Watch a scene from the modern dance production of Erick Hawkins’s Killer of Enemies: The Divine Hero in this video from the Dance Arts Toolkit series. In it we are introduced to the young man, Killer of Enemies, who will be the hero of the story.
Killer of Enemies: The Divine Hero was commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and premiered in New York City in 1991. Choreographer Erick Hawkins (1909-1994) created the scenario and choreographed the work.
This modern dance was inspired by a Navajo coming-of-age myth. The dance opens with a young man learning from his Grandfather that he will face trials as he grows up and must conquer them if he is to survive. Then the young man enters a trance-vision and finds himself at the home of his mother (Changing Woman, or Mother Nature). Soon after, he meets a variety of characters, including his father, the Sun. The rest of the piece consists of a series of dances as he faces the monsters he must conquer—Big Giant, Monster Eagle, Big Owl, and Monster Fish—with the aid of helpers Little Wind, Big Fly, and Spider Old Woman.
The story is told by two narrators. One chants the thoughts and words of the young man; the other speaks for all the other characters.
Five of the dances in the performance are included in this collection. Though the final dances are not included, they show Killer of Enemies returning to his mother, who calls the Holy People from the four corners of the world to bless and heal him. Then, the young man takes off his mask and leaves with his Grandfather.
Choreographer Hawkins began his career as a ballet dancer. He danced with George Balanchine’s American Ballet. IN 1938, he became the first man to dance with Martha Graham’s modern dance company and later founded his own company. As a choreographer, Hawkins’ important influences included the dances of the American Indians, Japanese aesthetics, and Zen thinking, as well as the Greek classics.