BELLA LEWITZKY... is the west coast's leading representative of modern
dance and has been changing the landscape of her chosen art form for more
than five decades, first as a riveting dancer of legendary power and excitement,
and then as a choreographer of sensitivity, intelligence and inventiveness.
Born to Russian immigrant parents in the Mojave Desert, Bella recalls being a highly kinetic youngster. During high school in San Bernardino she attended her first dance class where "the teacher gave us a combination of tap, acrobatics, song and dance. It was amateurish training but in my eyes there was no value-label on it because it involved dancing, and therefore I loved it." A subsequent visit to the Ballet Russe proved to be a real shock. To Bella the movements seemed so stratified and rigid to be nearly grotesque, and the seeds of distinction between dance as an art or dance as entertainment were subtly sowed. "Today there are fewer differences between modern dance and ballet, but in those years they were almost mutually exclusive."
At seventeen Bella was sent to meet California's modern dance pioneer, Lester Horton. "I felt instantly at home with his work... I was raw, untrained and totally eager. He took me in and my training began." She became Horton's colleague and founded with him the Dance Theater of Los Angeles in 1946. With Horton, many rehearsals lasted 12 hours. When new music was needed he often wrote it himself. He taught his dancers to design costumes, to make masks, to experiment with make-up and lighting. One student, Newell Reynolds, began courting Bella and a year later they married. While Bella rose to become principal soloist of the Horton troupe, Newell grew interested in theatrical architecture, studied, and eventually worked with R. M. Schindler and Welton Becket. Their union produced a lovely dancer, Nora.
Dreams often need to be realized, and in 1966 Bella formed the Lewitzky Dance Company. At first it was just women but soon men necessitated their inclusion and now over 30 years later, the Company has become one of the leading modern dance companies in the world, performing to critical acclaim in 20 countries on five continents and 43 of our United States. Chronologically the above seems a relatively simple through line. Not so! It would be remiss not to mention a few fascinating distractions like dancing in WHITE SAVAGE, assisting Agnes DeMille on the film OKLAHOMA, assisting Hanya Holm on THE VAGABOND KING, understudying Janet Collins in OUT OF THIS WORLD (NY). "I even danced at the Follies Bergere... (pause)... and I hated every minute of it." says Bella with a wry smile.
(video of this AWARDS LUNCHEON available)