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Dancing Queen

Liane Weintraub shakes up the L.A. dance scene.

Liane Weintraub

Liane Weintraub

Photo By Tyler Boye

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles might be known for many cultural phenomena, but dance isn’t one of them.

While New York, Paris and London attract fleet-footed ballerinas like moths to a flame, the dancescape in Southern California has remained relatively dim, despite being the birthplace of Darci Kistler, Heather Watts and Kyra Nichols. Thirty-five-year-old philanthropist Liane Weintraub, however, is set on shaking things up.

“L.A. should be a dance town,” declares the Manhattan native-turned-Malibu resident, who was raised on “Swan Lake” wishes and “Nutcracker” dreams at Lincoln Center. “We’re home to a world-class symphony and opera — it’s not as if culture is unheard of here.”

Ironically, it was the dominance of the L.A. Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Opera that kept dance from finding a home at the Music Center (L.A.’s version of Lincoln Center). But this year’s opening of Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall, where Weintraub’s husband, 37-year-old real estate developer Richard Weintraub, sits on the board, meant that dance companies were finally able to book curtain time.

This year marks the city’s first official dance season, highlighted by a 10-day American Ballet Theater run opening tonight. Weintraub, founder of the four-year-old membership committee known as Center Dance Association, has led the effort to bring companies like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Bolshoi Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem, the Joffrey Ballet and Paul Taylor Dance Co. to L.A. during the past few years, while raising $2 million and dipping into her own considerable coffers.

After graduating from Columbia 12 years ago, Weintraub came to L.A. with the intention of spending a year here. Instead, she met her husband and never looked back. She’s since earned an M.A. in journalism from USC and found her niche among this city’s moneyed, though low-key, art patron milieu.

Though she’s always been media shy and finds the game of getting press “a little daunting,” Weintraub says it’s time to step up to the plate in order to gain support. “Now our biggest challenge is to reach out to an audience and gain their loyalty. Many important people in this city have been burned before,” she says, referring to past attempts to fund dance companies and performance seasons. But Weintraub believes that nurturing a whole new generation of dance lovers is equally important. “You probably love it, you just may not know it yet.”
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