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Obituaries

Newell Reynolds, 91; Lewitzky Dance Company set designer

April 21, 2007|Mary Rourke | Times Staff Writer

Newell Taylor Reynolds, an architect and a set designer for the Bella Lewitzky Dance Company until it disbanded 10 years ago, died Wednesday. He was 91.

Reynolds, who was married to Lewitzky from 1940 until her death in 2004, died at the home of his daughter, Nora Reynolds Daniel, in Sierra Madre. The cause was complications from a fall, she said.

In the late 1930s, Reynolds began a career as a dancer in Los Angeles with the Horton Dance Group, founded by Lester Horton. There, he met Lewitzky, a lead dancer with the company.

When she went on to co-found the Dance Theatre, Reynolds became the manager and designed stage sets.

He had not planned on dance or design as his career. Born March 14, 1916, in Corona, he was raised in Redlands and graduated from the University of Chicago, where he studied political science.

After graduation, he returned home and worked as a carpenter while he took up modern dance. He became increasingly interested in architecture, particularly the modern designs of Rudolf Schindler, who built a number of houses in the Los Angeles area in the 1920s and '30s.

Reynolds enrolled in the architecture program at USC in the 1950s and, after graduating, joined Welton Becket & Associates. He remained there through the 1960s as the firm launched several major projects, including the Los Angeles Music Center and the Cinerama Dome.

Reynolds designed and built a house for his family in the Schindler style in the late 1950s and later added a dance studio for his wife.

The Hollywood Hills home was eventually sold to two former dancers with Lewitzky's company.

From the early 1970s, Reynolds worked full time with the Lewitzky troupe, formed the previous decade -- creating stage sets of plastic tubing and other modern materials.

One memorable set he designed for the dance "Spaces Between" featured a plexiglass plank that angled up from the floor and was suspended by fine wires.

Dancers moved up and down the plank, which was hardly visible to the audience.

"They looked like they were levitating," Larry Attaway, the company's former music director, said in an interview this week.

Along with his daughter, Reynolds is survived by grandchildren Keenan Rhys and Ross Taylor McCune and four brothers.

mary.rourke@latimes.com

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