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Bella Lewitzky

Dancer and choreographer Bella Lewitzky was as famous off stage as on, thanks to her battles for freedom of expression against both the House Un-American Activities Committee and the National Endowment for the Arts. Lewitzky joined Lester Horton’s modern dance company in 1934, quickly became his lead dancer and helped develop his experimental technique. In 1940 she married fellow dancer Newell Taylor Reynolds and the pair collaborated with Horton to create Dance Theater, a multi-racial troupe that performed politically progressive dances. She went on to teach at Dance Associates from 1951–1965, then formed her own dance company in 1966, both choreographing and performing stunning pieces such as Spaces Between in 1974 on a swinging, transparent Plexiglas set. She chaired the contemporary dance department at Idyllwild Arts Academy from 1956–1972 and was founding dean of the California Institute of the Arts’s School of Dance from 1969–1972. She was also a dedicated political activist: in 1951 she refused to testify before HUAC, declaring, “I’m a dancer, not a singer.” Forty years later, she refused to sign a pledge for NEA grant recipients promising not to create obscene art—the ensuing protest forced the NEA to drop the pledge.

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Date of Birth
January 13, 1916
Place of Birth
Llano del Rio, California
Date of Death
July 16, 2004

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Bella Lewitzky." (Viewed on December 17, 2017) <https://jwa.org/people/lewitzky-bella>.

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