Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940
January 27, 1997
Library of Congress Presents Lester Horton Dance Theatre Photo Exhibition
"Pioneering Modern Dance in California: Images from the Lester Horton Dance Theater Collection," a Library of Congress photo exhibition, is open to the public at the Performing Arts Library of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
The exhibition, which is on view through April 5, features 37 photographs from 1928 to 1956 from the collections of the Music Division of the Library of Congress.
Lester Horton (1906-53) is generally acknowledged as one of the founders of American modern dance. He created a movement technique that continues to be taught and used in dance schools and companies. Horton's company included well-known modern dancers such as Alvin Ailey, Carmen de Lavallade, Bella Lewitzky and James Truitte. His prodigious body of work includes dances that are diverse in style and inspiration.
The photographs on display are publicity and performance shots of original Horton choreographies or reconstructions mounted after his death. The exhibition features some of the following works: "Mound Builders," "Song of Hiawatha," "LeSacre du Printemps," "Something to Please Everybody," "Tierra y Libertad!," "The Beloved," "The Park," "Salome," "Tropic Trio," "On the Upbeat," "Prado de Pena," "Liberian Suite" and "Medea."
Born and raised in Indiana, Horton's early interests in ballet, theater production, and Native American dance led him to participate in local dance pageants. Settling in Los Angeles in the late 1920s, he danced with Michio Ito's company and then formed his own group. A Los Angeles base and the ability to translate ethnic dances into commercially acceptable formats led to stints choreographing musical numbers for films from the 1940s through the early 1950s.
Throughout his career, Horton combined dance and drama into a total theatrical experience. His fascination with ethnic dance, human sensuality, and cultural history was expressed in a prodigious body of work with themes ranging from the classics to melodrama, social concerns to frivolity.
Horton collaborated with Bella Lewitzky to develop the foundation of his technique; they joined forces with several other partners to found the Dance Theater in Hollywood in 1946.
After the partnership dissolved in 1950, Horton maintained Dance Theater with the assistance of business manager Frank Eng, mounting several successful seasons until his death in 1953. Eng sustained the theater for seven more years before closing its doors in 1960.
This exhibition marks the acquisition of the Lester Horton Dance Theater Collection by the Library of Congress. This extraordinary collection chronicles the artistic breadth and depth of this influential dance master as well as the workings of a modern dance company. The materials were purchased from Eng in 1995; subsequent additions by Horton biographer Larry Warren complement Eng's archive. The multi-format collection consists of manuscripts, correspondence, writings, production materials, teaching materials, music, photographs, graphics, sound recordings, moving images, and publicity material. The collection will be available for research purposes in the Music Division's Performing Arts Reading Room at the Library of Congress Madison Building in April.
The Performing Arts Library, located on the Terrace Level of the Kennedy Center, is open from 12 to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
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