Bella Lewitzky, 88, the legendary choreographer who fought censorship in the arts, died July 16 at an assisted care home in Pasadena, Calif., after a stroke.

Ms. Lewitzky, a star dancer in her youth, established herself as a pioneer in the field of modern dance as artistic director and choreographer of the internationally renowned Lewitzky Dance Company, which she founded in 1966.

She guided the Los Angeles-based company for more than 30 seasons before retiring in 1997.

That year, President Bill Clinton presented her with the National Medal of the Arts for her contributions to the growth and support of the arts.

Her support came in the form of political activism. In the 1950s, she refused to answer questions about possible communist activities in the art world when she was subpoenaed to testify before Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy's House Committee on Un-American Activities.

In 1991, she successfully challenged the National Endowment for the Arts to remove an anti-obscenity clause from its grants applications.

Ms. Lewitzky, a daughter of Russian immigrants, was born in Los Angeles and raised in a socialist commune in the Mojave Desert.

As a young woman, she studied under Los Angeles choreographer Lester Horton.

She emerged as his star pupil and became a master teacher of his techniques.

"Art teaches how to dream, to fantasize and to imagine," Ms. Lewitzky said in one of the lectures she regularly gave. "Without this capacity, we have little ability to progress."

Survivors include her husband, Newell Taylor Reynolds, a fellow Horton dancer; a daughter; and two grandsons.

Bella Lewitzky was considered a pioneer in modern dance.