DANCE / EILEEN SONDAK : New Alliance Leader Aims for Blend of Dance, Drama

In January, the San Diego Area Dance Alliance elected its first male president, the former Twyla Tharp dynamo John Malashock. Malashock is determined to put his own stamp on the post, but he hopes it will be his accomplishments--not his sex--that set him apart from his predecessors.

Malashock, who also heads the most promising new modern dance company in San Diego, is “still sorting out priorities” with other members of SDADA’s board of directors. However, there are telltale signs that 1989 will see some significant changes in the 7-year-old collective--including a move to bring dance closer to its sister arts.

“We’ve arranged to give dancers discount tickets for various theaters in town,” Malashock said. “Dance is theater, and dancers should see how drama is brought to the stage. We used to have so many story ballets, and they’ve disappeared. More access to local theater is very important for the dance community.”

Also on the drawing board is a plan to put members in partnership with the alliance for fund-raising purposes.


“There are a number of different programs in the works,” he said. “We’re trying to see if it’s feasible for us to act as fiscal receiver for the dance community, so that people could take advantage of the alliance’s nonprofit status. San Francisco just put together a program like that, so there’s a model for it.”

Malashock’s administration is gearing up for workshops and special programs that “raise the level of professionalism among the dancers,” a goal this former big-league dancer believes is crucial to the continued growth and development of local dance. Malashock said he and Tom Corcoran, the alliance’s executive director, have discussed ways of dispensing information to the dance community.

“We’re talking about putting together seminars on marketing, fund raising, grant writing and other topics that will help our membership,” he said. “PAL (the low-tech concerts sponsored by the alliance) has been very good, and we have to do more like the grant-giving program we instituted this year for individual artists. There is so little money for new artists that I’d like to make that a high priority for the alliance.”

As a longtime observer of the local dance community, Malashock is optimistic about the current state of the art in his hometown.


“I definitely feel things are happening in the local dance community. There seems to be more of an awareness of what can be done now,” he said. “Seven years ago, things were terrible. Now there’s a desire to keep moving and growing, and I want the alliance to keep providing more and more services to assure that it does.”

Two of San Diego’s most visible dance troupes, California Ballet and Three’s Company, have come closer to their dream of making it on the touring circuit this year. A scaled-down California Ballet Company danced for the Community Concerts series in Ramona recently, and the group is vying for a crack at regular appearances with this nationwide arts organization.

“We’ll be doing a couple of concerts for them, and we’re hoping to get them to use us for the whole tour,” said director Maxine Mahon. “We sold out, and they really liked us.”

The Cal Ballet dancers are getting more exposure in town as well. Last weekend, they performed a lecture demonstration at the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater, in conjunction with the Omnimax film, “To the Limit.”

“It’s part of their program to show the body,” Mahon said. “They have a film sequence with Nina Ananiashvili of the Bolshoi, so they wanted a little ballet. We’re also going to do a program for the park festival in Ocean Beach in May.”

All this community outreach, a substantial increase over past years, will pay dividends for the dancers as well, Mahon said. “It gives the dancers more opportunities to perform, and since we’re getting more community funds now, we can do more community service,” she said.

Although the Soviet Arts Festival has yet to announce any Soviet dance events, Mahon is now convinced the Russians are really coming--and that her company will play an active role.

“I don’t know if we’ll be performing with the Soviet dancers,” she said. “But there’s a project with ballet, and we’re going to be involved. I know that.”


It’s been years since Los Angeles-based Bella Lewitzky, the most important choreographer on the West Coast, has done anything in San Diego. But that could change soon.

“UC San Diego’s Undergraduate Arts Festival is trying to bring Bella in as artist in residence this year. If all goes well, she’ll be here at the end of May to June 3 to lecture and teach,” said dance instructor Patricia Rincon. “We’re very excited, because it will be the first time dance is the featured art form in the festival’s five- or six-year history.”