LITVAKdance set to debut original work in ‘Small Dances’


A dance always means something personal to a choreographer, even if the intent is simply beautiful form and movement.

It’s a process that involves recognizing one’s instincts, emotions and truth and expressing that with a skilled movement language.

But the real artistic magic happens when the personal story behind the dance means something to you, the audience.

That’s the challenge facing the LITVAKdance artists who have choreographed small dances described as “explorations into personal vocabularies.” The works will be introduced for the first time at The Vine Theater this weekend, as part of the Mojalet Dance Collective’s summer series.

The intimate performance space is located on the grounds of the Bernardo Winery, known for its collection of shops, a café and a wine tasting room situated in a tree-studded grove.

Besides the small works of original choreography, there’s something unexpected.

Earlier this month, LITVAKdance artistic director Sadie Weinberg commissioned the New York-based directors of Madboots Dance to set a work on her company.

Audiences will see a preview of that dance, titled “Tarpaulin,” before it will premiere in its entirety in November.

“I don’t want to put work out there that I just like,” said Weinberg, who launched her nonprofit contemporary dance company earlier this year in Encinitas.

“I want to put out work that is good and that speaks to a wide range of people.”

Weinberg’s mission is one that the LITVAKdance artists embrace because it expands their ideas and skills.

The company dancers who will create choreographic works include Ashley Akhavan and Korey Van Hoy, Emily Miller, María José Castillo, Beverly Johnson, April Tra and Berlin Lovio.

“I knew LITVAKdance was going to change things in San Diego for modern dance,” said Lovio, who performs the duet “8 points/8 versions” with her sister, Loren Lovio.

“I thought it would be me doing a lot of performances with great dancers. It’s turning into something else with the Madboots Dance choreographers, who are amazing and successful because of their attention to detail. They use descriptive language, like using the idea of water spilling from one side to the next when transferring body weight. All of our styles and strengths as a company are coming together.”

Dancer and LITVAKdance instructor April Tra choreographed “d. all of the above,” a solo work that she describes as an “exploration of combined movement vocabularies.”

Tra has participated in Trolley Dances and she choreographed a dance that accompanied the “Come Together” art exhibit at Wonderspaces San Diego last year.

She first created “d. all of the above” without music because she didn’t want “the sensation and timing of the movement to be restricted or bound by a meter or rhythm.”

“I want to capture movement that naturally occurs as it comes out of me,” explained Tra.

“That can activate things in different ways and I can adjust it to what I think feels appropriate. Later on, I’ll pick a soundscape and place the movement into it. I want it to be from a place of care and love. The underlying theme is softer but I will also direct a more structural form.”

Tra chose a mesmerizing, symphonic track she remixed, layering music by Bonobo with quotes by the late Fred Rogers, whose gentle voice says, “I’ve been sitting here thinking of different ways people show love to each other and themselves. I like to think of things like that.”

Dancer Beverly Johnson said working with LITVAKdance is helping her to evolve professionally.

“I can find my own voice and be myself but also perform other people’s work,” Johnson said. “It’s good to have an opportunity like this and to work with trained dancers.”

Johnson’s choreography is titled “Cool” and she’ll use a quartet of dancers to perform to the Janelle Monáe track “Make Me Feel.” She wants her work to move the audience. Literally.

“It makes me think of pleasure and all the ways to experience it,” said Johnson about the music she picked for her choreography.

“I really wanted to translate that feeling through the dance.The song has a funky groove to it and people will want to dance with us. I want audience members to come away from the dance with a big smile on their faces.”

LITVAKdance presents “Small Dances”

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: The Vine Theater at The Bernardo Winery, 13330 Paseo Del Verano, Rancho Bernardo

Tickets: $16 (senior, military and student discounts available)

Phone: (858) 243-1402


Manna is a freelance writer.