PASADENA, Calif. -- Bella Lewitzky, a renowned choreographer, master teacher, and arts advocate who sued over a national anti-obscenity pledge and won, has died. She was 88.
Ms. Lewitzky died Friday at an assisted-care home after suffering a stroke four days earlier, said her daughter, Nora Reynolds Daniel. Ms. Lewitzky's right leg had been amputated in 1999 because of an arterial disease.
Ms. Lewitzky's belief in freedom of expression led to more than one conflict with the federal government. In 1951, she was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee to answer questions about possible communist activities in the art world.
"I'm a dancer, not a singer," she replied.
When the National Endowment for the Arts implemented a mandatory anti-obscenity pledge, Ms. Lewitzky's dance company filed a lawsuit and in 1991, the pledge was declared unconstitutional.
"For me, this is a very personal day of rejoicing," she said after the ruling.
Although she had briefly studied ballet, Ms. Lewitzky's modern dance career started in 1934 when she enrolled in a class offered by Los Angeles choreographer Lester Horton. In three years, she was the leading dancer in the Horton Dance Group and in 1940. She married Newell Taylor Reynolds, architect and fellow Horton dancer.
Ms. Lewitzky, who retired as a performer in 1978, received numerous accolades, including five honorary doctorates, a Guggenheim fellowship, and the National Medal of Arts.
She leaves her husband, daughter and two grandsons.