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Behind The Scenes: ‘Hot Guys Dancing’

Choreographer Michael Mizerany Challenges Expectations At Diversionary Theatre

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

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


Diversionary Theatre 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 Theatre 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."

Photo caption:

Photo 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."

Photo caption:

Photo 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.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Beth Accomando

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

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 Theatre (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"


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