When Doctor Seuss created his storybook “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” he must have had free spirits like Sandi Weinberg in mind. Beginning with her childhood years in Hickory, she was always aware that opportunities awaited her beyond the horizon.
“At an early age, I just loved to move, put on shows and sing,” Weinberg, a Black Mountain resident, said, “I was a 'fidgetster' and couldn’t sit still. I took part at the local dance academy recitals showcasing a touch of ballet, tap and jazz but kept dreaming of more and a penthouse in Manhattan.”
When she was 15 and her dad moved the family to Chicago, she realized it was time to get serious, to take a step back and truly delve into ballet. A year later, after another move took her to Atlanta, there were more ballet classes, and a Governor’s Honors Program in Valdosta. During that summer course, while receiving training from a modern dance teacher from New York, she discovered what appeared to be her forte - a less inhibited, freer form of dance that opened up new possibilities.
She went on to the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem and earned a BFA degree in modern dance.
At long last, she decided to move to New York and began auditioning every chance she got. She expanded her range at the famed Paul Taylor Studio and Martha Graham School, where she found that dancers of all shapes and sizes were prized. Movement there was all about people and human aspirations, rather than ideal body types engaged in choreographed patterns.
By then she realized that she was "not the best, not the worst, but somewhere in between," she said. "I got to the point where I had to put aside lofty artistic ambitions so I could pay the rent and managed to get jobs tap dancing and singing.”
Marriage and two children later, she embraced not only the kind of jobs she could get but also Joseph Pilates’ unique brand of physical therapy that Martha Graham relied on.
Joseph Pilates, an immigrant from Europe in 1926, put together a holistic exercise method inspired by the ancient Greek pursuit of excellence. Among the benefits were freedom of motion, increased strength and flexibility, internal rotation and injury recovery. Weinberg incorporated Pilates into her 28 years of work with dance students and the aging population in south Florida.
Attending a niece’s wedding in Hendersonville, she came to love the Western North Carolina mountains, seeing them as an escape from the Floridian heat and hurricanes. She and her husband were ready to explore another horizon.
“The eclectic population of Asheville seemed the most viable locale for a first (Pilates) studio," Weinberg said. "But, at the same time, wishing to get away, finding a home high up that floats in the air, in the clouds with a glorious view, led us a year ago to this new construction overlooking the peaks of the Seven Sisters. The view (from her home in Black Mountain) mesmerizes me. It’s magical.
"It’s so comforting to realize I’m really a mountain girl at heart. And I get to reinvent myself, drive down and get to meet all kinds of warm, welcoming people in this community and share with other women entrepreneurs in the area.”
Weinberg has also been offering Pilates sessions in people’s homes throughout the Swannanoa Valley. She has long since put aside her childhood fantasy of a Manhattan penthouse in favor of residence in the Blue Ridge and of opening a second studio in Black Mountain.