Lester Horton Essay

Submitted By Milly-Russell
Words: 1164
Pages: 5

LESTER HORTON WAS AN INFLUENTIAL FIGURE IN THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN DANCE IN THE 20TH CENTURY. DESCRIBE THE DEVELOPMENT OF HIS WORK, STYLE, PIECES AND LEGACY.
On 23rd January 1906 in Indianapolis, Indiana, Pollyanna Horton gave birth to the future dance sensation, Lester Horton. Growing up with his mother and father, it was clear from an early age that Horton was to become a dancer as his interest and fascination was first triggered when watching a tribal dance in a Wild West Show. Continuing to grow in dance, Horton studied ballet for two years with Theo Hewes, improving on his technique and performance, alongside working with the Indianapolis Little Theater. A year or so later, Horton began teaching classes in her studio. Whilst training, Horton watched a dance produced by the Denishawn Company, causing a great impact on him as an individual and as a choreographer; their dances influenced Horton’s style of Modern dance and breaking free from traditional ballet. His dancing ability flourished when auditioning and touring with a fellow member of the Denishawn Company, learning many of their techniques and styles. Little is known about his early years as child, however in the late 1920’s Horton’s career began to grow, after moving and living the remainder of his life in Los Angeles. It was here that his dances shaped and his choreographic style emerged.
Touring and directing Clara Bates’ The Song of Hiawatha got Horton’s name well-known, as this was the time Modern dance was thriving. After finishing the tour, he started his own individual career, choreographing for The Neighborhood Playhouse which casted Martha Graham in 1928. Once deciding he wanted to create his own company, Horton set up the Lester Horton Dancers in 1932, however this name changed several times before deciding on the original name. Living in California gave him a chance to debut his dances in several films and due to audience interest, 1934 saw Horton’s first full evening show of his choreography. In 1937, Horton premiered one of his pieces at the Hollywood Bowl to over 20,000 people, showing the world his unique and ground-breaking style. Around five years later, Horton’s company began to struggle for income, so he became a Hollywood choreographer, creating dances for films and musicals such as the 1943 version of The Phantom of the Opera, but Horton’s company came to end in 1960 under the direction of Frank Eng. Alcoholism became a large part of Horton’s life and it was due to this and poor health that he suffered a heart attack in his 40’s and sadly passed away on 2nd November 1953.
Lester Horton’s dances were greatly influenced by not only the choreographers around him but also the historical events occurring. The Great Depression in America first began in 1929, during the time Horton was choreographing his dances and this became a large part of his pieces. In Horton’s dance The Beloved, we see how the affects of the great depression has changed and influenced a couple, causing arguments and eventually, murder. Another aspect influencing Horton’s dances was World War 2, starting in 1939. Young men heading off to fight as soldiers and leaving their wives were other topics in reality that Horton based his pieces around. Moreover, his modern dance choreography was extremely popular during World War 2 because it distracted the public from what was happening throughout the world. Segregation was still around in Horton’s lifetime and blacks and whites were not even allowed to travel on the same bus, however this choreographer broke through the norm and created the first ever racially integrated dance group in America, despite society’s belief that segregation was best. This was one similarity between Horton and Ailey; both choreographers created racially integrated dance groups in a segregated society. Lester Horton’s dances contained an underlining emotion based upon his own personal problem; being a bisexual. During his life, coming out as gay would’ve…