LESTER HORTON 1909-1953
Lester Horton, an ardent student of nature in his childhood, came to dance through his absorption with the American Indian. He was entranced by their tribal lore, dances, art and culture. He lived among them, learned their dances, and participated in their events. These authentic experiences led to his first works as a choreographer. He founded the Lester Horton Dance Company and a dance school in 1936, making him one of the earliest to establish a permanent school and theater for modern dance in the United States. Lester Horton was instrumental in the formal dance training of the renowned choreographer, Alvin Ailey. Horton, the founder of one of the first racially integrated dance companies in the United States, became a mentor for Mr. Ailey as he embarked on his professional career. After Horton’s death in 1953, Mr. Ailey became director of the Lester Horton Dance Theater and began to choreograph his own works, leading up to his founding of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in 1958.
THE HORTON TECHNIQUE
Horton’s technique was unique for several reasons. It was not fashioned to fit his own body, nor was it made as a straitjacket of any philosophical or physical concept. It was developed to serve the art of dance through group participation. Each new work provided a springboard for a totally new body of exercises and expressions. New ways were developed to go up, go down, to use one leg, to use both legs, and to see how long a balance could be held in what seemed to be an impossible position! Horton continually searched for a unique style, developing a compelling technique, organically motivated, anatomically corrective and exemplified with clean lines and a full range of dynamics. He also encouraged his students to become modern dance teachers.
Bella Lewitsky, the lead dancer of Horton’s dance company, was instrumental in the development of the Horton technique. She approved of the technique’s documentation as taught by Ana Marie Forsythe and Marjorie Perces and in support gave us her performance of “The Beloved,” choreographed by Horton to add to our Warm-Up video.
“The technique I learned from Lester has continued to affect and influence me and my work. It is an important part of the curriculum at the Alvin Ailey Dance Center and continues to be an inspiration for my choreography.”
HORTON TECHNIQUE VIDEOS
Dance Spotlight has created a comprehensive video selection of Lester Horton's innovative dance technique at introductory, beginners, intermediate and advanced levels as taught by leading choreographers and teachers. Horton's technique was instrumental in the work of the renowned Alvin Ailey.
HELP US PRESERVE THE LEGACY
Dance Spotlight was created by Jeanne Suggs and Babette (Babs) Coffey-Fisch out of a love and admiration for the great Alvin Ailey. Alvin knew that Babs loved to film and photograph dance. Alvin would let her sit smack in the middle of the Grand Tier at City Center in New York City and take photos of the company during rehearsals. She and Alvin talked about how important it was to document the Horton technique and he told her to make sure that it was done. Jeanne and Babs felt that there should be a visual component to the book, The Lester Horton Technique written by Ana Forsythe, Cheryl Bell and Marjorie Perces, to ensure that the technique was remembered accurately.
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