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Aura Levitas, 98, dancer on Broadway and TV, artist, curator

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Aura Levitas, a dancer, artist and longtime Greenwich Village resident, died at home in her W. 10th Street brownstone, on June 12. She was 98.

She was an early leader of the since-disbanded Association of Village Homeowners, as well as an influential figure in the Southampton arts scene. She appeared in 11 Broadway musicals and was a dancer on television in its earliest years. Renowned composer Aaron Copland was her godfather.

Born Aura Vainio in Brooklyn to parents of Finnish descent, Levitas made her first Broadway appearance in “Mexican Hayride” while attending Barnard College. For more than a decade she danced on musical variety shows hosted by Milton Berle, Perry Como and Dave Garroway.

Aura Levitas.

Her dancing career took her to Tamiment Playhouse, a training ground for some of the biggest names in theater and TV, from Woody Allen to Grace Kelly. At Tamiment she met her future husband, Willard Levitas, a scenic designer. The couple delved into real estate, buying a brownstone in Greenwich Village and several homes on the East End.

She later embarked on an art career, with solo exhibits of her work in New York and Southampton. Inspired by Joseph Cornell, she applied her love of puzzles, puns and slang to collages, paintings and works of assemblage art.

Levitas was a founding member of the Southampton Artists Association and its president for two years. She curated five art shows annually for the association over the span of 10 years. Both she and her husband produced prizewinning art shows at East Hampton’s Guild Hall and the Broome Street Gallery in Manhattan.

A bequest from Levitas and her late husband to the Southampton Cultural Center established the Levitas Center for the Arts in 2006. She has been recognized by nonprofit institutions for her philanthropic work, including a lifetime achievement award from The Caring Community in Downtown Manhattan, where Levitas launched and curated an annual art exhibit for older artists.

In her later years she produced three volumes of poetry, mixing images of her art with musings on wisdom gained from longevity, and the transcendent qualities of a seashell. Thomas Meehan, the Tony Award-winning librettist, once noted, “Aura Levitas’s poems are a marvel and a delight — charming, witty and wise.”

She is survived by a nephew, Richard Ehrlich of New York; a niece, Alice Litter of Harvard, Massachusetts; and a goddaughter, Lorelei Smillie of New York.


  1. Vivian Russo Vivian Russo September 19, 2023

    Very proud of your accomplishments.
    V. Russo
    Graduate of Bay Ridge High School, June’54

  2. Leslie Wild Leslie Wild July 7, 2023

    She was a wonderful woman and I loved and looked up to her from the day I was born. She was my dearest cousin and friend. She is in my heart and I know I will see her againl. Aura you have touched many souls and will be remembered with Love! Leslie

  3. Rene Riback, second cousin. Rene Riback, second cousin. July 6, 2023

    Such a talented lady that I never had the pleasure of getting to know. Rest in peace.

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