LA WOMAN: ZINA BETHUNE
Zina Bethune Founder, Artistic Director and Choreographer for Theatre Bethune and Infinite Dreams, is an accomplished performer of international prominence, having demonstrated remarkable versatility as a dancer, actress, choreographer, and singer in film, television and theatre. Having directed and choreographed over 50 plays, films, videos, and ballets, Ms. Bethune’s diverse background has served to broaden her ideas of performance to include multimedia as its own art form, making her a pioneer in the Cyber-Art movement. In 2009 Backstage West named Theatre Bethune one of the five top dance companies in Los Angeles.
Beginning her ballet training at the age of six with George Balanchine’s prestigious School of American Ballet, Ms. Bethune went on to perform as a member of the New York City Ballet and as a guest Prima Ballerina with such companies as The Royal Danish Ballet, Nevada Dance Theatre, and San Francisco Ballet Theatre. Her critically acclaimed performances have included “Swan Lake,” “Le Corsair,” “Romeo & Juliet,” “Nutcracker, ” “Black Swan,” “Giselle,” “Don Quixote,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and Balanchine’s “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.” Ms. Bethune is also an accomplished actress with a multitude of credits to her name, including starring roles in the primetime series “The Nurses,” Martin Scorsese’s debut film “Who’s That Knocking at My Door,” “Sunrise at Campobello,” “Grand Hotel” on Broadway and the recent film “Wings of Legacy.”
In 1969, while still based in New York, Ms. Bethune formed her first dance company, Zina Bethune and Company, where she created her first mixed media performance piece. A maverick in the belief that the worlds of multimedia/special effects and dance could forge a single art form, Ms. Bethune continued to pioneer innovative theatre/dance productions. After making a move to Los Angeles in 1980, Ms. Bethune founded Theatre Bethune, her present multimedia dance company. In 1982, Zina created Infinite Dreams, a dance and drama outreach program for children and teens with disabilities. Having struggled with her own serious physical disabilities such as scoliosis, dysplastic hips and lymphedema, Ms. Bethune fulfilled a lifelong ambition to work and create with special needs children and teens before it was fashionable or politically correct to do so. Theatre Bethune became the first professional dance company in America to create a participatory dance program for disabled children and youth. Recognized by three U.S. Presidents, four Los Angeles Mayors, LAUSD, Senators and the United Nations, her award winning INFINITE DREAMS program has impacted the lives of over 7000 special needs children and youth. Ms. Bethune has taught master classes and led seminars in arts and disability for elementary and high schools, colleges and medical institutions. Her pioneering work has made Theatre Bethune and Infinite Dreams a leader in The Arts and Disability Movement.
In 1988 a special invitation by the Chinese government brought Ms. Bethune to China to introduce the disabled children of China to Infinite Dreams. This trip was the subject of the acclaimed documentary “Infinite Dreams in China – A Portrait of Zina Bethune,” which had its world premiere at the American Film Institute. That same year, Ms. Bethune’s work with Theatre Bethune and Infinite Dreams was also the subject of the PBS special “Heart Dancing.” Ms. Bethune and “Heart Dancing” were later honored with the Media Access Award For Excellence and the Randolph Hearst Award.
For her continuing efforts, Ms. Bethune has been the recipient of numerous awards, commendations, and citations (See Awards section for list). Showing no signs of slowing down, Ms. Bethune continues to direct Theatre Bethune productions as well as oversee and teach the Infinite Dreams outreach program.
Ms. Bethune was tragically killed in 2012, when a hit and run driver struck her while she was attempting to save an injured animal on the road. Her memorial tribute video, which was screened at her memorial service, was created by EZTV’s Michael J. Masucci & Kate Johnson:
LA Woman Documentary:
Zina Bethune - "We Are All Composites of Those We've Known"