Tahoe Dance Festival: Get ready for ‘Sarong Paramaribo’
Special to the Bonanza
TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Lester Horton was an American modern dance pioneer who started his dance theater on the west coast in 1930s Los Angeles.
He was incredibly imaginative, curious and unafraid to explore the vast array of shades and colors of any culture or new piece of information that excited him.
Born in Indiana of Irish-German decent, and without the finances to travel, his voyages were mostly in the mind, through books, images, and intense research.
Lester felt a deep connection to the Native American people and spent quite some time living on a reservation learning their ways of life and dance which would influence his work for many years to come.
Horton’s skills went beyond choreographing a huge number of prominent, beautiful dance theater pieces which range from biblical to political to whimsical to sheer entertainment and producing a technique that is used today to train dancers at the highest levels of schools and conservatories: Juilliard, The Ailey School, Joffrey Ballet School, Jacob’s Pillow, Boston Conservatory, and a huge range of colleges, universities and performing arts high schools.
He also designed sets, composed scores for his pieces, was a painter, makeup artist and costume designer, all of which he passed on to his dancers; they got a total theater experience. Now we are left with a rich legacy that continues to evolve.
In addition, Lester choreographed for nightclub venues and various Hollywood films to make ends meet at the theater.
Some films include “White Savage,” “Moonlight in Havana,” “Ali Baba” and the Forty Thieves,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Salome,” “Bagdad” and “South Sea Woman.”
Lester’s was the first multi-cultural dance theater in the USA. As long as one worked hard and showed dedication, anyone was welcome to study and train at the theatre, in a time when laws of segregation and feelings of mistrust were abundant in this country.
“Sarong Paramaribo” is a beautiful jewel in dance history. The piece is from another time but is in its way timeless, a sparklingly delightful tribute to two different parts of the world.
The upper body is inspired by Balinese and Javanese intricacies using isolations of hands, eyes, and arms, while the lower body is full of Afro-Carribean spirals and curves.
Don Martin reconstructed the work for me so this rare solo comes to life for us to experience another time and place in dance history.
Don and I worked together in Los Angeles, drawing from different interpretations of “Sarong Paramaribo” to recreate what Don knew to be the closest quality to Lester’s original.
Since, I have had the honor to perform the piece to great acclaim in Taipei, England, Sweden, New York City’s Jazz at Lincoln Center, Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Theatre and the Asian-American Theatre in Los Angeles.
This performance of “Sarong Paramaribo” is specially dedicated with true heart and enormous gratitude to the one and only Frank Eng, who passed away in his home here in Lake Tahoe this spring.
His wisdom, wit, raw humor, beautifully brutal honesty, otherworldly intelligence, and limitless generosity live inside all of those who came close enough to know him.
It is because of Frank that I am able to pass on the language of Lester Horton with true spirit and honesty, and certainly the reason I have the honor and privilege of sharing this beautiful solo with audiences today.
ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
Tahoe Youth Ballet’s founding Artistic Director Christin Hanna and frequent collaborator Constantine Baecher have turned the company’s annual August performances into the inaugural Lake Tahoe Dance Festival, Aug. 14-16.
The festival has partnered with the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society and will feature two main stage performances at the Gatekeeper’s Museum, and three days of free classes, meet-the-artist events, and demonstrations throughout Tahoe City.
Guest artists include Baecher, Kristina Berger of Erick Hawkins Dance Company, and Yannis Adoniou’s Kunst-Stoff from San Francisco. For information and tickets, visit http://www.laketahoedancefestival.com.
Kristina Berger, of Erick Hawkins Dance Company, is among several guest artists performing in the 2013 Lake Tahoe Dance Festival. Learn more at http://www.erickhawkinsdance.org.