- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 24, 2001

In the later stage of his illness, when he could move only his eyelids, dancer-choreographer Eric Hampton used a grouping of letters on a board to communicate. Someone, such as his friend and rehearsal director Harriet Moncure Williams, would move the letters around until they formed a semblance of the word Mr. Hampton wished to say. He acknowledged the right move by blinking.

Washington Ballet Artistic Director Septime Webre got to meet Mr. Hampton for the first time two years ago. He is just one of many in Washington's dance world who have praised Mr. Hampton's talent since his death Feb. 20 at age 54 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Mr. Hampton's mind was sharp enough then. "He actually gave me some great advice," Mr. Webre says — without wanting to be more precise about the advice. "He was a fabulous choreographer with a very sophisticated sense of musicality and a wonderful blend of classical ideals and movement invention. He was probably more of a lyricist than I am, but we shared, I think, a passion for the human body in motion and for invention and experimentation using ballet as a foundation."

Mr. Webre used Mr. Hampton's work "Two for Two" in a Washington Ballet performance at the Warner Theatre last March.

Mr. Hampton, a New Jersey native, came to Washington in 1978 and worked for a time as soloist and resident choreographer for the Washington Ballet. Earlier, the Juilliard-trained dancer performed with the Netherlands Dance Theatre and the Scapino Ballet. He opened his own school here briefly but was known best as a teacher at Bethesda's Maryland Youth Ballet and then as founder in 1991 of his own company, Eric Hampton Dance.

"He had a kind of rippling effect in the Washington dance world," says Patricia Moseley, president of the Maryland Youth Ballet, in a telephone interview. "I think he was a superb teacher, but I think of him as a choreographer. Eric had the ability to get inside music and to put what he heard onstage so that you could see it.

"Every move, attitude, tiny piece of body language was uniquely connected to music it was written to. Fortunately, he was a wonderful teacher able to share his vision. His death is a tremendous loss, even though we knew it was inevitable," she says.

"Tony [Powell] would say he would not be who he is without Eric as mentor, since he probably was the first real choreographic talent Tony had the opportunity to work with."

Mr. Powell is in Brazil this week and could not be reached.

Maryland Youth Ballet will perform Mr. Hampton's piece "Meadow," danced to the music of Joseph Canteloube's "Songs of the Auvergne," at its spring concert May 11 through 13 at Montgomery College in Rockville. Ms. Williams is staging the piece.

Ms. Williams, who knew Mr. Hampton since the early 1980s, recalls him as a nurturer every bit as much as choreographer. "The company has not really performed much since his illness — mainly by invitation," she says. "People invite us because they think so much of Eric and his work. We will continue to perform that way. My goal is to see that his work is put into the repertoire of other companies."

The company's next performance — a joint appearance with the company of Karen & Alvin — will be at 8 p.m. March 10 and 4 p.m. March 11 at Dance Place, 3225 Eighth St. NE (202/269-1600).

In accordance with Mr. Hampton's wishes, no funeral or memorial service is planned.



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