Erick Hawkins, Photo courtesy of Library of Congress Pictured: Erick Hawkins as The Husbandman in the 1944 premiere of Martha Graham's work, Appalachian Spring, with commissioned music by Aaron Copland. Hawkins was the first man to join Graham's company and influenced her creation of dance dramas with masculine characters. (Photograph from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Collection of the Music Division, Library of Congress.)

A modern dance choreographer with an independent approach to movement based on natural kinesthetic response, Erick Hawkins (1909-1994) was born in Trinidad, Colorado. After receiving his B.A. in classics from Harvard University, he took classes with Harald Kreutzberg, then enrolled at the School of American Ballet, where he studied until 1938. At the same time he danced in George Balanchine's American Ballet and Lincoln Kirstein's Ballet Caravan, for which he choreographed his first work, Showpiece (1937). In 1938 he joined the Martha Graham company, becoming its first male member and the choreographer's partner in numerous works including Appalachian Spring (1944). In his modern dance choreography of the 1940s Hawkins first drew on Native-American motifs; this intensified over the years, as did his interest in Daoist theory and Asian forms. In 1952 he began to collaborate with composer Lucia Dlugoszewski, who contributed scores to many of his works. He celebrated natural phenomena, made frequent use of masks, and developed a free-floating technique that gave his dancing its characteristic lightness arid fluidity.

Learn more in Erick Hawkins, an essay by Renata Celichowska.

In this excerpt from the documentary Erick Hawkins: Poet of the Modern Dance
(1995), Hawkins articulates his view of artists as "priests" who interpret and
express ideas; he speaks over excerpts from his choreographic works.