“BELLA, the documentary, was presented as a gift to the dance community. Lewitzky was a Los Angeles born maverick of modern dance, a preeminent and passionate performer, choreographer, artistic director, educator and revolutionary of dance and social issues.” Joanne DiVito, LA Dance Chronicle
Bridget Murnane’s award winning documentary of modern dance icon and arts activist, Bella Lewitzky, will have its theatrical premiere November 10 – 16, 2023 at the Laemmle Royal in Los Angeles. BELLA was completed in 2022 and features renown dancer Carmen de Lavallade, composer Jeff Rona, and of course, Bella Lewitzky. The film includes historical footage of Lewitzky, her company, interviews with former company members, and much more. The showing of BELLA at the Laemmle will also include a very special photography exhibit of “The Horton Dance Group, 1938” taken by painter, block printer, designer, and photographer Viktor von Pribosic.
Regarding Pribosic’s photos, Murnane wrote in an email: “We found his son, Jan, in Portland, Oregon when we were researching licensing the famous Lester Horton pic, of him in a cape. Turned out Jan was going through his father’s old “dance” negatives, and he printed 20 photographs from original negatives by hand, no digitizing!” These photographs include a photo of renowned Japanese dancer Michio Itō taking a photo of Bella at the Horton studio and are now on exhibit at the Laemmle. They will be up for sale with the proceeds going toward financing the film’s completion costs.
In addition, former member of the Bella Lewitzky Dance Company and co-producer of BELLA, Walter Kennedy has been reconstructing Lewitzky’s Game Plan for California State University, Dominguez Hills Dance Department. Game Plan, choreographed by Lewitzky in the early 1970s, will be performed by students at CSU Dominguez Hills November 8 – 11.
Lewitzky was born in Los Angeles, CA. in 1916, the younger daughter of Russian immigrants, and spent part of her childhood in a utopian community in the Mojave Desert. The family then relocated to Los Angeles and at age 18 Lewitzky became devoted to dance while studying under the modern dance pioneer Lester Horton. She soon became Horton’s muse for his technique and lead dancer in the Lester Horton Dance Group. Lewitzky and her husband Newell Reynolds, also a Horton dancer, left the company in 1950. Lewitzky formed the Bella Lewitzky Dance Company in 1966 and Reynolds soon became a prominent architect in Los Angeles, and designed the house where Lewitzky created many of her works. Lewitzky disband her company in 1997 and she died in 2004.
On the film’s website, Murnane describes her documentary, BELLA, as “A feature-length film about the life, work, influences and impact of California-based choreographer Bella Lewitzky. Described as “…one of the greatest American dancers of our age,” Lewitzky became a strong advocate for the arts, and the development of Los Angeles as a global dance center. Lewitzky’s childhood was spent in San Bernardino, California. Surrounded by mountains, the desert landscape of this area will be used as a metaphor for her physical and emotional development as an artist. The wide-open spaces, textures, colors and sparse vistas mixed with a social consciousness instilled by her parents set the stage for her work and life.”
Accolades for Murnane’s documentary BELLA include 6 Best Feature Documentary awards; one Exceptional Showcase of the Arts; one Best Cinematography for a Documentary; three Best Documentary Feature Director; one Performance/Art Gold Remi Award; and one Award of Excellence. BELLA will also be broadcast and streamed on PBS SoCal during the month of March, 2024. You can read more about these awards on the BELLA website.
WHAT: Theatrical premiere of Bridget Murnane’s documentary BELLA.
WHEN: November 10 – 16, 2023
WHERE: Laemmle Royal Theater – 11523 Santa Monica Blvd 1st floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025
TICKETS for BELLA will go on sale no later than Tuesday, Nov 7th at 7pm.
To learn more about Bridget Murnane, please visit her website.
To visit the BELLA website, please click HERE.
To learn more about the Laemmle Royal and how to purchase tickets, please visit their website.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: BELLA – Documentary by Bridget Murnane (courtesy of LADF)