Changes afoot for dance awards

Even though the 12th annual Lester Horton Dance Awards won't be handed out for another month, there's already news about changes in the balloting procedures -- and two winners have been announced.

Named after a Los Angeles-based modern dance pioneer, the Hortons return to the Japan America Theatre in downtown L.A. on April 13 with the previous distinctions between Western and non-Western achievement eliminated. So instead of voting for double winners in a number of categories (best Western ensemble and best non-Western ensemble, for instance), the members of the Dance Resource Center will now find a more diverse mix of artists nominated for the same awards.

There's also one new category -- duet, trio or quartet -- recognizing the excellence of small-scale choreography and performance in Southland dance. (A solo category has always existed.) Moreover, the winner of the teaching award, which formerly was decided by the voters, will now be selected by the center's board of directors. This year it goes to Karen McDonald, a dancer and choreographer who heads the dance department of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

A key figure in preserving Lester Horton's choreographic legacy, former Horton company dancer Don Martin will receive the 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award for a career that began in the 1940s and is still going strong at Los Angeles County High School of the Arts. Works by McDonald and Martin will be danced during the ceremonies, the first time that live performances have graced the awards.

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