Fanchon’s Dance Mentors
Anne Lief Barlin
From Fanchon Shur, 2002:
In 1952 in the center of Los Angeles, on Western Avenue at 3rd street was the Dance Center. Here Anne Lief Barlin directed a dance school, dance theater and community-involved, ethnically respectful cultural center. This was at a time when minority cultures were devalued by the “American melting pot” When we studied choreography and taught classes, we were guided by Anne to respect and be familiar with the cultures of the people whom we taught.
I taught classes with my African American, Mexican, Japanese and Jewish co-teachers in eight locations throughout the city. When I taught in Watts and Compton, I studied African American dance rituals from the Georgia Sea Islands taught by invited guest artists. I studied African dances with teachers from Sierra Leone and Nigeria. When I taught in East Los Angeles, I studied Mexican folk dances such as the Yaqui Deer Dance and the Spanish Flamenco. When I taught in “Little Tokyo,” I studied Japanese folk dance and participated in the yearly Bon Odori Festivals as a guest of the Japanese community. I learned their beautiful peasant dances. When I taught in the Jewish community, I studied Israeli and Jewish folk dances. All of these classes were taught at Dance Center by guest artists invited by Anne.
Once a month at Dance Center, all these communities would come together and perform for one another and participate with one another in traditional dances from one of the participating communities. Anne brought Pete Seger to sing with us, Odetta, Jenny Vincent and Chukumeke Okeke. We also studied ballet, Graham Technique and theater acting. We studied mime with the great Trude Schoop.
Anne Lief Barlin was trained by Doris Humphrey and was at least 40 years ahead of her time in both envisioning and manifesting diverse dance communities that interacted peacefully and helped change the world. Her teaching of creative movement was woven into her teaching of technique through the unifying principle that all movement is motivated and that movement when experienced through its intention enlivens and allows for change. I consider her to be the most important influence in my dance life. She was living in Israel on Kibbutz Ein Ha Shofet when I visited her in l995 and was still teaching. Now she is in Albuquerque where her daughter Leanne lives. She is 85 years old and I spoke with her by phone today, grateful that she is with us.
Some of you may know her because of her video “Learning Through Movement,” about dance in the schools, which won the National Endowment of the Arts Award. She also wrote many books such as: Teaching Your Wings to Fly, The Art of Learning Through Movement; A Teachers’ Manual of Movement for Students of All Ages, Hello Toes!: Movement Games for Children, Ages 1-5 and Goodnight Toes!: Bedtime Stories, Lullabies, and Movement Games. Anne was also the recipient of the California Dance Educators Association (CDEA) Heritage Award in 1994 for her life service and dedication to dance.
Anne Lief Barlin, you were 50 years ahead your time. People now realize how important are the values you developed in us. Now, when people need to respect diversity and use movement arts for healing … Anne, you opened the path for us.
From Fanchon Shur, 2014:
Bella Lewitsky was my composition/choreography teacher. She became artistic director of Fanchon Bennett and Kate Hughes Dance Theater “Buck, Light, and Tumbling Spring: A Dance Concert in Four Art Forms” which was performed in Los Angeles in 1962-3.
Bella Lewitsky was the leading dancer for Lester Horton Dance Theater and was the dancer on whom Lester Horton developed his technique. This rare video shows her teaching “THE BELOVED,” Lester Horton’s choreography, to dancers 40 years later… and it shows excerpts of her breathtaking performance of Lester’s choreography in performance of “THE BELOVED” at Lester Horton Dance Theater in Los Angeles around 1950.