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Behind The Scenes: ‘Hot Guys Dancing’

Choreographer Michael Mizerany Challenges Expectations At Diversionary Theater

Evening Edition

Above: KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando goes behind the scenes of Diversionary Theater's "Hot Guys Dancing."

Aired 1/9/14 on KPBS News.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando speaks with choreographer Michael Mizerany about 'Hot Guys Dancing."

Transcript

Diversionary Theater wanted dance on its program but couldn’t risk losing money. That’s when organizers came up with "Hot Guys Dancing" (the latest edition opens tonight and runs through Sunday).

Choreographer Michael Mizerany is serious about his work so when Diversionary Theater told him the name of his dance program would be "Hot Guys Dancing," he had to pause for a moment.

"I’m like, 'oh! OK, I mean, I’m not crazy about that title,' and they were like, 'well, we know our demographic, we think that title’s gonna sell,'" Mizerany said.

And that was key. As a small theater company, Diversionary has to keep a keen eye on the bottom line. So no matter how badly it wanted dance on their stage, it also knew it couldn’t lose money. "Hot Guys Dancing" definitely gave them a marketing edge. But Mizerany wanted to make one thing clear.

"It’s not like guys on poles or guys on boxes," Mizerany said, "It’s going to be a contemporary dance concert and they were like that’s cool. And so people came in and they didn’t know what it was going to be or didn’t think it was going to be what they saw but the reaction was so positive."

So positive that the show sold out last year and is back again this year.

That doesn't surprise Kris Eitland: "Who doesn’t like to see handsome bodies flying through the air, it can be very exciting."

Eitland is founder of San Diego Story and is a San Diego dance writer who has been following Mizerany’s work for years. Last year, Mizerany surprised her with his work on Diversionary's "Hot Guys Dancing."

"He really turned the whole idea on its head," Eitland said, "And I think that some viewers maybe were looking for Magic Mike, that kind of Chippendale kind of stuff and it was much more nuanced and it certainly had much stronger themes, much more about acceptance of men in general and also looking at acceptance of men in so many different ways… and I applaud him for that because he did take a risk doing that."

Credit: Beth Accomando

Choreographer Michael Mizerany.

Not so risky this year according to Mizerany.

"I feel like people know what it is and know it’s going to be a modern dance show and it will be hot, different guys in the show and it’s going to be cutting edge so they know what that is," Mizerany stated, "This year I don’t have to explain it so much. But it’s definitely marketable, very marketable, it is what it says…It is a very provocative, sexy, sensual, artful, show."

Eitland agreed: "They really enjoy being able to have something that’s beautiful to look at, physical but at the same time it’s quite provocative and will stimulate conversation."

Credit: Luke Olson

Nicholas Strasburg in "Bump in the Road," choreographed by Michael Mizerany.

The latest edition of "Hot Guys Dancing" contains three dance pieces. Mizerany oversees the production and choreographed an intense 5-minute piece called Rush, about drug addiction. The other two pieces are by women choreographers Blythe Barton and Khamla Somphanh.

"These are people whose work I know is very different from mine," Mizerany explained, "Which is what I want. I don’t want people who work like me, I want people who do work that is not like mine. So if you come, you are going to see something you like. Definitely."

For his piece, Mizerany worked with 17-year-old Dylan Hoffinger.

"I really wanted to use the hip hop, how they break their own body parts in different ways so I am not trained in that but Dylan has experience with that so I would get up and show him badly what I wanted," Mizerany said.

"And I was like, 'um, OK,'" Dylan Hoffinger said, "So I did an idea of what he said. We are two different style dancers, and we both have different backgrounds so we had to work together…He allowed me to explore his movement in my own body and in my own style and…so working with him has been very freeing in that I can show him my vocabulary, he can show me his vocabulary, we can fuse it together."

Hoffinger found the experience inspiring. Mizerany saw himself as both a partner in a collaboration and a mentor channeling Hoffinger’s youthful energy. A key point Mizerany wanted to convey to the young dancer was that he had to get into the character’s mind in order to find meaning to the movement.

"It’s not just doing movement because I say to lift your leg, yes I want a high leg but why’s it going high, is it a reaction to something, is it a reaction to the drug and much of it is a reaction to being deprived of something," Mizerany said.

Credit: Beth Accomando

Seventeen-year-old dancer Dylan Hoffinger warms up for rehearsal at Diversionary Theater.

Hoffinger couldn’t relate specifically to the drug experience.

"But I know what it’s like to crave and what it’s like to want something and to be feeding for it all the time and so to like put that into my movement it brings an energy," Hoffinger said.

An energy that the tiny Diversionary can barely contain. Eitland says Mizerany’s choreography can be very physical and athletic.

