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Dancer and actress Zina Bethune, 66, dies; founded TheaterDanse

February 13, 2012 |  1:20 pm

LeadZina Bethune, the dancer, actress and advocate for disabled children, was an L.A. artist with a long resume and a long list of admirers. On early Sunday, she was killed in a road accident when she got out of her car near Forest Lawn Memorial Park and was struck by an oncoming vehicle.

The L.A. Now blog reported that she was struck by two vehicles after she apparently stopped to help an injured animal on the side of the street.

Bethune, whose real name was Zina Feeley, was 66. In L.A., she was perhaps best known for founding Bethune TheaterDanse in 1980. The organization, located at the L.A. Theatre Center downtown, brought together multimedia visual art and dance in innovative ways.

In addition to her dance career, Bethune had the distinction of acting in Martin Scorsese's first feature film, "Who's That Knocking at My Door?" in 1967.

She appeared opposite Harvey Keitel in the movie about a young Italian American man in New York who reacts badly when he discovers that the girl he loves was once raped.

At the time of her death, Bethune was the head of Theatre Bethune, a company based near Burbank. The company has an education program called Infinite Dreams, which offers training in dance and drama to disabled students.

In 1998, Bethune told the Times that as a young dancer with New York City Ballet, she suffered from a condition called lymphedema, which causes swelling in the lower extremities. Despite being told she may never dance, or even walk again, Bethune continued her pursuit of dance.

Her work with disabled youth is designed to "let the children's creativity and musicality take them beyond where they've ever been, to let it move them in whatever ways they can move," she said.

Infinite Dreams has enrolled thousands of disabled students through its programs that have taken place around Southern California.

A full obituary will appear later at


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-- David Ng

Photo: Zina Bethune works with a child in a classroom for the hearing impaired at a Baldwin Hills elementary school in 1999. Credit: Los Angeles Times