Liberty Station’s resident dance companies unite in movement for four-weekend outdoor festival

As part of the "Dance is in the Air" festival, Malashock Dance will present “The Bridge” May 27-30.
As part of the “Dance is in the Air” festival, Malashock Dance will present its world-premiere production of “The Bridge” May 27-30.
(Courtesy of Malashock Dance)

For the first time in their 14 years of sharing space in the Liberty Station-based Dorothea Laub Dance Place, the resident companies — Malashock Dance, San Diego Dance Theater and San Diego Ballet — have come together for a four-weekend outdoor festival of performances called “Dance is in the Air.”

“While we won’t be sharing the stage [the outdoor South Promenade at Liberty Station], it’s been really nice to work together on the concept of something that has an overarching theme: the festival,” said Malashock Dance Artistic Director John Malashock.

Jean Isaacs’ San Diego Dance Theater is kicking off the festival May 21-23 with its performance of “Other Times, Other Places.”

Malashock Dance follows May 27-30 with its world-premiere production of “The Bridge,” a collaboration between choreographers Malashock and Kansas City-based Tristian Griffin.

On June 5-6, San Diego Ballet presents “Debussy Dances: Preludes and Arabesques.”

Wrapping up June 11-13, San Diego Dance Theater returns with its annual Young Choreographers Showcase.

Next weekend’s performances of “The Bridge” represent a rarity in the dance world: a co-creation of two choreographers. Malashock met Griffin, artistic director of Tristian Griffin Dance Company, a couple of years ago while restaging an opera in Kansas City.

“I got to know him during that time and watched some of his work,” Malashock recalled. “I really liked his style, his aesthetic, his way of going about creating.”

For the 45-minute long “The Bridge,” of which there will be eight performances, “we’ve created essentially two separate groups: my group and there’s Tristian’s group, each with four dancers,” Malashock said.

“Tristian has a very distinct style of movement and I have a very distinct style of movement. They feel quite different and yet compatible, so putting those two things on the stage together has been really cool for us to see how we fit.”

This is Griffin’s first big commission working with a dance company outside Kansas City.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with John’s company and to work with him under a partnership,” Griffin said. “He’s able to pass on some of his experience to me, who is a person just getting started as a choreographer.”

For “The Bridge,” which will be performed to the commissioned music of Omaha-based composer Philip Daniel, Griffin, who also dances in the piece, has brought one other dancer with him from Kansas City. Caroline Dahm is the longest-standing member of his company and someone he calls “my other pair of eyes.”

The work is titled as it is for a reason. “The Bridge” not only connects the differences between the two choreographers’ ages, ethnicities and styles but is thematically designed to reflect “the social justice protests and the stark polarity and division that was so much in everyone’s faces” last year, Malashock said.

“That became a center point for us: the thought of what it takes to create an understanding, a bridge between different points of view.”

To Griffin, “The Bridge” is “a starting point of building a conversation.” He hopes the production will “force everyone together to make them realize that labeling or isolating others is doing more harm than it is good. This is a problem we need to confront and resolve.”

Down the road and should safety guidelines allow, Malashock and Griffin hope to take “The Bridge” to Kansas City and then a few other cities.

‘Dance is in the Air’

What: Four-week outdoor dance festival featuring Malashock Dance, San Diego Dance Theater and San Diego Ballet

When: Weekends through June 13

Where: Arts District Liberty Station, Point Loma

Tickets: $25-$30