By John Lyle Belden
We have written about a number of recent productions by Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre, and how founder/director/choreographer Gregory Glade Hancock is an excellent visual storyteller. But dance is more than that; dance is art, and art evokes.
Hancock has been open about his journey and his love for dance, his late mother, and places he’s visited and worked, especially India. These things, in turn, inform the dance he creates. “I don’t even have a name for some of the moves,” he confesses. But his troupes, presently the seven principal dancers and the “G2” student team, understand his movement language to beautifully communicate it to us on stage.
This year, as GHDT celebrates its first 25 years, rather than long-form storytelling, we see pieces from various works Hancock has done, getting a bit of the story with a lot of the emotional heft. This is especially true with “Illumination,” a production focused on spiritual themes, especially hope.
Performed on Easter weekend, which coincides with Passover and Ramadan, this series of dances touch on many cultures and faiths. While there are one- and two-person numbers, there is no true “star,” so I’ll list the performers here alphabetically: Hannah Brown, Zoe Hacker, Allie Hanning, Audrey Halloway, Chloe Holzman, Camden Lancaster, Abigail Lessaris, Thomas Mason, Evangeline Meadows, Josie Moody, Audrey Springer, Rebecca Zigmond.
After opening with a piece from 2016’s “The Violin Under the Bed,” the dances, some rarely seen, date back to the 1990s and early 2000s. Highlights include Brown and Payton in “Between Heaven and Earth,” written for two sisters and reflective of any companionship that life conspires to separate; “The Song of Bernadette,” with Lessaris as the Saint and Moody as the Vision; Lancaster and Mason in “1968,” an imaginative piece inspired by the Prague Spring; and Holzman in “1941,” an emotionally-charged solo reflecting on an event in the Holocaust. There are also lighter moments, such as one from “Crop Circles,” an Irish-inspired frolic on “the mysteries of Nature,” as Hancock puts it.
“Illumination” has one more performance, tonight as I post this (April 8). But the 2023 journey is not over for GHDT. The next production, “Director’s Choice,” will be at the Tarkington at the Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Carmel. With a quarter-century of works to draw from, Hancock’s selections will prove to be a sentimental journey for long-time patrons, and a nice “sampler platter” for new fans.
Wendy and I first got to know Hancock and his company while seeing his work in “La Casa Azul,” the musical with dance based on the life and work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. GHDT will present “The Music of La Casa Azul” with the Carmel Symphony Orchestra on Aug. 5 at The Palladium (also at the Center for the Peroforming Arts).
Find tickets for these shows at thecenterpresents.org. For more information on GHDT, see gregoryhancockdancetheatre.org.