Lester Horton

Lester Horton (January 23, 1906 - November 2, 1953) was an American dancer, choreographer, and teacher.

Lester Horton was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. Choosing to work in California (three thousand miles away from the center of modern dance - New York City), Horton developed his own approach that incorporated diverse elements including Native American dances and modern Jazz. Horton's dance technique ("Lester Horton Technique") emphasises a whole body approach including flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness to allow freedom of expression.

Horton formed his first dance company, the Lester Horton Dancers, in 1932. That company evolved into what was briefly known as the Lester Horton California Ballets (1934) and then the Horton Dance Group (1934). The Horton Dance Group, billed in its film appearances as the Lester Horton Dancers, lasted until early 1944, after which Horton attempted to develop a company on the East Coast for dancer Sonia Shaw. But when Shaw's husband stopped underwriting the venture, the company collapsed before it could give any public performances. [Larry Warren, "Starting from Indiana," "Dance Perspectives" 31 (Autumn 1967): 7, 13, 18.] After a brief hiatus, Horton formed the Dance Theater of Los Angeles with his longtime leading dancer, Bella Lewitzky; their partnership ended when Lewitzky left in 1950. Horton's final company continued until 1960 under the direction of Frank Eng.

In order to finance his school and various dance companies, Horton choreographed a number of early Hollywood musicals, beginning with "Moonlight in Havana" (1942). Most of the films, like the Maria Montez vehicle "White Savage" (1943), were B-movie musicals; the most notable was Arthur Lubin's "The Phantom of the Opera" (1943). Horton's dancers also frequently worked at clubs, including the Folies Bergère in New York and Earl Carroll's Theater-Restaurant in Los Angeles.

Horton trained a number of significant mid-twentieth century dancers:

* Alvin Ailey
* Eleanor Brooks
* Janet Collins
* Rudi Gernreich
* Carmen de Lavallade
* Bella Lewitzky
* James Mitchell
* Carl Ratcliff
* Jeri Faubion Salkin
* Joyce Trisler
* James Truitte

Other figures who emerged from Horton's school and company include actress Lelia Goldoni and gay activist Harry Hay.

Horton's best-known works, which he called "choreodramas," are "Salome" (which occupied Horton for nearly two decades [Richard Bizot, "Lester Horton's "Salome", 1934-1953 and After," "Dance Research Journal" 16.1 (1984): 35.] ) and "The Beloved".

Dance Theater made only one appearance in New York, during the last year of Horton's life. The reviews were mixed; one magazine praised the "superb dancers" but complained that "one technical and effective stunt follows another with hardly ever any sustained choreographic continuity." ["Lester Horton Dance Theatre," "Dance Observer" 20.4 (June-July 1953): 89.] Since Horton's death, his choreography has received less attention than his dance technique. Today, the Joyce Trisler Danscompany actively promotes Horton's technique and describes itself as "dedicated to the continuance of pioneer Lester Horton's style of dance." [ [http://www.danscompany.com/ Joyce Trisler Danscompany] Accessed 1-5-2008.]

Lester Horton's legacy is survived by the Lester Horton Dance Theater Foundation, Inc., preserving and promoting Horton's contributions as a dancer, choreographer, and educator which remain a determining factor in the evolution of modern dance as a vital contemporary art form.


Further reading

* Warren, Larry. "Lester Horton: Modern Dance Pioneer." New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc., n.d.
* "Dance Perspectives" 31 (Autumn 1967) is entirely devoted to Horton.
* Prevots, Naima. Dancing in the Sun: Hollywood Choreographers 1915-1937, University of Michigan Research Press, 1987.
* Bizot,Richard "Lester Horton’s “Salome” 1934-1953 and after," Dance Research Journal, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring, 1984) pp.35-40.
* Dinerman, Diana "The Horton Technique," Bourgeon Journal of Dance, Volume 2 #3, pp.28-30.
* Perces, Marjorie B., Forsythe, Ana Marie, Bell, Cheryl."Dance Technique of Lester Horton" Princeton Book Company, 1992.
* Barnes, Clive "Genius on the Wrong Coast," New York Times, 1967.
* Lester Horton Dance Theater Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
* Genius on the Wrong Coast (video recording), Lelia Goldoni, distributed by Green River Road, 1993.
* Camera Three Tribute to Lester Horton (video recording), 1963.

External links

*imdb name|id=0395635|name=Lester Horton
* [http://www.loc.gov/performingarts/encyclopedia/collections/hortondance.html Lester Horton Dance Theater Collection]
*Lober, David. [http://www.adolphbolm.com/html/Mentor/LesterHorton/LesterRedux.htm Lester Redux]
*Lober, David. [http://www.adolphbolm.com/html/Mentor/LesterHorton/HortonbyLober.htm The Lester I Knew]
* [http://www.dancespotlight.com/videos.html The Dance Technique of Lester Horton]
*Barnes, Clive. [http://lhdt.org/aboutus.html "Genius on the Wrong Coast,"]
* [http://www.lhdt.org The Lester Horton Dance Theater, Inc.]
* [http://www.drc-la.org/pages/about_horton_awards The Dance Resource Center of Greater Los Angeles' Horton Awards]
*Dinerman, Diana. [http://bourgeononline.com/?p=79The Horton Technique]
* [http://www.dancenotation.org/DNB/index.html The Dance Notation Bureau]

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