Archive for the ‘Sheila Orysiek’ Category

Women of the Hebrew Bible, Part 7: Ruth

August 20, 2010 Leave a comment


Ruth (c) 2010 Sheila Orysiek

Entreat me not to leave thee
Or to return from following after thee
Whither thou goest
I will go
And where thou lodgest
I will lodge
Thy people shall be my people
And thy God
My God

By Sheila Orysiek

SAN DIEGO– Ruth pledged her troth both to Naomi as well as the people of Israel.  King David was a descendant of Ruth.

Last in a series of seven about women of the Hebrew Bible illustrating the moment in their lives when they were at pivotal point, contributed significantly to subsequent events and/or set a precedent in the history of our people.

The original pen and ink measured 16 x 20

Orysiek is a freelance writer and artist based in San Diego

Women of the Hebrew Bible, Part 6: Deborah

August 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Deborah (c) 2010 Sheila Orysiek

By Sheila Orysiek

SAN DIEGO –Deborah was a judge in Israel in the time before the kings.  Tradition has it that she sat under a palm tree at the gates of the city.  She was a military leader as well as a prophet.

One of a series of seven women of the Hebrew Bible illustrating the moment in their lives when they were at pivotal point, contributed significantly to subsequent events and/or set a precedent in the history of our people.

The original pen and ink measured 16 x 20.

Orysiek is a freelance writer and artist based in San Diego.

Women of the Hebrew Bible, Part 5: Five daughters of Zelophehad

August 18, 2010 Leave a comment

The Five Daughters of Zelophehad (c) 2010, Sheila Orysiek

By Sheila Orysiek

SAN DIEGO–Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah as the only heirs of their deceased father, were determined to claim an inheritance and therefore honor their father’s name.  Moses and the elders in Israel considered their plea and agreed. This set a precedent for women to inherit.

One of a series of seven concerning women of the Hebrew Bible illustrating the moment in their lives when they were at pivotal point, contributed significantly to subsequent events and/or set a precedent in the history of our people.

 The original is pen and ink on paper, measuring 16 by 20.

Orysiek is a freelance writer and artist based in San Diego

Women of the Hebrew Bible, Part 3: Bithiya

August 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Bithiya (c) 2010, Sheila Orysiek

By Sheila Orysiek

Sheila Orysiek

SAN DIEGO–This Egyptian princess going down to the Nile to bathe saw an infant in a basket.  She realized it was most probably the desperate effort of an Israelite woman to save her little son.  Her humanity triumphed over the Pharaoh’s edict to slaughter all male infants among the Israelites.  She adopted him as her own.  This child grew up to become Moses.

One of a series of seven women of the Hebrew Bible illustrating the moment in their lives when they were at pivotal point, contributed significantly to subsequent events and/or set a precedent in the history of our people.

The original is pen and ink on paper, measuring 16 by 20.

Orysiek is an artist and freelance writer based in San Diego

Women of the Hebrew Bible, Part 2: Jochebed

August 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Jochebed, (c) 2010, Sheila Orysiek


Determined to save the life of her infant son from Pharaoh’s edict to kill all the male infants among the Israelites, she wove a basket and sadly – but courageously – pushed it into the Nile River.  Without her action our story may never have been.

One of a series of seven women of the Hebrew Bible illustrating the moment in their lives when they were at pivotal point, contributed significantly to subsequent events and/or set a precedent in the history of our people.  — Sheila Orysiek

Orysiek is a freelance writer and artist based in San Diego.

Pen and ink series illustrates women of the Bible

August 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Sarah; Women of the Hebrew Bible – A Moment in Their Lives; Pen and Ink on Paper; 16 x 20; (c) Sheila Orysiek

SAN DIEGO (SDJW) — Sheila Orysiek of San Diego has put pen to paper to draw seven women of the Bible at pivotal times in their lives or when their actions “contributed significantly to subsequent events and/or set a precedent in the history of our people.”

For our readers’ enjoyment, San Diego Jewish World will present the drawings consecutively in issues over the next week (Shabbat excluded)

The first focuses on Sarah.

Writes the artist:

“Sarah, wife of Abraham, had accompanied him on all his journeys. She was present when the three Visitors promised that she would bear a son.   She helped Abraham as he hosted the Visitors and though she laughed at the idea of giving birth at her advanced age, she did indeed become the mother of Isaac and thus of Israel.”  

Preceding was a San Diego Jewish World staff report

‘Chagall’ proves to be an exciting work in progress

June 14, 2010 1 comment

By Sheila Orysiek

Sheila Orysiek

SAN DIEGO–The 17th Annual Jewish Arts Festival, which runs from May 30th to June 21, spans the wide spectrum of the performing arts.  Malashock Dance and Hot P’Stromi brought together modern dance and Klezmer at the Lyceum Space Theatre in downtown San Diego.  I attended the performance on June 13th.

