LITVAKdance is a small company making a big impact in San Diego

Samuel Hobbs of push/FOLD Dance company.
Samuel Hobbs of Push/FOLD Dance company in Portland, Ore., which will take part in LITVAKdance’s July 20 concert.
(Courtesy of Jingzi Zhao)

Sadie Weinberg’s 5-year-old dance company expands its reach with guest artists from Mexico, Seattle and Portland


LITVAKdance, the five-member, contemporary dance company based in North County, has expanded its reach far beyond San Diego.

It has crossed borders, traveled over state lines and danced its way into schools, libraries, indoor theaters and outdoor stages.

Founded in 2018 by ambitious dance-maker Sadie Weinberg, the company expresses a range of cultures and styles of movement through dance.

At Thursday’s popular Dancing Outdoors Take 3 event, for example, the company will perform “Vortex,” an award-winning duet by Mexican choreographer Zuleima Burrell and an excerpt from a dance titled “Haven” by Israeli choreographer Ido Gidron.

Those performances are the result of Weinberg inviting emerging and renowned choreographers from near and faraway places to set work on the company.

Recently, Weinberg was invited to judge the 4x4 TJ Nights 2023 choreography competition in Mexico, co-produced by the Tijuana Cultural Center and the Lux Boreal Dance Company.

LITVAKdance artists Jordan Daley, left, and Hannah Pritchett perform "Haven."
(Courtesy of Doug McMinimy)

A bit of history.

The “4x4” concept originated in 2005 at the Bluefoot Bar & Lounge in San Diego.

It was produced by SUSHI Performing and Visual Art and it presented works on a 4-by-4-foot stage. The monthly event charmed the members of Lux Boreal, so in 2006, they continued the program as a choreography competition in Mexico.

Weinberg said her south-of-the-border trip changed the way she thinks about creating and teaching dance.

“It was a cool experience in many ways,” she said.

“I felt honored to be a part of it. It was amazing to see the styles from all across Mexico. The themes, intentionality and emotional quality are different. Here, we tend to talk about the mechanics of dance, we don’t get into what the dance is about.”

Weinberg was so impressed with the winning dance, “Vortex,” that company dancers Hannah Wyer and Nick McGhee traveled to Mexico to learn the duet.

“It’s a piece that, by the end, you are completely sucked into the vortex of the work,” Weinberg said. “It continually spirals and there are these lifts that come in and out from the ground. They did that on a 4-foot by 4-foot stage and the tension was amazing.”

McGhee, who has been with LITVAKdance for five years, said he also found the experience of traveling to Mexico enriching.

“The process there is really different from the way we work in the United States,” he said. “It comes from an emotional place.”

Dancing Outdoors Take 3, described as “an evening of art, music, dance and libations,” takes place on the lush, tree-studded grounds of the Institute of Contemporary Art, North, in Encinitas.

The show includes live music from the Montalban Quintet and dance presentations from guest companies Khambatta Dance, based in Seattle, and from Push/FOLD, located in Oregon.

Last year’s show was so well-attended that latecomers stood behind the seating that surrounds the stage.

Besides dancing, McGhee will present the premiere of his first choreographed work, a duet performed by company dancers Ashley Akhavan and Jacqueleen Schweighardt.

Titled “Unconditional” McGhee’s movement style veers away from the way he was trained.

“As a student, I wanted to make work that wasn’t about anything,” he explained.

“This time, I really wanted to create something I was connected to. I thought about my mother. She instilled in me that we have a relationship of unconditional love. No matter what it is that I do or say, she will always be there for me. That has gotten me through some pretty rough patches in my life. I wanted to create a relationship between two dancers that signifies that, so they come together in these motifs, then part, but staying in close proximity.”

McGhee is only a little nervous.

“I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself,” he admitted.

“I’m working in the moment. Jacqueleen and Ashley are so wonderful, they can make anything look beautiful, so I have full trust in them. And I’m really excited about performing in that space. It’s a different atmosphere. It feels informal, but we deliver a quality performance.”

LITVAKdance presents Dancing Outdoors Take 3

When: 8 p.m. Thursday, July 20, (Doors open at 7:30 p.m.)

Where: ICA San Diego North, 1550 S El Camino Real, Encinitas

Tickets: $30, student/senior/military $15


Luttrell is a freelance writer.