BELLA is a feature-length documentary about the life, work, influence, and impact of Los Angeles-based dancer, choreographer, and arts activist Bella Lewitzky, who was referred by dance critic Walter Terry as “one of the greatest American dancers of our age.” The film incorporates rare archival footage of Lewitzky’s performances and interviews with Lewitzky’s former students and dancers, and it demonstrates how a “uniquely Californian” artist with vision and tenacity influenced the lives of her fellow citizens. Bella Lewitzky joined Lester Horton’s multi-racial modern dance company in 1934, became his lead dancer, and helped develop the Horton Technique. She formed her own dance company in 1966 and continued to dance at the age of 62. Lewitzky was as famous off stage as on, thanks to her battles for freedom of expression against the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s and the National Endowment for the Arts in 1990. Director Bridget Murnane (Mia, a Dancer’s Journey, The Ballerina) joins us for a conversation on the indomitable spirit and powerful grace that Bella Lewitsky brought to her dancing, teaching and her life over the course of her illustrious career. BELLA had its World Premiere at the 2022 Madrid International Film Festival and screened at over fifty festivals world-wide, including the Palm Springs International Film Festival. BELLA has won seventeen awards including Best Documentary at Dance Camera West.
Bella Lewitzky was designated one of America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures by the Dance Heritage Coalition and awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton.A special photography exhibit will accompany the film’s theatrical release at the Laemmle Royal: “The Horton Dance Group, 1938” featuring Bella Lewitzky, photographed by Viktor von Pribosic and curated by filmmaker Bridget Murnane. And a reconstruction of Lewitzky’s “Game Plan,” by Walter Kennedy, former Lewitzky dancer/rehearsal director, and Associate Producer of the film, will be performed by the students at California State University, Dominguez Hills Theatre and Dance Department in Carson, CA on November 8-11.
About the filmmaker – Producer/Director Bridget Murnane has exhibited her work on theatrical, broadcast and cable platforms. She received an MA in Dance and an MFA in Television and Film Production from UCLA, and is a former Professor of Television, Film and Media Studies at California State University, Los Angeles. Bridget produced the feature Odile and Yvette at the Edge of the World, premiering at the Edinburgh Film Festival, and receiving theatrical distribution. Her films have been broadcast on PBS, as well as numerous cable channels. She was the Associate Producer on Mia a Dancer’s Journey, winning a 2015 LA Emmy for Arts, Culture and History, and Cindy, Telly and Golden Mike awards. She was awarded a Pew Fellowship and selected to be a Faculty Fellow by the Television Academy in 2017. In 2019 Bridget received a grant from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences to design and implement the course “Women Making Films” in collaboration with Canon Burbank. Bridget’s recent film, “Bella,” a feature documentary about choreographer/dancer/arts activist Bella Lewitzky, has received 17 awards and screened in over 50 festivals. “Bella” receives its theatrical premiere at the Laemmle Royal, Los Angeles, November 10-16, and will be streamed and broadcast on PBS SoCal in March 2024.
“Informative, absorbing bio-doc about work on stage and off of dancer/choreographer Bella Lewitzky. With an amazing array of dance and archival clips, from early performances in ’30s through her company’s final curtain call in ’97, primary voice is hers.” – Nora Lee Mandel, Maven’s Nest
“Although seen entirely through her eyes, suffering no contrary opinions, it is wonderful to renew an acquaintance with one of the most important dancers of the 20th century.” – Neely Swanson, Easy Reader (California)