Bella Lewitzky in Lester Horton's Warsaw Ghetto, 1949.  Photo by Constantine. Pictured: Bella Lewitzky in Warsaw Ghetto (1949), choreographed by her frequent collaborator Lester Horton, one of the many dances of social commentary in which she performed. (Photo by Constantine. Lester Horton Collection, Performing Arts Division, The Library of Congress.)

An outstanding figure in the modern dance world of southern California, Bella Lewitzky (1916-2004) was born in Los Angeles. She studied modern dance with Lester Horton, and in a remarkable fifteen-year collaboration became his leading dancer, a choreographic collaborator, and master teacher of his technique. In 1950 she left Horton to pursue an independent career; in 1951 she opened her own school, Dance Associates, and in 1954, she began an eighteen-year association with the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts, at one point becoming chair of the Dance Department. She was also the founding dean of the School of Dance at the California Institute of the Arts. In 1966 she founded the Bella Lewitzky Dance Company. Unlike her earlier works, which were dramatic and socially conscious, her new choreography emphasized pure movement, and her dancers became noted for their strength, line, elevation, and agility—a tribute to her gifts as a teacher. Among her collaborators was fashion designer Rudi Gernreich, who contributed costumes and sets to many productions. She has served on numerous national and California arts boards.

Learn more in Bella Lewitzky by Naima Prevots.

Bella Lewitzky, Photo courtesy of New York Public Library Pictured: Bella Lewitzky developed influential technique and teaching methods for modern dance. (Photograph from the Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.)