Arts & Culture Newsletter: LITVAKdance returns, outdoors

Good morning, and welcome to the U-T Arts & Culture Newsletter.

I’m David L. Coddon, and here’s your guide to all things essential in San Diego’s arts and culture this week.

The title of North County-based LITVAKdance’s return to in-person programming is simple and to the point: “Dancing Outdoors.” Thirteen LITVAK company members will perform twice (at 5 and 7:30 p.m.) Saturday on the serenely beautiful grounds of the Institute of Contemporary Art, San Diego’s north campus (formerly the Lux Art Institute).

The dancers are “nervous but excited,” said LITVAK Artistic Director Sadie Weinberg. “This is why we dance: to engage with our community, and for that live experience.”

“Dancing Outdoors” is a convergence of dance and music. The genre-diverse Montalban Quintet will provide musical accompaniment to the short dance pieces. Also on hand will be violinists Yale Strom and Pete Polansky.

Each program is composed of 25 minutes of dancing and 20 minutes of only music. “I’m excited for the live music component,” Weinberg said. “I feel this is an easy access back into live (in-person) performance.”

“Dancing Outdoors” features works from the LITVAK repertoire, including choreographer John Manculich’s company-commissioned “Kisses, Walls and Gestures,” which premiered in 2019. From LITVAK’s virtual “Dances to Strings” program, company member Emily Miller’s “Cucala” will be re-created, with violin accompaniment from Strom.

Attendance at these outdoor performances will be capped at 150. Tickets are $10 to $25.


Matt McBane oversees the Carlsbad Music Festival.

Matt McBane oversees the Carlsbad Music Festival.

(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The 17th annual Carlsbad Musical Festival, under the artistic leadership of Matt McBane, returns Friday and runs through Sunday, offering live music across a wide range of idioms. Among the organizations participating is San Diego’s Art of Elan.

On Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on St. Michael’s by-the-Sea’s outdoor lawn, Art of Elan will showcase the music of Brazilian composer Marcos Balter, who’s also a faculty member in the UCSD Department of Music. The program also includes works by Haitian-American vocalist and flutist Nathalie Joachim and Puerto Rico-born multi-instrumentalist Angelica Negron.

Single-day festival tickets start at $18. Read more about the festival in this Union-Tribune story.

Standup comedy

Comedian Louie Centanni

Comedian Louie Centanni

(Courtesy of Louie Centanni)

When I was a graduate student in San Diego State’s MFA Creative Writing program a few years ago, I had a workshop classmate whose writing was consistently funny and more than a bit outrageous. I might have guessed that Louie Centanni would one day translate his humor to the standup comedy stage.

It started like this, Centanni said: He and a friend were collaborating on a written work, possibly a screenplay, and didn’t know whether what they were writing was funny to anyone but themselves. Because his friend had done standup before, they decided to test their material on stage. “I wasn’t really keen on it at first,” Centanni recalled, “because I didn’t have aspirations to do standup.”

But something clicked and Centanni, a writer who also teaches at SDSU, found a new passion. He’ll perform Saturday night at 8 at Twiggs Coffeehouse’s “Comedy Heights” program.

“I tend to think of myself as an absurdist, not just in comedy but in life,” said Centanni of his brand of comedy. “I’m fascinated by the absurdity that we call existence. A lot of my humor tries to look at the things that I think are very frustrating and obscure about day-to-day life.”

Centanni’s essay-writing students will appreciate the connection he makes between standup comedy and the written word: “Both require you to have a ‘topic sentence’ where you tell your reader or listener why something matters. In comedy, a lot of the best bits need to have that sort of premise up front. If you just go into a bit about health care, people won’t really have their minds guided down the path of expectation that you can then subvert as a comedian.”

Visual art

If/when you next get to D.C., be sure to visit the National Portrait Gallery on 8th and G streets. In the meantime, you can enjoy the 60-year-old museum’s “Visit at Home” programming. It’s chockful of digital workshops, art-making activities and readings for kids and adults alike.

Twice on Wednesdays, the site hosts “Young Portrait Explorers” for artistic-inclined young people, with virtual drawing workshops for grownups offered on Thursdays. “Open Studio Workshops” through YouTube are available on Fridays. Check out the Visit at Home page for up-to-date programs and times.

