Erick Hawkins
Hawkins in El Penitente, 1930s
Frederick Hawkins

(1909-04-23)April 23, 1909
DiedNovember 23, 1994(1994-11-23) (aged 85)
EducationHarvard University
School of American Ballet
Known forDance and choreography
MovementModern dance
(m. 1948⁠–⁠1954)

Lucia Dlugoszewski (m. ?–1994)
AwardsNational Medal of Arts (1994)

Frederick "Erick" Hawkins (April 23, 1909 – November 23, 1994) was an American modern-dance choreographer and dancer.[1]

Early life

Frederick Hawkins was born in Trinidad, Colorado, on April 23, 1909. He majored in Greek civilization at Harvard University, graduating in 1930. A performance by the German dancers Harald Kreutzberg and Yvonne Georgi so impressed him that he went to Austria to study dance with the former. Later, he studied at the School of American Ballet.[1]


Soon, he was dancing with George Balanchine's American Ballet. In 1937, he choreographed his first dance, Show Piece, which was performed by Ballet Caravan. The next year, Hawkins was the first man to dance with the company of the famous modern dancer and choreographer Martha Graham. In 1939, he officially joined her troupe, dancing male lead in a number of her works, including Appalachian Spring in 1944. They married in 1948. He left her troupe in 1951 to found his own, and they divorced in 1954.

Not long afterwards, he met and began working alongside the experimental composer Lucia Dlugoszewski. They married and remained together for the rest of his life.[2]

After leaving the Graham Company, Hawkins' work developed in a quite different direction. He moved away from esthetic visions based on realistic psychology, sociopolitical themes, storylines or musical portrayals, towards one inspired by ritual and mysticism that called upon dancers' kinesthetic responses to celebrate human, animal and other natural phenonmema.[3] Major influences included Native-American dance rituals and folklore, Japanese esthetics and Zen, and various schools of dance, theater and philosophical thought from around the world, including East Asian and Ancient Greek classics.[1][4] In some ways, he took dance in a similar direction that abstract painters were taking art, though he disliked the label 'abstract'.

In a personal quest for dance safety,[a] Hawkins set out to integrate anatomic principles with dance.[5] He developed an innovative approach to dance technique based on the movement principles of kinesiology and anatomic study, thereby also creating a bridge to later somatic practices.[5] He advocated familiarity with ideokinesis (as well as other somatic approaches to training) and the acquisition of what he termed a 'thinkfeel' sensory awareness of the body and its movement.[5]

In contrast to the intense contractions and shaped positions typical of the Graham technique, Hawkins favored muscular release and free-flowing patterns of movement in a pursuit of effortless movement and seamless transitions.[5] He famously stated “The body is a clear place.”[6] Overall, his dance technique may be seen to combine kinesiology, modern dance (including Graham technique) and a particular idea of beauty.[5]

Hawkins championed contemporary composers, and insisted on performing to live music. The Erick Hawkins Dance Company toured with the Hawkins Theatre Orchestra, an ensemble of seven or more instrumentalists plus conductor. In addition to his wife, Dlugoszewski, prominent composers of the time with whom he worked included Henry Cowell, David Diamond, Ross Lee Finney, Lou Harrison, Alan Hovhaness, Wallingford Riegger, Toru Takemitsu and Virgil Thomson.[3][7] Collaborating visual artists include Isamu Noguchi, Ralph Dorazio, Barbara Morgan,[8] Helen Frankenthaler, and Robert Motherwell.

Award and death

In 1988, Hawkins received the Scripps award at the American Dance Festival. On October 14, 1994, one month before he died, he was presented with the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton.[9] Hawkins died at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan in November 1994. At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife, Dlugoszewski, and by his sister, Murial Wright Davis.[1]


The Erick Hawkins Dance Company has continued after the death of its founder. Dlugoszewski initially took over as artistic director until her death in 2000, during which time she choreographed four new works.[10][b] Katherine Duke, who was appointed artistic director of the company in 2001, has been charged with supervising both the teaching of Hawkins' technique and the continuation of his repertory.[11]


Works choreographed by Erick Hawkins [12][13]








See also


  1. ^ An injury to his knees and lower back sustained while dancing with Graham in 1945 had led him to reflect critically on the different types of concert dance in relation to the body's musculoskeletal vulnerability.[4]
  2. ^ Radical Ardent and Taking Time to be Vulnerable were both premiered in 1999.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d Kisselgoff, Anna (24 November 1994). "Erick Hawkins, a Pioneering Choreographer of American Dance, Is Dead at 85". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 13 April 2016.
  2. ^ Mazo, Joseph H. "Erick Hawkins – dancer and choreographer – Obituary". Dance Magazine (February 1995). Archived from the original on 5 May 2009.
  3. ^ a b Conyers, Claude (2001). "Modern dance: second generation". In Sadie, Stanley; Tyrrell, John (eds.). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 978-1-56159-239-5.
  4. ^ a b Shorr, Kathleen Verity (1984). Dancing the miao-yu: Asian influences in the dance arts of Merce Cunningham and Erick Hawkins (PDF) (Thesis). The University of Arizona. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 August 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e Ajamian, Marissa (May 2018). Stripping Away Archaic Ideologies: Reversing the Disappearance of the Hawkins Technique (Thesis). Department of Dance Undergraduate Research Theses, 2018 (presented at the 23rd Annual Richard J. and Martha D. Denman Undergraduate Research Forum). The Ohio State University. hdl:1811/84605.
  6. ^ Hawkins 1992.
  7. ^ Aldrich, Elizabeth (2001). "Erick Hawkins". In Sadie, Stanley; Tyrrell, John (eds.). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 978-1-56159-239-5.
  8. ^ Labrecque, B. (1971). Still Photography and Human Motion. Quest, 16(1), 26-36.
  9. ^ "President and First Lady Honor Artists and Scholars". The White House – Office of the Press Secretary. 13 October 1994. Archived from the original on 13 May 2011.
  10. ^ Legg, Joshua (2011). Introduction to Modern Dance Techniques. Princeton Book Company. pp. 124–151. ISBN 978-0-87127-325-3.
  11. ^ a b Craine, Debra; Mackrell, Judith (2010). "Hawkins, Erick". The Oxford Dictionary of Dance (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 22 August 2019.(subscription required)
  12. ^ Erick Hawkins Collection. Guides to Special Collections in the Music Division of the Library of Congress. Washington D.C. 2007
  13. ^ Celichowska & Hawkins 2000.
  14. ^ Library record, WorldCat