Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre’s production is a sign of the times

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Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre dancer Abbie Lessaris will perform in “Dances for a New World: Part One.” (Photo by Lydia Moody)

For Gregory Hancock, it seemed natural to create pieces about the uncertainty everyone has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve created a specific piece for the time that we are in right now and the things we’ve experienced the last few months,” he said.

Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre will present four performances of “Dances for a New World: Part One” Oct. 22-24 at The Tarkington at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.

The performances will be followed by “Dances for a New World: Part Two” Jan. 14-16, 2021 and “Dances for a New World: Part Three” April 1. The season closes with “There’s No Places Like Home.”

“All four pieces are interconnected in a way,” Hancock said. “The first part is all new dances and choreography that reflect the times that we’ve been in the last few months, the isolation, the fear of how art is going to come back. There’s been a lot of feelings I’ve had and the dancers have had, and try to create those feelings and emotions into this new piece.”

Hancock said there is a lot of eclectic music and one big piece. There is no intermission in the 75-minute show.

There is no partnering and dancers aren’t allowed to touch.

“At first, it was challenging, and I was little discouraged on how we do that,” Hancock said. “Then, I decided to look at what we can do instead of what we can’t do. It’s been a creative, enjoyable process for me to create this new work. I think people will be surprised by the performance. It’s a new departure for the company.

“A lot of our pieces are story driven or narrative driven. While this does have a narrative, it’s much more abstract than most of our pieces.”

Hancock said the narrative is clear with everyone experiencing social distancing and isolation.

“I think the audiences will be able to relate to the piece and what is presented on stage,” he said. “It’s safe to come back to (The Tarkington). We’re bringing beauty back to the world. There’s some emotional things in the piece, but it is hopeful and inspiring.”

Music variety ranges from avant garde to classical.

“Even our performers are social distancing on stage,” said Hancock, adding that dancers and the audience will wear face masks.

The dance studio closed March 13 and didn’t reopen until September.

“We had essentially six months off, and being in a physical career, that’s like six years off for other people,” company dancer Abbie Lessaris said. “Physically, it has been extremely challenging for us to have that much time off and then to jump back into rehearsing full time and prepare a show. I think dancers are passionate, strong people, and we didn’t want our art to be silenced anymore.

“We got back in the studio and it was a long, hard process to start feeling physically capable as we were before, but we all pushed through.”

Lessaris said there are two parts of the show where a screen of plexiglass moves around the stage but is always separating two dancers from each other.

“I think that physical image will really resonate with the audience because it’s really in your face,” she said.

Lessaris is thrilled to be back with her co-workers.

“We’re a company that is a family, so being away from our co-workers was like being away from our family,” she said. “We’re letting everyone know the Center is taking procedures to be safe. We’re ready to share our art again. We hope the audience is ready to return and see us finally dancing again.”

Capacity in the 500-seat hall is limited to 122 for each show to create social distancing between seats. Performances are at 7 p.m. Oct. 22-23 and 2 and 7 p.m. Oct. 24.