What better way to celebrate art than to bring together artists of different genres to celebrate the life of another artist?  John Malashock – founder and choreographer of Malashock Dance – and Yale Strom – violinist, composer, filmmaker, writer, playwright and photographer – combined their significant talents to produce their newest collaboration Chagall.

The Lyceum Space Theatre is a small venue (seating approximately 270) with a square stage jutting out into the audience on two sides.  Thus one is both near enough to feel close to the action, but far enough away to see the design concept as a whole.  Seats are in tiers, so for the most part sight lines are good.  Because of the proximity over zealous amplification can be avoided – for which this observer is grateful.

Strom brings his varied background plus a group of musicians playing Klezmer (and more) under the name:  Hot P’Stromi.   The program opened with several selections of Klezmer from parts of Eastern Europe, such as the vicinity where Chagall was born and spent his childhood, to Romania which is just across the river. 

Love it or not, and I do love it, it is impossible not to respond to Klezmer.   In some ways it is like American jazz – the musicians responding to one another, each in turn picking up the motif – adding, subtracting, clarifying and crafting a specific sound for a specific instrument.  Then, coming all together they go rollicking along.  But, Klezmer also can be winsome and even sad.  The audience reacted to both – some barely able to keep their seats.

John Malashock founded his modern dance company in 1988 and has been a significant presence in San Diego ever since.  His background is impressive and runs the gamut from film (dancing in Amadeus), television specials, choreographing for many other companies – both dance and opera -culminating in four Emmy awards.  He spoke to the audience briefly – but enjoyably – about the work being performed and his plans for it.

Chagall is still a work in progress and Malashock presented three scenes from what will eventually be a full length amalgam of dance, music and imagery.  The first scene was of the village Vitebsk, where Chagall was born in what is now Belarus, but was then Russia and at times Poland.  The second scene is his first significant love who introduces him to her friend who becomes the “love of his life.”  

Michael Mizerany, associate artistic director and senior dancer (with an impressive resume including two Lester Horton Dance Awards) was “Chagall” and brought to the role an understanding of how to portray a painter/artist through the art of dance/movement. 

It is difficult to understand why Chagall would reject his first love, Thea, (Lara Segura) for Bella (Christine Marshall).  But love is not mental – it is visceral and there is no accounting for it.  It is the one emotion we cannot place at the service of reason; however, I think I would enjoy seeing that explored a bit more.  Segura was a lovely Thea.  Costumed in a simple short white sheath she danced passionately while still innocent enough to introduce her friend to her lover.  Marshall, surely a fine dancer, didn’t quite tell me what Chagall saw in her to capture his heart – but perhaps that was not Malashock’s intent.  Or perhaps Chagall didn’t know.

Chagall’s physical love feeds his artistic vision.  He takes his brush and paints her in invisible images upon invisible canvasses.  Then, he uses his brush to explore her body – never vulgarly – but always seeking to understand her outline.  Maybe that is what he really needs.

The pas de deux (this is modern dance so perhaps I should say “dance for two”) is well done – but somehow didn’t convey the depth of passion that must have been there.  However, this is still a work in progress not only for the choreographer, but also for the dancers and they haven’t as yet internalized it.  It is certainly a good beginning.

Tribes premiered in 1996 and has the feeling and confidence of a complete work, completely conceived – much like a Mozart symphony.  It is a dance (again using Strom’s original music) which is described by Malashock as follows:  “….each dancer creates his/her own culture.  These fantastical “tribes” connect, collide, and ultimately share in a blending of the eternal spirit.”

It is always fascinating to see what Malashock does with the music; forming groups and then breaking them apart.  Each twosome or threesome dances to the same music at the same time, but completely differently – bringing to view other aspects of the music.  And each is valid and “true.”  I find myself saying “yes, that is how the music looks.”  He also never falls overly in love with his own invention – it is given, enjoyed and then he moves on, confident in his next vision.  The flow is natural, never contrived, and though one knows of the reality of the endless rehearsal which must have taken place, the movement is fresh, natural and seemingly – what a painter would call – a “happy accident.”

The dance flows from shape to shape, pausing for just a moment to allow the eye to capture it, but still keeping the seams between phrases invisible.  The entire body is used; hands and heads as important as legs and arms as important as spines and breath.  There were a couple of times, when the choreography allowed, I would have enjoyed seeing some eye contact betwixt the dancer and the observer – a living connection; “I am also dancing for you.” 

