A dance career for females can be tricky. Success is often impacted by body type, age, physical ability and last, but not least, the childbearing years.
LITVAKdance founder Sadie Weinberg credits her mom, San Diego modern dance pioneer Betzi Roe, for providing the tools that empowered her to navigate her own journey.
Weinberg is the oldest of three children, and growing up, she and her siblings recognized that their mom wasn’t like other moms.
“When we were young, she would take us down to the studio on Fifth Avenue while she rehearsed,” Weinberg said.
“I remember playing in the office with my siblings and hearing the creak of the floorboards while dancers in leotards made art. Even though I wasn’t so interested in being a dancer at that time, I was made aware of art and movement as a form of expression.”
That awareness made Weinberg different from other girls her age.
Once, she invited a friend to watch her mother perform at the Mandell Weiss Theatre accompanied by soprano Ann Chase.
“I was about 11 or 12, and for me, it was normal to see avant-garde modern dance,” Weinberg said. “My friend wasn’t exposed to that kind of thing. Her feeling awkward about it made me realize it was different. We couldn’t stop giggling. I wouldn’t normally do that. But my friend influenced me, and it was the first time I realized my family wasn’t mainstream.”
Weinberg was born in La Jolla, grew up in Solana Beach and now lives in Encinitas with her husband and two children, Maddie, 10, and Miles, 12.
She did not start dancing until she was in high school.
“It was partly because I didn’t want to be like my mom,” she said. “That was her thing, and I didn’t want to do that.”
Weinberg took ballet lessons at a few studios in town, but it wasn’t a good fit in terms of a career choice.
“When I started training, my mom said, ‘Don’t let someone else dictate how you train and who trains you; take charge of your own learning.’”
Modern dance companies like Paul Taylor and Parsons Dance, both based on the East Coast, intrigued Weinberg and she decided on a direction.
“I saw the dancers as people who were different shapes and sizes and colors,” she said. “There was a palette of humans. I wanted more. I knew myself, and I wanted to move to New York.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Purchase College SUNY and a master’s degree in fine arts from University of California Irvine, Weinberg returned to San Diego, accepted a variety of teaching and performing positions and launched LITVAKdance.
Roe, now in her 70s, made a name for herself while raising her children. She co-founded 3’s Company & Dancers, the original San Diego-based contemporary dance organization and a precursor to San Diego Dance Theater.
In the 1980s, Roe left the company to become a touring solo artist and she choreographed works for California Ballet, Moscow City Ballet and San Diego Dance Theater, to name a few.
She served as the chair for the dance division of Coronado School of the Arts before retiring in 2018, but Roe remains active in the dance community.
Last summer, she choreographed an original work for Mojalet Dance Collective and, inspired by the phrase “dust unto dust,” she created a contemplative solo piece with a dress made of 100 yards of fabric, decorated with projections of sand dunes.
A bigger part of her time these days is spent caring for her grandchildren and helping Weinberg with her flourishing dance company.
LITVAKdance, a nonprofit contemporary company, currently has six athletic and diverse dancers who perform locally and nationally.
In addition to creating dances with social themes, Weinberg commissions award-winning dancemakers such as Micaela Taylor, Tamisha Guy and Joshua Manculich to create works for the company, an effort that keeps her dancers engaged.
She also curates events that support local and nationally known dance artists with performance opportunities. The recent “Dancing Outdoors Take 2,” for instance, featured companies from San Diego, Mexico and Los Angeles.
“I’m not interested in being in the spotlight,” said Weinberg, who also serves as an adjunct dance professor at University of California San Diego and MiraCosta College.
“I feel more satisfied creating space for others and cultivating shows that nondancers will enjoy.”
The LITVAKdance fall concert in November will showcase works by a wide-reaching range of choreographers, including Ronen Izhaki from Israel and Rebecca Margolick, one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch.”
“My mom told me, ‘Do it your way’” Weinberg said.
“She invited me into her world and introduced me to so many artists, companies and dance schools. I also felt determined to do it my way, to follow in her footsteps, but at the same time to take charge and create my own name, my own reality.”
I am who I am as an artist because of ...
Betzi Roe, my mother: “She shared her world with me from a very young age, taking me to dance rehearsals, concerts and many arts events. Creating and imagining was always a part of our household. She guided me towards sound training and open-mindedness. But she also gave me enough space to find my own way, to cultivate my own opinions and career. I have learned from both her mistakes and successes. I cannot thank her enough for guiding me while giving me enough space to find myself along the way.”
LITVAKdance: Fall 2022 Performance
When: 4 and 7 p.m. Nov. 19, 2 and 5 p.m. Nov. 20
Where: San Dieguito Academy, 800 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas.