Breaking new ground: LITVAKdance introduces new works in ‘Terrain and other dance stories’

LITVAKdance ensemble members  rehearse on a rocky hillside.
LITVAKdance ensemble members (left to right) Jacqueleen Schweighardt, Erica Ruse, Hannah Wyer, Emily Miller and Jordan Daley.
(Courtesy of Josh McCausland)

The five pieces on the ‘Terrain’ program at UCSD next weekend are about exploring our place in the environment


The two men and four women of LITVAKdance move in unison while watching each other for even pacing in the mirrored wall.

Performing barefoot on a sunlit wood floor, their right legs rise up, then down, right hands press against the heart followed by a skyward reach, then crouching, standing, spinning, splitting into pairs and finally turning to face each other in a circle.

Artistic director Sadie Weinberg stops the action.

She considers the next movement phrase for “A Notch in Eternity,” the work she’s rehearsing that will premiere at “Terrain and other dance stories,” the company’s spring production next weekend at the University of California San Diego.

Weinberg faces the dancers with her back to the mirror and demonstrates a sweeping arm motion and a dip, almost a curtsy.

The company begins again.

“I just wanted to make a dancer’s dance, with moments of chaos and then, connecting,” she explains after the rehearsal.

“It’s continuous flow, the kind of dance where, at the end, you are out of breath and have to stop. The dancers have been in so many works where choreographers come in and they are expected to generate material and build a work together in a process-oriented way. It’s giving them the joy of just dancing the dance and not having to wonder what it’s about.”

Though there’s no narrative for “A Notch in Eternity,” the idea for the dance was inspired by text Weinberg read in a book about Judaism.

“I’m not a religious person, but I’m seeing the trajectory of life in a different way,” Weinberg says.

“There are these components of spiritual practice that tie us to the passage of time. And there are traditions that tie us to something bigger than ourselves. It’s this recognition of how small we are in relation to eternity. We live in a moment, so the dance is this spinning universe, with moments when things are distilled down to an idea.”

The dance studio was built in the back of Weinberg’s North County home and April’s afternoon light streams through one wall of window panes, offering views of a green backyard.

But the dancers are focused on each other as they create a visually striking landscape of movement that shifts in energy from powerful to lyrical.

“A Notch in Eternity” is accompanied by Ezio Bosso’s rainy-day score titled, “Thunders and Lightnings,” a string-heavy composition with a repeating refrain that swells with emotion and then recedes.

“His music is the story,” Weinberg says.

“I love how simple and yet, how big his structures are.”

LITVAKdance ensemble membersrehearse on a rocky plateau.
LITVAKdance ensemble members (left to right) Hannah Wyer, Erica Ruse, Ashley Akhavan (background), Jordan Daley and Nick McGhee.
(Courtesy of Josh McCausland)

“Terrain and other dance stories” includes four additional works with diverse themes that explore our place in the environment.

Besides “A Notch in Eternity,” there are dances by local guest choreographers Chuck Wilt, Patricia Sandback, sol de la rosa and internationally renowned choreographer Ido Gidron , who won the company’s first-ever choreographer competition.

Thirty dancemakers submitted video works and Gidron, who trained at The Juilliard School and has performed with the internationally renowned Batsheva Ensemble, was chosen to create a work for the company.

Dancer Jordan Daley, who stands 6 feet, 2 inches, is a LITVAKdance standout who found Gidron’s style captivating.

“The whole company wanted him,” Daley says.

“We had to watch all the videos separately as homework. Then, we had a meeting and reviewed our picks. For me, it was how virtuosic Ido’s choreography felt. He wasn’t afraid to play with intimacy and spacing and contact. It was all the attention to detail that interested me.”

In “Terrain and other dance stories,” Sandback offers a humorous duet titled, “Once When You Weren’t Looking” and sol de la rosa’s semi-autobiographical “A Living Room Routine (the life and times),” reflects upon the ways memories of pleasure, loss and love can inform the present.

Wilt’s “Terrain,” is a dance about the human response to the seasons and before rehearsing the new dance by the imaginative Gidron, the dancers were instructed to envision their dream house.

Bringing in new choreographers keeps LITVAKdance fresh and engaged, in addition to helping them develop a cohesive style.

In the past year, Weinberg’s 5-year-old nonprofit dance company has gained momentum, performing works by Los Angeles-based WHYTEBERG, Israeli dancemaker Ronen Izhaki and New York-based Rebecca Margolick, who was named one of Dance Magazine‘s “25 to Watch” in 2021.

“I try not to get stuck or bogged down by making things perfect,” Weinberg adds. “I keep moving forward.”

LITVAKdance presents: ‘Terrain and other dance stories’

When: 4 and 7 p.m. Saturday, April 29; 2 and 5 p.m. April 30

Where: Molli & Arthur Wagner Dance Building, UC San Diego, 9155 Mandell Weiss Lane, La Jolla

Tickets: $30, students; $17, seniors


Luttrell is a freelance writer.