"There are some dances," Eitland explained, "where you think someone’s gonna get hurt so when they do some of these incredible, I won’t call them stunts, incredible lifts they really are very quite challenging, and you do feel like don’t mess up cause they could be in your lap right? You can see the sweat, you can really hear their breathing so that makes it even more potent."

And Mizerany is happy to put dance right in the laps of San Diego audiences.

"Hot Guys Dancing" runs through Jan. 12 at Diversionary Theater (4545 Park Blvd.) But be aware that Thursday and Friday night performances are already sold out.

Companion viewing: "Magic Mike," "Billy Elliot," "Take the Lead," "Saturday Night Fever," "Planet B-Boy"

Comments

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 9, 2014 at 11:54 a.m. ― 11 months, 2 weeks ago

"Above: Dancer Dylan Hoffinger conveys the throes of detox in Michael Mizerany's dance piece, "Rush."'

I thought REQUIEM FOR A DREAM conveyed the throes of detox.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 11, 2014 at 5:16 p.m. ― 11 months, 1 week ago

The guys dancing are very talented and the are indeed hot, so my comment is not to reflect poorly on their great performance.

I have to say, though, that the intro of this piece troubles me because it implies queer arts venues can only profit if they peddle sex.

Thinking about this more, I realize this is not as much a rebuke on the gay community as it is on San Diego being a very timid place when it comes to people spending leisure time enjoying the arts.

Our arts venues in San Diego - be they gay, straight, or sexuality-neutral - tend to be very immature and (at the risk of sounding like I snob which I can guarantee I'm not) "pedestrian".

I'm sure that in any city worldwide you will have older well heeled gentlemen willing to pay for sexually enticing arts venues (both gay and straight), but I don't think it's a mandatory requirement in all places, especially those with more established arts communities who have a much more diverse palate.

I like the Diversionary Theater, I just wish they could be profitable by making their top selection criteria based on the quality and creativeness of the art instead of on how horny they think it will make the patrons.

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Avatar for user 'Beth Accomando'

Beth Accomando, KPBS Staff | January 12, 2014 at 2:07 a.m. ― 11 months, 1 week ago

I think you misread that. What was difficult for them to sell was dance. They primarily stage live theater and their audience knows that and knows what to expect from that but dance -- which faces multiple obstacles including too few adequately sized venues and runs that are so short the media barely has a chance to cover them -- was not something that their audiences were familiar with and eager to come out and support. SO Hot Guys Dancing was a marketing move to get their largest demographic -- gay males -- into the theater so that the show would at least break even. And it sold out last year and I think this year as well (Thur/Fri/Sat were definitely sold out). I think Diversionary delivers high quality productions and I fault audiences for not being more daring and supportive of the arts in San Diego and forcing organizations to have to come up with marketing ploys to get attention. And if you look at Diversionary's other productions you will note that the advertising takes a different ploy because their live theater is easier to market than dance. I say kudos to them for finding a way to stage challenging, top quality dance AND making a profit at it so they can continue to do so.

Thanks for your comment. I think you raise some valid issues but I think you misinterpreted what I was trying to convey.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 12, 2014 at 4:17 a.m. ― 11 months, 1 week ago

Hi Beth, thanks for such a thoughtful response and I do see what you are saying and stand corrected. Diversionary has indeed had many non-dance productions that cover a wide range of genres and all dance is certainly much harder to convey to a broad audience.

I have to say that I was being a pretentious beatch in my earlier response (hey, it happens what can I say).

I thought the coverage and exposure to this on evening edition was wonderful, no other media outlet in this town would showcase this (LOVE Peggy Pico!!) and we are lucky to have KPBS. You know us pretentious queens can be overwhelming at times, but I have discovered so many wonderful things that I would never have known exists in San Diego if not for your reporting on the arts, I love it and I love you, please stay in San Diego for a long time to come you are a true jewel in the arts community and you make San Diego's arts scene so much better, I read you religiously <3

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 12, 2014 at 11:23 a.m. ― 11 months, 1 week ago

"I have to say, though, that the intro of this piece troubles me because it implies queer arts venues can only profit if they peddle sex."

EXACTLY, Beijing Quackster! That's my whole point about this and so-called "gay plays" or "gay theater" in general. How many times do you hear LGBT militants/leaders/spokespersons say "it's not about sex."

Ah, the hypocrisy!!!

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 12, 2014 at 11:25 a.m. ― 11 months, 1 week ago

oh, and Beth, no "misreading" here. It's pretty clear.And by the way, if it was a theater selling hetero sex-comedies season after season or wanna be porno masquerading as "provocative" plays, I'd complain too.

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Avatar for user 'Beth Accomando'

Beth Accomando, KPBS Staff | January 12, 2014 at 6:58 p.m. ― 11 months, 1 week ago

Thanks Peking_Duck_SD. :)

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | January 13, 2014 at 10:22 a.m. ― 11 months, 1 week ago

I am hot enough to be part of this show, but I am not gay... oh well!

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