Horton, Lester (1906–1953) By Dinerman, Diana
Lester Horton, regarded as one of the founders of American modern dance, worked outside the established center of New York City, establishing a permanent dance theater in Los Angeles in 1946. The Lester Horton Dance Theater was a multidisciplinary arts school for children and adults, offering training in all aspects of theater production; both the school and company were multiracial, a rarity at that time. Horton’s broad choreographic range allowed him to work in films, nightclubs, and on the concert stage. His fascination with folklore, cultural history, and ethnic dance informed his diverse body of work, with themes ranging from the classics to melodrama, social commentary to satire. Working with his dancers, most notably Bella Lewitzky, he developed the Horton technique over two decades of classroom work, which is still taught today in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to Lewitzky, Horton’s influence continued through the careers of Alvin Ailey, Janet Collins, Carmen de Lavallade, James Mitchell, Joyce Trisler, and James Truitte.