While you’re virtually visiting, don’t forget about the online exhibitions, in which you can view nearly 4,000 works from the gallery’s permanent collection with no shortage of enlightening text accompanying them that provides insight and appreciation of portrait art at its finest.

Meanwhile, locally …

A Mesa College exhibition — ‘Ludicrous Tales: A Topsy Turvy Quartet’ — finally opens after being shuttered for over a year. Read more about it here.

"In Tears I let Go" by Gloria Muriel (acrylic on canvas)

“In Tears I let Go” by Gloria Muriel (acrylic on canvas)

(Courtesy photo by Jenny Armer)

Digital radio

This image released by the Toronto Film Festival shows David Byrne in a scene from "David Byrne's American Utopia”

This image released by the Toronto Film Festival shows David Byrne in a scene from “David Byrne’s American Utopia,” a documentary of Byrne’s concert musical, directed by Spike Lee.


Talking Heads founder David Byrne plays DJ on his website in what he calls “DB Radio.” Not surprisingly, the playlists he cooks up are as eclectic as the music Byrne himself has been making since the ‘70s.

Take his August “Rama Lama, Rama Lama Ding Dong” show. It kicks off with the Cuban harmony group Los Zafiros, followed by Dominican-American disc jockey DJ Kass’ “Scooby Doo Pa Pa” and the Ad Libs’ 1965 doo-wop hit “The Boy from New York City.” Mingled later among Little Anthony & the Imperials and the Flamingos and the Silhouettes are two tunes by Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. Good times!

Really the only component missing is between-song patter from Byrne, whose comments would have been interesting to hear.

Dance theater

Maraya Performing Arts

Maraya Performing Arts

(Courtesy photo)

Chula Vista’s Maraya Performing Arts center wraps up its performances of “Block by Block” a site-specific dance theater musical, on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s venue is the Cesar Chavez Community Center on Sycamore Road; Sunday it’s City Heights Recreation Center on Landis Street.


University of California Television invites you to enjoy this special selection of programs from throughout the University of California. Descriptions courtesy of and text written by UCTV staff:

“Creative Expression for Mind-Body Health”: Throughout history, the arts, music and humanities have served as a medium for healing. Creative expression can foster self-discovery of inner resources, cultivate resilience during life challenges, and transcend socio-cultural barriers through a shared language. This interdisciplinary series aims to explore the role of creative expression in addressing multiple dimensions of mind-body health across the lifespan. Leading UC San Francisco clinicians, researchers, and expressive art therapists from geriatrics, neuroscience, oncology, otolaryngology, pediatrics, physical therapy, and psychiatry present the science behind creative expression, discuss case examples, and lead experiential demonstrations.

“Challenges and Opportunities in Central America’s Northern Triangle Region”: Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (The Northern Triangle) are experiencing a historic Diaspora to the U.S. southern border. The precipitants of this migration are an unprecedented economic contraction occurring after back-to-back major hurricanes compounded by a pandemic and further complicated by heightened crime, violence, and corruption. Congresswoman Norma Torres (CA-35), co-chair of the Congressional Central America Caucus and a native of Guatemala, shares her perspective on the importance of addressing corruption and promoting good governance as key preconditions of future direct foreign assistance by the United States. She is joined by congressional members Juan Vargas (CA-51) and Scott Peters (CA-52) to discuss the Biden administration’s proposed four-year, $4 billion regional strategy the region.

“Price’s Violin Concert No. 1 in D Major”: A classical composer, pianist, organist and music teacher, Florence Price was the first African American woman to have a symphonic piece performed in the 1930s by a major orchestra. Following her death, much of her work was overshadowed as new musical styles emerged that fit the changing tastes of modern society. Three settings of her work “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight” were rediscovered by chance in 2009, including two violin concertos, which has sparked renewed interest in her compositions. In the 2018/2019 season, the La Jolla Symphony performed Florence Price’s “Violin Concerto No. 2,” and inaugurated their 2019/20120 season with Price’s “Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major.”

And finally: Top weekend events

A rider at the Lakeside Rodeo

A rider at the Lakeside Rodeo

(U-T file photo)

Here are the top events happening in San Diego from Thursday, Aug. 26 through Tuesday, Aug. 31.

Angelia S. Rico

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