The Lester Horton Dance Awards returned to Echo Park last Sunday after a two-year absence with a spirited and reenergized ceremony that celebrated the achievements of a year's worth of dance making in Los Angeles. This year's program produced by DRC board member Bradley Michaud offered a fast-paced and informal evening which also included entr'acte entertainment by aerialist Sarah Romanowsky whose work was well suited to the soaring ceilings of the RecCen Studio venue. Also on the program were breakers Lauren LiBrandi and Josh Diorio who offered some street flash to the SRO audience. DRC President, Amanda Lipsey, kicked off the evening with opening remarks. Kate Hutter, Victoria Looseleaf and Leo Garcia covered MC duties for the evening's program.
The awards, named after famed Los Angeles dance pioneer Lester Horton, honor a variety of achievements in all aspects of dance production. Along with awards for individual dance performances the Horton's each year single out special honorees for sustained contributions to the local dance community. This year's Excellence in Teaching award went to modern dance teacher and former Alvin Ailey dancer , Ron Brown. Mr. Brown in his spoken remarks credited Ailey with giving him his introduction to teaching early on in his dance career. Brown was given a spirited introduction by Lula Washington of the Lula Washington Dance Theater.
The Furthering the Visibility of Dance Award went to Jamie Nichols whose annual concert festival, Celebrate Dance at Glendale's Alex Theatre, has provided a venue for 27 established and emerging companies alike and over 7,000 audience members since 2006. Nichols passionate remarks on the L.A. dance scene showed once again why she continues to be one of the city's foremost dance advocates. She was introduced by the vivacious Elissa Glickman Associate Director of the Alex Theatre/Glendale Arts and 14-year-old Quron Clarks, a young dancer from Bancroft –Howe Middle School, whose life has been positively influenced by Jamie Nichols' Celebrate Dance event.
The Service to the Community Award went to Carol Zee, Artistic Director of everybody dance ! which provides exceptional training for under served youth in downtown Los Angeles. Zee's program serves 1300 students providing them with low cost access to classes and an impressive faculty of teachers. Members of the school staff were on hand and joined her for the presentation. She was introduced by husband/tapper, Steve Zee.
Companies with multiple nominations included: Catch Me Bird , Djanbazian Dance Company, Regina Klenjoski Dance, Collage Dance Theater, and Method Contemporary Dance. Lighting designer Eileen Cooley took home the “hat trick” with a sweep for the nominations in the Lighting Design category. An open bar and international food helped stoke the party atmosphere clearly in full swing at this year's awards. The wide open spaces of RecCen proved the perfect setting for an enthusiastic and appreciative audience.
2009 Lester Horton Award Winners:
- 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
(Sunday May 16, 2010 at RecCen Studio, Echo Park)
Main photo: Sarah Romanowski / All photos © Chiabella James