100 Dance Treasures


Lester Horton Menu



Lester Horton, Photo by Constantine Lester Horton often designed his own sets, props, and costumes. In this photograph he is painting a clay mask. (Photograph by Constantine; from Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Archives, Becket, Massachusetts.)


Not only a pioneer in the modern dance field, Lester Horton (1906-1953) was also a trailblazer in making a home for the nascent art form on the West Coast, basing his choreographic and training endeavors in Los Angeles. Besides early classes in ballet, aesthetic, and Native-American dance, Horton studied at the Denishawn School and with Michio Ito. The Lester Horton Dance Group first appeared in 1932 and became noted over the ensuing two decades for an individual technique and theatrical style that embraced themes of social and political protest as well as satire. Highlights of his repertory include at least six versions of Oscar Wilde's erotic Salome, Le Sacre du Printemps (first produced at the Hollywood Bowl in 1937), To José Clemente Orozco, The Beloved, Conquest, Art Patrons, and Flight from Reality. Horton also choreographed commercial projects and created the dances for nineteen Hollywood films. He excelled as a costume and set designer and opened Dance Theater in 1948, a teaching academy that was converted into an evening performance arena. Founded by soloists associated with Horton, the companies of Alvin Ailey, Bella Lewitzky, and Joyce Trisler have perpetuated his technique, as have such dancers as James Truitte and Carmen de Lavallade.

Learn more in Lester Horton, an essay by Naima Prevots.