"These dances are dreams the old Greeks had," writes choreographer Erick Hawkins in a program note about his "Greek Dreams, With Flute," adding candidly, "or my dreams of the Greeks."
It's an apt summation, as the beguilingly euphoric performance by the Hawkins troupe demonstrated at the University of Maryland's Tawes Theatre last night, in the second of two programs of Hawkins' works. The dancers gambol and sway and waft their limbs with airy ease -- the whole opus has the quality of idyllic reverie. The imagery, harking back to Hawkins' study of classical antiquity at Harvard, is pagan but unspecific. Among the six sections, there's a nymph solo for the superb Cathy Ward; a love duet for Ward and Rand Howard, marked by fleeting touches, a phantom kiss, gentle chase and retreat; and a final "satyr play" for a pair of frisky males and three sinuous women clutching snake-like wands.
The music, a series of flute solos by five composers, is fittingly cool, spare and wistful. The work also celebrates the body -- the women are in diaphanous shifts, the men in lioncloths. This feature, along with the subject matter and much of the movement -- light skips with a raised knee, for example -- puts one in mind of Hawkins' admiration of Isadora Duncan.
Almost all of Hawkins' work has a dreamlike drift to it. Like dreams, has dance constructions don't follow any discursive or schematic logic. The imagery proliferates in accord with an intuitive linking of shapes and gestures, pictorial affinites replacing "development."
But if dreams liberate fantasy, they can also be so private or personal as to resist communication -- it's a pitfall that sometimes mars Hawkins' work. "Tightrope," for example, which opened last night's program, is simply inscrutable, choreographically and otherwise. The imagery remains adamantly inert and passive, and the labeling of the props and characters -- a dancer called "Me," a pair of Angels, a trio of Celestials, a mirror, a ladder, etc. -- only adds to the obscurity.
The performance of "Lords of Persia," a handsome work from 1965 based on an idealization of the game of polo, lacked the gravity and dimension Hawkins' own presence in the cast used to bring to it. The evening closed with a repeat of Thursday night's magnificently evocative "Agathlon."