10 Questions with ... Christopher Morgan, new artistic director of Point Loma’s Malashock Dance
Ten Questions is a series in the Point Loma-OB Monthly that shines a spotlight on notable locals we wish we knew more about. This month’s featured personality is Christopher Kaui Morgan, newly appointed artistic director of Point Loma-based Malashock Dance.
Morgan will begin work full time in January, when company leader John Malashock will transition to the position of founding artistic director, according to the organization, which is headquartered in the Arts District at Liberty Station. Malashock will remain on the board and involved in company productions and community engagement.
The dance company searches for an artistic director to replace founder John Malashock, who plans to share the duties for a season.
Morgan, a choreographer, arts administrator, curator and educator, began his dance career as a member of Malashock Dance from 1995 to 1998. Since then, the San Diego-born son of native Hawaiians founded the dance company Christopher K. Morgan & Artists in 2011 and was featured that year by Dance Magazine as one of six breakout choreographers in the United States.
Morgan, whose works have been showcased in 22 countries, also has served as vice president of programming at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Hawaii and has led an arts education program for Hawaii youths, adults and educators.
His teaching credits include American University (2011-14), University of Maryland (2014-17) and residencies at more than 20 conservatories and colleges in the U.S. and abroad. Since 2006 he has directed Art Omi: Dance, an annual collaborative residency for international choreographers in New York.
In addition, he was executive artistic director of Dance Place in Washington, D.C., from 2017 to 2021 and is serving a six-year term on the National Council on the Arts.
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“I’m honored to pass the torch to someone with Christopher’s skill, passion and commitment to creativity, diversity, and community,“ Malashock, who founded the company in 1988, said in a statement. “With his passion, warmth and inspiring manner, I know he is exactly the right person to lead us forward with a new artistic vision. It’s been a great ride, and now it’s time for the company to embark on this new journey, embracing fresh perspectives and innovative visions to enrich the cultural landscape of San Diego and beyond.”
Molly Puryear will remain in her post as executive director.
Morgan and his husband, stage director Kyle Lang, currently live on Maui and plan to live in South Park. Lang will direct “Don Giovanni” for the San Diego Opera in February.
Now on to the 10 Questions with Morgan:
Q. What attracted you to the Point Loma-Ocean Beach area as a place to live or work?
A. Having lived in San Diego from 1995 to 1998 and working as a dancer in Malashock Dance, I’m thrilled to return to the area and become this important dance organization’s new artistic director. I love how this community balances work and personal life. I also find an overall easygoing, warm and welcoming attitude. And, of course, the weather is amazing!
Q. What are your favorite places to go, or where do you look forward to going, in Point Loma and Ocean Beach?
A. As a Hawaiian, any time I can be near the ocean I’m happy, so I’m looking forward to exploring all the oceanfront beaches, cliffs, hikes and walks in the area. Malashock Dance is hosting a welcome event at The Thursday Club in Point Loma on Oct. 22 (see details at bit.ly/44WGadH). I understand it has stunning views and a special atmosphere, so I’m looking forward to that. Finally, I haven’t been there yet, but I love a good Sunday brunch and I hear The Presley at Liberty Station has a delicious one.
Q. If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add to improve Point Loma or Ocean Beach?
A. Well, it’s a much bigger issue than just this area, but part of my work as an arts administrator is looking at communities in their totality. High interest rates, escalating home prices and rents that are difficult for most families to be able to afford all concern me. If I could snap my fingers and see a change in the community, it would be a broader range of housing options that meet the finances of many different types of people.
Q. Who or what inspires you?
A. My work as an artist is inspired by the work issues and challenges I see around me. I’m fascinated by personal stories, people’s identities and how they navigate the world from their own unique lens and circumstances. The performances I create are inspired by identity, personal stories, social justice issues and unique cultures. Finding ways to share stories onstage in performance has created so much meaning for my life and it’s my greatest inspiration.
Having worked in the arts for 25 years, I’m committed to finding ways for historically marginalized communities to have access to the arts and increasing leadership in the arts. I have had too many experiences where I have been the only person of color, or only native person or only LGBTQ person at decision-making tables. This is always concerning because no single person can be representative of so many others. I’m inspired to be part of the transformation of what leadership in the arts looks like.
Q. If you hosted a dinner party for five guests, who (living or deceased) would you invite?
A. On my guest list would be the amazing singer, songwriter and philanthropist Dolly Parton; musician and thinker extraordinaire Dave Grohl; the inimitable and inspiring Michelle Obama; Hawaii’s last queen, Liliuokalani; and the fantastic drag queen Jujubee.
Q. Tell us about what you are currently reading or watching on TV.
A. Recently I’ve been binge-watching all three seasons of HBO’s “We’re Here.” The joyful, creative expression of the drag queens hosts and the people they meet in small-town communities throughout the United States is so compelling. Even more meaningful is the empowering stance they all take in communities where their identities may not be celebrated. In light of legislation in states and local communities throughout the United States that is anti-LGBTQ and trying to criminalize drag performances, I find the show incredibly inspiring. It also is worthy of that famed quote “I laughed, I cried. It was better than ‘Cats’!”
Q. What would be your dream vacation?
A. I am desperate to visit New Zealand! I’d love to have a few weeks to explore this incredible country.
Q. What are your five favorite movies of all time?
A. I am a child of the ‘80s, so I feel like many of these are going to date me! I love the original “Star Wars” trilogy, “Poltergeist” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” I have a secret soft spot for the Disney movie “Moana.” When it came out, I was afraid it was going to be full of cultural appropriation, but I think they actually did a good job with it. One of my favorite parts is when the grandmother is dancing next to the ocean and talking with Moana. They did such a loving portrayal of how the grandmother moved, her word choice and inflection when she spoke that it made me feel like I was with one of my Hawaiian aunties.
Not necessarily a favorite of all time, but I recently saw the “Barbie” movie and was thoroughly surprised and impressed. “Barbie, who was loved too much” was an excellent inclusion!
Q. What is your most prized possession?
A. If I think of what I’m most likely to grab if I needed to get out of the house quickly and would never return, the first thing I think of are printed photos and photo albums of the amazing people in my life. Luckily, with digital photos and cloud storage, most of them could probably be reprinted. However, somehow that would be my first instinct in case of a disaster.
Q. What is your motto or philosophy of life?
A. Quiet all the noise and listen to your gut and your heart above all else. Be prepared and ready, but always open and flexible to change.
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