A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

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

Special Honorees

Furthering the Visibility of Dance

Jamie Nichols

Excellence in Teaching

Ron Brown

Service to Our Dance Community

Carol Zee