The Coast News Group
Fontaine Laing, accomplished pianist and long-time Encinitas resident, rehearses with the Litvak dancers for their upcoming Fall Concert. Photo by Wren Polansky

LITVAKdance collaborates with local pianist for Fall Concert at San Dieguito Academy

ENCINITAS — An artistic director and pianist — who are neighbors in Encinitas — have teamed up for LITVAKdance company’s Fall Concert on Nov. 17 and 18 at San Dieguito Academy.

Sadie Weinberg, who launched Litvak in 2017, asked 85-year-old pianist Fontaine Laing to collaborate on the company’s Fall Concert because, as Weinberg sees it, “Dance has traditionally had a connection with live music, something that has gotten lost in our contemporary world of recorded sound.”

From her backyard in Olivenhain, Weinberg — who is a professional dancer, choreographer and professor — would hear beautiful classical music and wondered who was creating it. When she met Laing and discovered she was the one behind the music, Weinberg asked Laing to give her son piano lessons and to perform with Litvak.

The classically trained and retired piano professor has not played for dancers in a long time, but she’s thrilled to have the opportunity again. The challenge, Laing said, is to keep the rhythm very precise.

Laing has watched the dancers progress and “grow into their parts,” she said, over the past month of rehearsal. Just like a pianist has to practice the same difficult phrase over and over again, the dancers have worked diligently to master each moment of each dance.

“The dancers’ movements are similar to the way the hands move over the piano,” Laing said. “When you’re playing, you have to balance the weight of your hands and arms over the keys while making sure there’s breath in your movement because,” she explained with a smile, “that breath is what makes the music.”

Laing will perform two pieces at the performances on Nov. 17 and 18: one by Franz Liszt and another by Georges Bizet for a solo choreographed and danced by Weinberg.

The Fall Concert will feature six dances of various lengths and tones. Weinberg said she sought “punch, power, play, intellect and beauty” for this performance to provide a wide range of audience experiences.

“The idea was to curate a show in which everyone will like something different, and people may not like everything,” Weinberg explained. “After watching other dance performances, I sometimes find that a piece I originally liked the least later resonated with me the most.”

Given that Litvak is a repertory company, collaboration has been sought and prized. In addition to Laing, the Fall Concert will feature works from five guest choreographers, including an original work by Madboots Dance in New York City.

This summer, two choreographers from Madboots — an all-male, queer dance company — cast the all-female Litvak dancers in a work called “Tarpaulin.”

A dance company that consists entirely of women “feels timely,” Weinberg said, noting the many woman-centric movements that have gained steam this year. “It gives us an opportunity to answer questions like what do we want to do with our bodies and what kind of expressions do we wish to give voice to as women dancers?”

Laing, who has played for numerous chamber ensembles and as a soloist, has taken a recent interest in promoting the work of female composers, including at shows hosted at the Encinitas Library.

The level of female composers has improved significantly in the past 50 to 100 years, Laing said, which she attributes to “the relaxing of the social structure that has allowed women composers to just do their thing.”

At the Fall Concert, audiences will get a chance to watch Laing, Weinberg and the other talented women just doing their thing as well — all in the spirit of creative expression.

Show Details:

Saturday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. &

Sunday, Nov. 18, at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

San Dieguito Academy Performing Arts Complex

800 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas

General Admission $25 & Student/Senior/Military $18