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Setting Issues in Motion

May 12, 2000|ROSEMARY CLANDOS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Dance and theater enthusiasts of all cultural backgrounds may find purpose and humor in "Blessings & Curses," which will be performed next week by Malashock Dance & Company at CSUN's Performing Arts Center.

Playwright Karen Hartman says she wrote the play as a fresh way to use words and movement to address emotional and spiritual questions.

"It's not another night at the ballet," she said.

"Blessings & Curses" is the story of an artist facing physical limitations who ultimately gains a positive lesson from his difficult situation, said choreographer John Malashock, a principal dancer with Twyla Tharp who formed his own dance company in San Diego in 1988. "It is a personal story and a very universal one. I address a spiritual longing that I feel people are searching for right now."

For those who think dance can be too abstract and confusing, Malashock promises a clear, easy-to-understand story. Hartman said the play's message is one of hope, staying alive and maintaining one's creativity despite physical obstacles.

"There is a lot about contemporary families and biblical ones," said Hartman, whose work incorporates stories of people from the Book of Genesis. The ancient stories help illuminate the contemporary one being told.

Although the play uses Jewish folklore and culture, "Blessings & Curses" is not meant exclusively for Jewish audiences.

"When you mine the truths of one culture, it becomes universal," Hartman said. "The more you reveal yourself, the more people recognize themselves in you. That's true on a larger level. The more you reveal a larger culture, the more it becomes universal. In other words, people from other cultures recognize themselves in the same way."

The performance is part of the Yiddishkayt Festival featuring 40 events at 20 venues in the Los Angeles area through May 24. Through the activities of the festival, organizers hope to build the community of people interested in Yiddish culture and language.

"We looked carefully to bring artists from all over the world who are creating contemporary work that can stand up for itself within the mosaic of world culture," said Aaron Paley, co-chairman of Yiddishkayt Los Angeles and executive director of Community Arts Resources.

BE THERE

Malashock Dance & Company in "Blessings & Curses," Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 p.m., Cal State Northridge Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St. Adults $30 and $20; seniors $15; students $10. 677-2488. For information about other events during the Yiddishkayt Festival, call (323) 692-8151.

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