Lester Horton


Salome, 1950; James Truitte, Elle Johnson, Carmen de Lavallade (Horton Summit).

“Not only a pioneer in the modern dance field, Lester Horton (1906-1953) was also a trailblazer in making a home for the nascent art form on the West Coast, basing his choreographic and training endeavors in Los Angeles. Besides early classes in ballet, aesthetic, and Native-American dance, Horton studied at the Denishawn School and with Michio Ito. The Lester Horton Dance Group first appeared in 1932 and became noted over the ensuing two decades for an individual technique and theatrical style that embraced themes of social and political protest as well as satire…His specific technique emphasises a whole body approach including flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness to allow freedom of expression” (Dance Pioneers).

“I have seen him stop people in class and ask them, ‘Who are you? If you’re you, don’t try to dance like him or her. Dance like yourself.’ He told us, ‘Your own personal individuality is your most priceless asset.’ Lester didn’t want to make little Lester Hortons out of us” (Horton Summit).

“Lester had a genius for drawing people out of themselves… finding out what their talents were. The great thing about him was his openness- He had no formulas and no limitations. He seemed always to be asking, “What are the possibilities?” My work with him gave me a special awareness and understanding of the way clothes behave on a figure in motion. His sense of plastic form was incredible. I learned so much from him –things that still influence my work now” (Horton Summit).

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