Filled with provocative physicality and adult themes, Malashock/RAW4, is known as the soft-porn of San Diego dance programs. Now in its 4th year, the hit series hits the Lyceum Stage Nov. 14-16 with daring and bruising new works by John Malashock, Michael Mizerany, and Andy Noble.
“We have five women and three men in the show, and everyone is focused,” said Malashock, “because they have to be in this kind of show.”
There have been scrapes and torn up feet in rehearsals, and one hard landing for dancer Justin Viernes.
“There’s a section in my dance where they lift Justin up high and he’s supposed to flip and land flat on his stomach,” said Mizerany,” but there was a sweat issue in rehearsal. He didn’t flip all the way over and he landed wrong, on his side. It was an emotional raw moment. We’ve done it 20 times, and then oh no. ”
“Yeah, it was one of those ‘ah shit’ moments,” said Malashock.
Viernes injured his hand and couldn’t put weight on it for some time. He’s okay now and trusts his fellow dancers to flip him over flat, twice in Mizerany’s dance.
Malashock/RAW4 features three dances – recommended for ages 16 and up.
Guest chorographer Andy Noble of NobleMotion Dance in Houston presents “Beast,” dance-theater inspired by facial movements to initiate choreography. NobleMotion is known for its mix of modern and hip hop.
Malashock debuts “The Garden Path of Lou & Laurie,” an ode to doomed relationships. “I use music by Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson,” Malashock said. “It’s a his and hers take on relationships and uses a song format.”
Mizerany produces the show and premieres “Unspeakable,” set to trip-hop music by Massive Attack from the soundtrack “Danny the Dog.”
This is the second round of RAW for the petite and scrappy Stephanie Harvey. Last year she thrilled audiences by running up onto the backs of fellow dancers and balancing in dangerous lifts. This year, she dances in both Malashock and Mizerany dances.
“They require different preparation,” Harvey said. “There’s a lot of shifting in character, emotion, and focus. John’s work starts as a perfect happy day, but later I’m in a relationship where I want more. There’s a definite shift in focus and approach in John’s work.
In Michael’s piece, I don’t leave the stage, well, one time I do, so I’m counting out when to come back on. I don’t think a lot ahead. We go on stage and hold Justin in the air and throw him onto the ground, and in that moment there is a big shift.”
Mizerany’s dance “Unspeakable,” tackles taboo subjects, such as molestation in families. The dance opens with the ending, a structure often used in films and books.
“It’s a structure not common in dance, but I start with the ending,” Mizerany said, “so you’ll see the piece open and it makes no sense. You see things that are very volatile, and then there’s a quick shift to the beginning and it finally makes sense in the end.”
A strong theme throughout the show is emotional shifting. Ms. Harvey says there’s no down time in Mizerany’s dance, and it sucks you in.
“It’s scary, Harvey said, “and “I’ve told Michael that I get scared, not in a performing way, but because it’s so intense. My character is violated, and even though it’s Justin, one of my dear friends, it’s still an intense piece. I don’t need to have it in my head.”
Nodding in agreement, Mizerany smiled at Harvey from across the table in the Green Room of Dance Place.
“There’s a narrative and physical confrontation, but there’s a real emotional thread,” Mizerany said. “We’re abused at home and then we go to school, but we’re never relaxed, because the threat is always there of having to go home. We watch the clock.”
Mizerany says his dance speaks to people who see abuse but don’t do anything about it.
“We go to a dark place in this dance,” Mizerany said, “and the dancers do it so beautifully. I have taken all of the eroticism out of the piece. I want people to see the light of admitting that that dark place exists, and stop the cycle.”
Malashock takes a different approach and works with appealing songs and dark humor.
“I’m looking at relationships – like an onion – and peel away layers to see unpleasant parts of relationships,” Malashock said, “and we use wonderful music like Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ because of its dark ironic quality. It has a weird backhand compliment in it.”
“Blythe [Barton] does a shocking primal scream,” said Harvey, “and people will remember that!”
“The show is physically vibrant,’ and I hope they say, ‘It has an emotional thread, and got me in the gut,’” said Mizerany.
When asked if RAW4 is a good date night show, the three agreed it will surely stimulate conversation, although it may not be the best show for a first date.
“There’s a line in the music, ‘It’s all downhill from here,’ “said Malashock, “and anyone in a long relationship can relate to that and laugh.”
Malashock RAW/4 runs Nov. 14-16. Lyceum Stage. 79 Horton Plaza downtown. $25. 619-260-1622. malashockdance.org.