The Pennington Dance Group won half of the 2005 Lester Horton Dance Awards, given Sunday at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood.
Led by John Pennington -- a dancer, choreographer, teacher and former member of the late Bella Lewitzky's modern dance company -- people in the group bearing his name won seven of the awards. Most went to productions and performances of historic modern dance works by Lewitzky and by German modern dancer Harald Kreutzberg, who died in 1968.
Other multiple winners included Linda Sohl-Ellison's Rhapsody in Taps, with two awards, and the Ptero Dance Theatre, also with two.
Named after the locally based modern dance pioneer Lester Horton, who died in 1953, the Hortons are selected annually by the voting membership of the Dance Resource Center of Southern California, a service organization. Sunday was the 15th Horton Awards ceremony.
Highlights of the four-hour event included a passionate speech by Jacques Heim, artistic director of Diavolo Dance Theatre, in tribute to dance journalist Victoria Looseleaf, who won a special award for raising the visibility of dance. But nobody outclassed entertainer Ben Vereen in his alternately loving and uproarious, quasi-biblical introduction to teacher-choreographer Jaime Rogers, who won a lifetime achievement award.
Sunday's recipients were:
* Company performance -- Rhapsody in Taps, "Banderillas," "Stroke of the Oarsmen," Linda Sohl-Ellison, artistic director.
* Small ensemble performance -- Sarandon Cassidy and Rogelio Lopez G, "Orpheus and Eurydice," Ptero Dance Theatre.
* Male performance -- John Pennington, "Reflections on Kreutzberg," Pennington Dance Group.
* Female performance -- Maria Gillespie, "Bandits," Oni Dance.
* Long-form choreography -- Linda Sohl-Ellison, "Stroke of the Oarsmen," Rhapsody in Taps.
* Short-form choreography -- John Pennington, "Out Of," Pennington Dance Group.
* Festival or series -- "Celebration of Dance," Alex Theatre, Jill Sanzo, Ballet of the Foothills.
* Costume design -- Monica Favand, "Where the Body Ends," Ptero Dance Theater.
* Set design -- Newell Taylor Reynolds, "Spaces Between," Lewitzky Legacy Concert.
* Lighting -- Andrew N. Milhan "On the Brink of Time," Pennington Dance Group.
* Music for dance -- Paul Des Marais, "Reflections on Kreutzberg," Pennington Dance Group.
* Revival, reconstruction, restaging -- Diana MacNeil and John Pennington, "Spaces Between," Lewitzky Legacy Concert, and John Pennington and Emma Lew Thomas, "Reflections on Kreutzberg," Pennington Dance Group.
In addition, four previously announced awards were given:
* Lifetime achievement -- Jaime Rogers, choreographer, instructor, dancer and producer.
* Teaching -- John Pennington.
* Service to the field -- Eileen Cooley, lighting designer.
* Furthering the visibility of dance -- Victoria Looseleaf.