Sunday May 15, 2011 at Live Arts LA

The Dance Resource Center of Greater Los Angeles in its annual Lester Horton Awards program recognized outstanding Los Angeles dance companies in a two hour program Sunday that featured brief dance performances by Jagged, Arpana Dance Company and a crew of guest dancers from Antics Performance. The awards program, which in the past has ranged widely in presentation from fully produced concert events at The Alex Theatre and the El Portal Theatre to breezy outdoor ceremonies down town at the Water Court, was hosted this year by Live Arts Los Angeles (LALA) in its newly opened multi-purpose dance and performance space in Eagle Rock. DancePlug was on hand for video and interview coverage throughout the evening, lending buzz to the social atmosphere.

In a nimble three part program opened by current DRC President, Albertossy Espinoza, a small but enthusiastic house applauded a variety of choreographers, producers, dancers, companies and designers along with four special awardees and supporters while schmoozing away the afternoon to music provided by resident DJ and DRC board member Mike Esperanza. And while one might have wished for a larger audience and a more celebratory atmosphere for the 20th anniversary milestone the program itself felt genuine and congenial. Adding to the festivities were the attractive bar and open air patio that made the event both an indoor and outdoor affair. Attendees were seated cabaret style while others stood or lounged in arm chairs and sofas during the presentations which were made from the staircase that accesses the performance space's balcony area.

Receiving awards for Excellence in Teaching and The Lifetime Achievement Award were Bando Mitsusa and Inesita. Matsusa, a longtime teacher of classical Japanese dance had continued her teaching during her relocation to the internment camps. Her story chronicles the path of many Japanese artists and other professionals who managed the pain of that era by persevering and emerging finally as community leaders and activists. In brief, heartfelt remarks, Mitsusa thanked the DRC and the assembled crowd. Her award was presented by her granddaughter, Adrienne Agena. Inestia, whose career encompassed both flamenco and Spanish dance, had a vibrant career in New York and appeared on dance programs at the 92nd Street Y which were regularly reviewed in The New York Times. She has been a longtime teacher and performer in the Los Angeles area. Her award was presented by Albertossy Espinoza who performed with her in 2008 in a program titled Flamenco Alhambra, presented at The Center for Visual and Performing Arts.

Receiving the Award for Service to the Community was tapper, Fred Strickler, who had been a dancer with The Bella Lewitzky Dance Company. His remarks acknowledged his connections to Lester Horton through Lewiztsky and her Los Angeles based company. The award was presented by author Sasha Anawalt. Receiving the Award for Service to the Community was The Wooden Floor. Current Executive Artistic Director, Melanie Rios Glasner accepted the award on behalf of the Santa Ana based non-profit organization that operates an innovative program which fosters academic achievement and dance as equal partners. The award was presented by CSULB professor Cyrus Parker-Jeannette. John Pennington and Emma Lew Thomas also presented a remembrance of the work of Los Angeles pianist and composer Paul Des Marais. He was a Lester Horton Award recipient in 2000 for his composition Cuirass.

Leading the way for nominations in the performance categories were Celebrate Dance 2010 produced by Jamie Nichols and the Summer at The Ford Festival Series produced by the Los Angeles Country Arts Commission. Celebrate Dance 2010 produced eight of the nominees as part of its programming while Summer Dance at the Ford produced six over the course of its summer-long festival series. Also presenting awards were Terrence McFarland from the L.A. Stage Alliance and Renae Williams from Glorya Kaufman Dance at the Music Center. A number of the awards were accepted by proxy and in some cases went unclaimed by the awardees.

Many of the performances for the winners and nominees were covered in my reviews on DancePlug. Look for the Horton interviews and award presentation segments on The Dish.

2011 Lester Horton Award Winners

  • Outstanding Achievement in Choreography Long Form Barak Marshall - Rooster
  • Outstanding Achievement in Performance Female Drea Sobke - Gods and Marionettes LA Contemporary Dance Company
  • Outstanding Achievement in World Dance Malathi Iyengar - Rangoli Dance Company
  • Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design Monique L'Heureux - Hammerklavier, Raiford Rogers Modern Ballet
  • Outstanding Achievement in Performance Male Bradley Beakes - Always Remember, Never forget, Visions Dance Theatre, Macarena Granadillas
  • Outstanding Achievement in Performance - Small Ensemble C. Derrick Jones & Nehara Kalev - IRON Catch Me Bird
  • Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design Diana MacNeil - Alaafia/Harmony, Viver Brasil
  • Outstanding Production of a Festival or Series Pasadena Dance Festival - produced by Lineage Dance Company, Hilary Thomas
  • Outstanding Achievement in Performance Company Helios Dance Theater - Beautiful Monsters, Laura Gorenstein Miller
  • Outstanding Achievement in Choreography - Short Form< Nate Hodges - Flowers That Pick Themselves, RhetOracle Dance Company
  • Outstanding Achievement in Music for Dance Danny Moynahan composer & instrumentalist for WreckTangle Additional musicians String Theory: Luke Rothschild, Holly Rothschild, Joseph Harvey and Invertigo Dance Theatre musicians: Toby Karlin, Najeeb Sabour
  • Outstanding Achievement in Set Design Chris Kuhl - Tov, Rosanna Gamson Worldwide

About the author

Steven Woodruff lives in Los Angeles where he is a professional musician, dancer, educator, and writer. His writing includes original poetry and translations as well articles on film, stage, television, and culture. He reviews dance and music covering national and international touring concert programs as well as local companies for DancePlug, DanceChannelTV, and BachTrack in the UK.