This article was first published at Culture Spot LA on May 17, 2010.
On May 16, LA’s usually far-flung dance community gathered together at the hip RecCen Studio in Echo Park for the 19th Annual Lester Horton Awards – this year subtitled “A Celebration of Community.” Hosted by the Dance Resource Center, an organization that has served and promoted dance in the Greater Los Angeles area for more than 20 years, the Lester Horton Awards honor the legacy of Southern California’s great modern dance pioneer. While Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey developed movement systems based on contraction and release and fall and recovery with their students in New York, Lester Horton drew from the movement traditions of various cultures to craft a training system that would foster fluidity and versatility in his Los Angeles dancers. Among Horton’s young pupils were dance legends Bella Lewitzky and Alvin Ailey.
As a former dancer with Ailey’s American Dance Theater, Ron Brown descends directly from this lineage and has developed his own fusion style over decades of teaching abroad and throughout LA, so it seems especially fitting that he should receive this year’s Horton Award for Excellence in Teaching. Special awards also went to Carol Zee – artistic director of the remarkable everybody dance! program – for service to the dance community, and to Jamie Nichols, producer of the tremendously successful Celebrate Dance festival, for furthering the visibility of dance. Founded in 2000, Carol Zee’s everybody dance! provides exceptional dance education – now more than 150 weekly classes – at little or no cost, for more than 1,300 ethnically diverse, economically disadvantaged young people in LA. And the impact of Jamie Nichols’ annual invitational evening of dance at Glendale’s Alex Theatre was evident last night as awardees thanked her for the opportunity to show their work. Since Nichols started the festival in 2006, numerous artists and companies have received Horton Awards based on their participation in Celebrate Dance.
Keith Johnson/Dancers was one such company, recognized for their small ensemble performance of The Presence of Absence in Celebrate Dance 2009. Viver Brasil, the 13-year-old company locally and nationally acclaimed for excellence in putting the Afro-Brazilian experience on stage, received the achievement in world dance award for Feet on the Ground/Aiye, an evening of performance presented at the Ford Amphitheatre in July of 2009. And David Roussève – choreographer, writer, director, performer and Professor in UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures – received top honors of the evening. The award for outstanding achievement in long form choreography (longer than 15 minutes) went to Roussève for his dance theater work Saudade, described as a “fierce, poetic journey” by The Washington Post, while David Roussève/REALITY – the choreographer’s multidisciplinary, multicultural ensemble – was recognized for outstanding performance of this same work.
See below for the full list of very deserving honorees, and please take note: These are artists to watch.
2009 Lester Horton Awards
Outstanding Achievement in Performance – Company
David Roussève/REALITY, Saudade
Outstanding Achievement in Choreography – Long Form
David Roussève, Saudade, David Roussève/REALITY
Outstanding Achievement in Performance – Small Ensemble
Bahareh Ebrahimzadeh, Rogelio Lopez Garcia, Andrew Merrell and Jennifer Parra, The Presence of Absence, Keith Johnson/Dancers
Outstanding Achievement in Choreography – Short Form (shorter than 15 minutes)
Bradley Michaud, volenti non fit injuria, Method Contemporary Dance Company
Outstanding Achievement in World Dance
Viver Brasil, Feet on the Ground/Aiye, Linda Yudin and Luiz Badaró
Outstanding Achievement in Performance – Female
Marissa LaBog, Really All About Eve, Collage Dance Theater
Outstanding Achievement in Performance – Male
Kevin Williamson, Fruit, KDUB Dance
Outstanding Production of a Festival or Series
50th Annual LA County Holiday Celebration produced by Los Angeles County Arts Commission
Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design
Eileen Cooley, The Crossings, Regina Klenjoski Dance Company
Outstanding Achievement in Set Design
Matt Scarpino, Silk or Cotton, Bare Dance Company
Outstanding Achievement in Music for Dance
Alexander Marchand, Say the Body Is Like This Lamp, Alyson Boell
Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design
Ryan Heffington, Really All About Eve, Collage Dance Theater
Furthering the Visibility of Dance
Excellence in Teaching
Service to Our Dance Community
Photo: Breakers Lauren LiBrandi and Josh Diorio entertain guests at last night's Lester Horton Awards. Photo by Chiabella James.