Dance critic Orysiek is based in San Diego.  She may be contacted at

Malashock allows public into operating theatre to witness labor prior to dance’s birth

April 12, 2010 Leave a comment

By Sheila Orysiek

SAN DIEGO — One of the unique aspects of dance among the art forms is that it affords us the opportunity to observe not only its fruition, but also its creation. It willingly lends itself to a public birth: the dancers, the choreographer and the audience all participating in the process. 

John Malashock is a prolific creator of modern dance and periodically invites the public to join him and his dancers for a studio series to observe the actual “on the spot” creative process.  This takes place in their beautiful facility in a building devoted to dance in what was once the San Diego Naval Training Center.  Though the studio is large the setting is intimate; chairs set around the wall – nothing between the audience and the dance.  

Next year, April 2011, the San Diego Museum of Art will host an exhibition “Dreams & Diversions – 250 Years of Japanese Woodblock Prints.”  In the Museum’s Copley Auditorium, Malashock Dance will present “The Floating World” a dance complement to the exhibition. Visual projections are planned in collaboration with filmmaker Tara Knight.

On April 11, 2010, Malashock and seven (the eighth was injured) dancers in practice clothes continued on with the birth of this work which had begun the previous evening – only a few phrases of dance had been choreographed.  The theme is “of a journey” – dancers on tour – after a performance – feeling the exhaustion of body and spirit – and the effort to reconnect the two.  In pairs – man/woman – back to back – sometimes spinning laterally away from one another only to return, but never connecting visually or emotionally.  

The music was a legato violin adagio with the dancers at times working into the music and at times dancing through it.  After adding additional dance phrases and several times running through it from the beginning, it was interesting to watch the dancers incorporate the movement immediately into muscle memory.  Though they could only glimpse one another, their individual internal metronomes began to synchronize.  As the choreographic vision flowed from Malashock to the dancers – they became the repository of his memory. 

Then Malashock began to change the vision of the choreography by breaking it up by gender; men started with the second section while women started with the first original section – the movement coming together with the final section and the dance took on the aspect of a visual fugue.  Another change had the women begin their movement a phrase behind the men.  Further experimentation changed the number of dancers to only two pairs, which narrowed the focus and design from a symphonic palette to a four “voice” aria.  Each change altered the dance considerably, each with its own integrity.

 After the rehearsal/performance, Malashock answered questions from the audience and explained that between these initial creative sessions and the premiere next year, everything was open to change; the music, the choreography, the dancers. 

On the chairs upon which we sat were cards with some of Malashock’s perceptions of his work:

“For me, the music that I choose to choreograph to is one of the most important decisions because it is so integral in shaping the movement I create.”

“Fact:  The music you will hear tonight might not be used in “The Floating World” production.  By changing the music, your reaction to the piece will inevitably change as well.”

“I have a ‘style’ of choreography or movement vocabulary, but I am always trying to expand that vocabulary to create something unique to the project I am working on.”

“Fact: Dancers and staff often nickname certain signature moves, creating a vocabulary unique to Malashock Dance.  Here are some examples:  The Drunken Elephant, Shot in the Back, Find the Hold, Kill the Bug, and Icky Creepy.”

“Research of a new work’s subject matter plays a subtle, but important, role.  The information sits in the back of the brain and is drawn upon subconsciously.”

“Fact:  I have traveled to Japan several times and have traveled extensively throughout California.  Those travels and my performance touring experiences will definitely be in my mind as I choreograph.”

A further “on the spot” studio view of this work in progress is scheduled for May 15-16, 2010.

Orysiek is a dance critic based in San Diego.  She may be contacted at

City Ballet’s ‘Peter Pan’ takes euphoric flight

March 22, 2010 Leave a comment

By Sheila Orysiek

SAN DIEGO–One of the thrills of dance – both to the dancer as well as the observer – is the momentary euphoria of suspension in space and the freedom of apparent flight.  City Ballet of San Diego’s production on March 21 of Peter Pan at the Spreckles Theatre is a delight in every sense – including the sensation of flight.

Ballet dancers “flying” about the stage is not new – but quite old. We can see in a number of lithographs of the Romantic Era ballets in the 1800’s, sylphs, peris, wilis and other winged female creatures hovering above the stage.  It fulfilled the desire of the Romantic Era to turn a woman into something sublime and unreachable.  Peter Pan and his world are the dream stuff of children or better yet, those of us lucky to have never quite lost the child we were.

This ballet in two acts is fraught with staging difficulty; from several complex sets (designed by Catherine I. Irving), carefully crafted lighting (Stephen Judson), bright choreography (Bruce Steivel), and a technical company “Flying by Foy.”  This last is surely an art form in its own right.  Two dancer/technicians were assigned to “fly” each character.  An additional challenge was the complex choreography of several flights happening at once, and on musical cue, which could not be rehearsed in the studio but only on stage which rather restricted the time spent in rehearsal.  Notwithstanding all this complexity of changing sets, flying and earthly choreography, it all spun out smoothly like a silken skein.

