Sponsored Project

Bella, Citizen Artist

Bridget Murnane
Bridget Murnane, Jordana Toback, Walter Kennedy

Bella, Citizen Artist is 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 was the star of the Lester Horton Dance Group, the first American inter-racial dance company, based in Los Angeles in the 1930’s and 40’s. Lewitzky was a strong, talented, out-spoken artist, who gave her creative life to protect the rights of every American citizen.  Called before the House un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) she refused to testify against fellow artists, stating in the LA Times, “I am not a singer, I am a dancer.” In 1966 she founded the Lewitzky Dance Company and was appointed the founding Dean of Dance at the California Institute of the Arts. Her company performed and toured internationally for the next thirty years. In 1990, when she crossed out the anti-obscenity clause on the acceptance form of a $72,000 NEA grant she sued NEA-chairman John E. Frohnmayer to have the grant reinstated. The New York Times quoted her as saying in response, "I've been struggling in dance for 28 years. To exist merely to exist is stupidity. To exist to make art is a pretty grand act." Bella Lewitzky is a prime example of how a Californian woman, not born into wealth and privilege, challenged the power structures in her life, and in doing so created more opportunities for American artists today.

"Freedom is not a given, we must fight for it." Bella Lewitzky

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