The Los Angeles Dance Festival (LADF), a month-long event of contemporary dance in LA has honored Bella Lewitzky by providing BELLA, a feature-length film of one of our leading women in dance. Los Angeles born maverick of modern dance, a preeminent and passionate performer, choreographer, artistic director, educator and revolutionary of dance and social issues was the subject on Saturday, April 15 at the BPStudios.

BELLA, the documentary, was presented as a gift to the dance community. It is a fascinating film by Producer/Director Bridget Murnane, Associate Producer, Walter Kennedy, and Co-Writer, Editor, Alex Bushe. Lewitzky’s young life in the depression and her experience with the historic McCarthy hearings primed her for a fight for the arts and artists that was to come.

Bella Lewitzky - Screenshot for documentary BELLA by Bridget Murnane (Courtesy of LADF)

Bella Lewitzky – Screenshot for documentary BELLA by Bridget Murnane (Courtesy of LADF)

Early on, Lewitzky’s strength of will, technical movement intelligence and energy soon caught the eye of the great teacher/choreographer and mentor, Lester Horton. The rare footage in BELLA clearly reveals her brilliance. Her mentor inspired the great Alvin Ailey, Carmen de Lavallade, Janet Collins, Arthur Mitchell, and James Truitt, among others. And what seemed like overnight, Lewitsky became Horton’s muse and assistant, helping him to realize his vision in dance until going off on her own.

The Interviews with former Lewitsky dancers Sean Greene, world renown dancer with Lewitzky’s company for 20 years, Walter Kennedy, Prof. of Fine Arts, a company member for over 20 years, and composer, choreographer Larry Attaway, of the Department of Dance at Butler University and Artistic Director of the Butler Ballet revealed fascinating details of their life in partnership with such an icon. So revealing were their personal stories, that listening to them somehow felt like being a voyeur in the life of Bella and her dancers revealing stories only known to those who had lived their company life.

Ballet Luminario in TURF by Bella Lewitzky - Photo by Gennia Cui, courtesy of The Ford Theatres

Ballet Luminario in TURF by Bella Lewitzky – Photo by Gennia Cui, courtesy of The Ford Theatres

Interviews with the brilliant Carmen de Lavallade, along with L.A.’s dance critic, Louis Segal, reveals Bella’s standards like none other. Her passion for her art, her love and partnership with former dancer and architect husband Newell Taylor Reynolds, paired their talents and love for 54 years of marriage and was clearly and lovingly mapped out in the film.

There were other company members featured in the film; Iris Pell, Loretta Livingston, Kurt Weinheimer. Also included: Fred Strickler, Rebecca Bobele, Gary Bates and Jan Day.

Bella Lewitzky with quote - Photo: courtesy of Bridget Murnane

Bella Lewitzky with quote – Photo: courtesy of Bridget Murnane

All dancers, all humans, no matter what discipline, should see this exceptional and moving history of Bella Lewitzky’s amazing life and career. Murnane, Kennedy and Bushe, the filmmakers, have captured her legacy for posterity, never forgetting this pioneer of dance and her depth as a working artist. Congratulations to all who made this possible.


The gift of this historic film of BELLA is one of many the Los Angeles Dance Festival (LADF) provides by Artistic Director Deborah Brockus who began the festival in 2012. It has grown each year to 5 locations over 4 weeks and has made it possible to support the work of artists of LA with performance stages and master classes. LADF now presents 50 companies in the month of April in five different geographically accessible sites: performances and master classes at the Luckman Theater on the Cal State LA campus Main Stage is the top-level showcase. Fringe showcase for emerging choreographers are in the Black Box Diavolo space in  Downtown LA. Site Specific performance event are in the southern LA region at Angels Gate Cultural Center, Master Classes and LADF company auditions in BPStudios in East LA, Canoga Park and San Pedro. Make sure to make your reservations.

For more information about the Los Angeles Dance Festival, please visit their website.

Written by Joanne DiVito for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: BELLA – Feature-length film by Bridget Murnane (courtesy of LADF)