Come to the dark side



Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre season stretches to match dancers’ ambitions

By Karen Kennedy

A dark, post-modern telling of the tale of Pinocchio. A poetic interpretation of the forced march of the Cherokees from their native land. A gypsy wedding. A spiritual dance of the angels.

The season opener of Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre, GHDT in Concert, is introspective and unusual, and will take the audience on a journey across continents and cultures.CIC-N&D-Dance-Troupe-Pinnochio-10.1

Founded in 1997, GHDT is now in its third season as the resident professional dance company at the Tarkington Theatre at The Center for the Performing Arts. GHDT in Concert will present a twist to their typical “repertoire by request” concert.

Last season, audience members were invited to select the repertoire. This season, Hancock asked the dancers and the company’s lighting designer, Ryan Koharchik, to choose the pieces to be performed.

Koharchik has created an entirely new lighting design for his choice, “Steampunk Pinocchio.” Steampunk is a futuristic, sci-fi genre focusing on steam-powered machinery. It is typified by Victorian-style corsets, goggles and elements of fantasy. Hancock has adapted Carlo Collodi’s original story into a darker version of the well-known children’s tale.

The dancers have selected “Trail of Tears,” an athletic and spiritual dance inspired by the forced march of the Cherokee Indians, “The Wedding,” inspired by the migration of the Roma gypsies from India to Spain, and “This is Why We are Born with a Cleft on our Upper Lips,” a solo piece which will feature intern Abby Lessaris.

“I continue to try and stretch the dancers; not just their bodies, but their minds,” Hancock said. “And we try to stretch the minds of the audience too, to not just entertain but inform. We try to present story-driven dance featuring complex social, cultural, historical and spiritual issues.”

Hancock is enamored with Indian culture and travels regularly to Mumbai, where he works with several dance companies. He hopes to someday take GHDT on tour in India.

“Mr. Hancock likes to take us out of our comfort zone,” said Dana Backes, who hails from Colorado Springs, Colo. “We’re all going to be stretching for La Casa Azul!”

Backes refers to the June world premiere presentation of an original work by Hancock with collaborator Kate Ayers, which will combine ballet and opera. All of the dancers will sing, and they are all taking voice lessons now in preparation. The “balopera,” as Hancock is calling it, is an original idea and is based on the life of renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Other performances on this season’s schedule include: an alternative version of “The Nutcracker” at Pike Performing Arts Center, “Down on the Bayou,” a cabaret-style event, “Superhero,” “G2 in Concert,” featuring GHDT Academy students, and “La Casa Azul.”


Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre in Concert • Dance performances of “Steampunk Pinocchio,” “Trail of Tears,” “The Wedding” and “This is Why We are Born with a Cleft on our Upper Lips” • 7 p.m. Oct. 4 and 5 • Tickets $38.50 for adults and $33.50 for students and seniors. • For more information call 843-3800 or visit