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The Final Bow

Dance Pioneer Bella Lewitzky Puts Her Company Through Its Paces for One Last Performance

May 11, 1997|Lewis Segel | Lewis Segal is dance critic for The Times

When the last performance happens." * Bella Lewitzky, legendary Southern California choreographer, teacher and arts advocate, has been preparing to shut down her 30-year-old modern dance company for more than a year. She's 81, and not so much tired of dance as she is tired of running the Lewitzky Dance Company in these hard times for the arts. * Now the finale is really approaching--a gala farewell performance on May 17 at the Luckman Theatre at Cal State L.A. * And that last dance promises to be a singular event, bringing together the Hollywood, academic and dance communities for a loving goodbye to a woman who pioneered modern dance in Southern California and was the first American choreographer in that idiom to achieve a major international career outside New York. * But for Lewitzky, getting to the end is the same as business as usual--months of honing the skills of her dancers and polishing her repertory. And that's what these photos document: the everyday, intimate relationship between her mind--and their bodies. * And when the party's over? Don't ask: Lewitzky has left her future deliberately unplanned. "I like to live life, not plot it," she says. "I like to be surprised by it."

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