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Hawkins Dance Company Salutes Thomson

December 1, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ Erick Hawkins met Virgil Thomson in 1938 when Hawkins, dancing in Ballet Caravan, was performing in ″Filling Station,″ which had a Thomson score.

Hawkins, now 80, choreographed two witty, upbeat dances to Thomson music in 1975. They were performed by the Erick Hawkins Dance Company on Thursday, as a tribute to the late composer.

Concluding the program was ″New Moon,″ a Hawkins dance which had its premiere Monday, the first night of a week’s season at the Joyce Theater. Its music is by Lou Harrison, a composer that Thomson admired.

″Hurrah 3/8″ was premiered with the Cleveland Orchestra on July 5, 1975. A chamber orchestra played at the Joyce.

The delightful 15-minute dance for eight, set on 1900′s Fourth of July, is clearly a celebration. A soloist kicks up his heels. The men twirl the women off the ground, joyously. Sometimes the four couples dance romantically, with a loving spirit, combining the ebullient with the gentle.

″Parson Weems and the Cherry Tree″ contains one joke after another. Douglas Andresen had a big grin dancing Parson Weems, who wrote about George Washington in 1800 and 1806. Everybody had a partial costume of paper, worn over a leotard. Michael Moses, as Washington, also had a white wig and powdered-face mask.

When the parson touched a piece of ″ice″ before Washington’s ″boat″ was pulled across the Delaware, his finger was so cold that he shook his paper cloak, making a sound like shivering. Molly Pitcher (Cynthia Reynolds) pulled in a canon, leading up to a scene titled ″Hard Times at Valley Forge.″

The cherry tree was chopped still later in George’s life, in this version, and by Clown, his angel, danced by Mark Wisniewski, not by George.

″New Moon″ is said to have been inspired by an e.e. cummings poem and by a Persian metaphor of the new moon as ″lyric slenderness of the dancing young man or young woman.″

Costumes look Persian and the music, the first that Hawkins has commissioned from Harrison, has exotic, Eastern ingredients that put it in the realm of ″Scheherazade.″

Again and again, the dancers twirl, swoop and jump while moving steadily from one side of the stage to the other. It gives the dance a very organized look, with a sense of freedom and liberation. There isn’t a great deal of variety in ″New Moon,″ but it is aesthetically satisfying. It’s more serious than the dances to Thomson music but shares with them a lightness, to uplift the spirit.

From February through May, the company will tour to Cortland, N.Y.; Philadelphia; Bowling Green, Ohio; Queens, N.Y.; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Sweetbriar, Va.; Morganton, N.C.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Atlanta; New Orleans; Lafayette and Grambling, La., and Phoenix.

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