The highlight was the aerial pas de deux between Wendy (Ariana Samuelsson) and Peter Pan (Gerardo Gil).  From earth to air – from air to earth – the transitions were like those we experience in dreams; now we touch earth – now we are free.  Gil was an intriguing other world creature but still human enough to make us wish to join him.  Janica Smith’s Tinker Bell, while rife with impish naughtiness, was also the imp in each of us.  Wendy’s brothers: Patrick Lahey as John, and Megan Nichols as Michael – were mischievously enjoyable. 

This entire production was thoroughly enjoyable on every level. The characters are fun, the mood is light, the ballet entirely accessible to even the newest member of the ballet audience.  Though there were many children in attendance, it is a delight no matter one’s age.

Other characters:  Emily Pardington was loveable as Nana, the Dog; John Nettles as Mr. Crocodile, who was responsible for Capt. Hook’s hook (is this the same John Nettles who is the Company’s music director?) was smilingly fearsome; Capt.  Hook (Kevin Engle) was properly evil and comically engaging.  Well done to the pirates:  Bryce Corson, Geoffrey Gonzalez, Kyle Rivieccio and special mention to fire cracker “Smeed” danced by Daniel Ching. 

Moving into fouetté turns without the usual preparation is difficult.  That whipped leg can begin the rotation either from the side (a more Russian version) or the front – but one needs to decide ahead of time which it will be.

This ballet is a worthy addition to City Ballet’s growing repertoire and I hope it sees many more happy flights.

The music by Thomas Semanski – synthesized and recorded – was wedded to the story and choreography in every sense.
Orysiek is a freelance dance reviewer and columnist based in San Diego.  She may be contacted at

Malashock: plans and news

February 20, 2010 Leave a comment

By Sheila Orysiek

SAN DIEGO–On Feb. 17, 2010, I was invited to meet with Founder/Artistic Director John Malashock and Paloma Patterson, Executive Director, of Malashock Dance and The Malashock Dance School. We discussed the many projects they’ve planned as we sat in their spacious office adjacent to the Company’s beautiful studio in a complex which houses several dance and other arts organizations.

Dance Place San Diego sits on land which originally was the U. S. Navy’s historic training center. When the Navy moved out the city created an interesting mosaic of private housing, offices, shops and cultural centers, including a theater – the last still awaiting renovation.

John Malashock came to San Diego in 1988 and has been an important focal point for modern dance in this city. In addition, he participates in a palette of artistic activities such as the San Diego Opera, San Diego Symphony, KPBS-TV, Museum of Photographic Arts, Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Music Society, Mainly Mozart Music Festival, Old Globe Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse.

The Company’s school offers classes in modern dance and other disciplines from beginner through open Company class. Master classes have been taught by Malashock and three guest teachers on four Sundays in February. In addition the school reaches out to the community through classes and workshops in the public schools. To round out the educational program a summer intensive is planned at the intermediate to advanced level.

Malashock has always shown an interest in how dance is seen through the camera lens – both still and in motion. In August 2-14, 2010, a series of classes will be offered bringing together the two often complimentary art forms: film and dance. The series will include producing, shooting and editing an original dance by each student.

Malashock finds inspiration for his choreography from many sources and is now at work on two. The first is “Chagall, A Dance Musical” in which he will renew collaboration with composer/lyricist Yale Strom. The original music will range from Klezmer to Russian folk and French Musette to Russian Avant Garde Classical. Music and dance will explore the art, life and relationships of Chagall. As part of the Jewish Arts Festival 2010, the first three sections of this new work will premiere June 10, 12 and 13 along with “Tribes” a previous collaboration between Malashock and Strom.

A second new dance work “The Floating World” will use original music and video presented in conjunction with San Diego Museum of Art’s exhibition “Dreams & Diversions: 250 Years of Japanese Woodblock Prints.” The premiere is planned for April 2011 and will run four weeks in the Museum’s Copley auditorium. The actual creative process can be viewed at the Company’s studio this coming April 10 & 11, and then as a “work in progress” on May 15 & 16 – 2010.
Malashock has a firm vision for his work, the Company and the school. In these shaky economic times, it’s important to have such a vision and then to translate it into action with a steady hand and eye. Bringing those steadying qualities together with the visionary eye of an artist (quite a different kind of vision) is a delicate act of balance. But, as a dancer, Malashock knows all about balance.


Orysiek is a freelance writer based in San Diego.