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Formal 'Ground-Breaking' : L.A. Gallery Has Them Dancing in the Streets

September 15, 1986|JUDITH MICHAELSON | Times Staff Writer

Dressed in colorful tights and stark-white, in flamenco costumes and bathrobes, 143 dancers from 26 California dance companies joined together Sunday to perform a new work, filling Grand Avenue with dance choreographed by Bella Lewitzky.

It was a fitting high point as city and state officials, artists and fund-raisers participated in the formal "ground-breaking" of the new home for Lewitzky's Dance Gallery on Bunker Hill at 4th Street and Grand Avenue.

Scheduled to open in 1988, the $17.5-million, 75,000-square-foot gallery will house a 1,000-seat theater, an educational institute, a specialized dance library and the Bella Lewitzky Dance Company, which will perform for one week in the spring and one week in the fall.

$3-Million Site

A major component of downtown's cultural renaissance, which began last year with the opening of the Los Angeles Theatre Center on Spring Street, the gallery sits on a $3-million site donated by Bunker Hill Associates, developers of California Plaza. Down the street, ready for its formal dedication ceremonies in December, is the rust-colored Museum of Contemporary Art.

The ceremonies Sunday by the 44-story California Plaza glass-and-steel tower included half-minute performances by the individual dance companies--organizations such as the San Francisco Ballet and the resident Lewitzky company--a round of official speeches and, at the end, a ritualistic blessing of the site by Nigerian, Japanese, Hawaiian and native American dancers.

Lewitzky's 13 dancers, garbed in black tights and T-shirts that commemorated the 20th anniversary of the modern dance troupe, stood in front when the 143 dancers performed together. "This is a special time for us," gallery Executive Director Darlene Neel said before the ceremonies began. "Bella was 70. The company was 20 and we're about to birth a new one (gallery)."

Providing a range of activity from presentation of renowned national, international and regional dance companies to special youth concerts and noontime programs for downtown office workers, the gallery will also contain several other performance spaces and an outdoor performance plaza.

On hand to dedicate the new gallery were Mayor Tom Bradley, Community Redevelopment Agency Chairman Jim Wood, two City Council members, California Arts Council Director Bob Reid, actor Brock Peters and Trustee Barbara Bain. But to many in the standing-room-only crowd of several hundred, the most poignant words came from dancer Margaret Jenkins of the San Francisco dance company that bears her name.

In the midst of her dance presentation on the black polyurethane floor as the sun bore down, Jenkins said softly: "You know there's only one person for whom I would dance on this hot floor, barefoot. If it hadn't been for Bella, possibly there wouldn't have been any dance in San Francisco, Los Angeles or California, whatsoever."

In his speech Reid said: "While so many dance artists run off to New York as soon as they can afford a bus ticket, Bella has steadfastly chosen to live, work, thrive and bloom in California. She stayed here to do her art."

Then, looking directly at Lewitzky and seeming to take her by surprise, he said he was going to persuade Gov. George Deukmejian to reappoint her to a second term on the 11-member state Arts Council.

After a host of thank-you's, particularly to Bradley and redevelopment agency officials for making her gallery possible, Lewitzky apologized to those without seats, but added: "In the heart of anyone in theater, standing-room-only is it!"

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