now home to Malashock Dance & The Malashock Dance School and used by most choreographers in the city.

What brought you to San Diego?

My family moved to La Jolla when I was 8 years old. I went to Scripps Elementary (now The Children’s School), Muirlands Jr. High, and La Jolla High. After my professional dance career in Europe and New York (with Twyla Tharp), my wife Nina and I decided to move back to San Diego (where our family is) temporarily, with our son, Duncan, until we formed more of a clear plan. Well, temporarily has turned into 27 years in a hurry ...

What makes this area special to you?

I remember, years ago, while I was living in New York, I was watching an old western on TV. All of the sudden, I found my face streaked with tears and a voice in my head saying “I need to be back out West.” Something about the spaciousness and variety resonates with me. I have often said to Nina that if I were blindfolded and dropped in La Jolla from anywhere in the world, I would recognize it from its unique air and feel.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

Easy answer. Luce Auditorium! Malashock Dance is now located at Liberty Station (Point Loma) in Dance Place San Diego, a facility I helped conceive. Right next door to the dance building is an auditorium with beautiful designs to be renovated into three performance spaces for dance and film. It would become our home theater, house numerous film festivals, and bring Liberty Station to life as a true destination for the arts.

Who or what inspires you?

People doing extraordinary things inspire me. I cry when I see athletes do things that don’t seem humanly possible. Writers who make their words dance thrill me. Dancers who blend their technical control with emotional abandon fascinate me. Artists who tap into something that is so personal that it becomes universal is where it’s at for me.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

Marc Chagall (because I am doing a project about him), Stephen Sondheim (because not many people actually change an art form), John Irving (because he tells stories like no one else), Danny Kaye (who would be the life of the party), The Dalai Lama (to bring some humility and wisdom), Tina Fey (just for fun), and my dad, Irv, who passed away recently. Nina and I get to be there, too, don’t we?

Tell us about what you are reading.

I’ve always been a John Irving fan, but in the last couple of years, I have fallen in love with Michael Chabon’s writing. “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” was a revelation for me. Its blend of intelligence, humor, literary fireworks, and storytelling skill made it magical. Right now, I am reading his book “Manhood for Amateurs.”

What is your most-prized possession?

Another easy answer. Our home. We are fortunate enough to live in a 1929 Tudor-style home on a half-acre canyon lot in the heart of South Mission Hills. The setting and the space give us a feeling of privacy and sanctuary while being right in the middle of the city. We moved there eight years ago and it has completely altered the way I feel about San Diego.

What do you like to do for fun?

Well, as unlikely as it sounds for a dancer, I love to ski. I like doing projects around our house and garden. I love traveling to new places and, of course, eating in great restaurants. Hearing wonderful music and seeing great theater are almost as much fun as making new dances.

Please describe your greatest accomplishment.

My colleagues around the country look at the fact that I have kept a dance company going in San Diego for 24 years and marvel at that accomplishment. I think making a career in the arts in this country while being a family man is an accomplishment in itself. Besides that, having conceived Dance Place San Diego and helping make it a reality is the kind of big dreaming that I don’t get to do very often. It feels like a great accomplishment and benefit to our arts community.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Well, I don’t know about a life philosophy, but with my organization Malashock Dance, I like to borrow an approach from Robin Hood (no, not stealing from the rich and giving to the dancers). For anyone to join his merry band, they had to be better at something than he was. I love having talented people around me to work with. And I do.



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