reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Last evening, Mrs K and I accepted an invitation to attend a preview performance offered by Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre of their latest collection – Dances for a New World: Part One. After passing through appropriate screening at the door, we found seats in the expansive, nearly empty Tarkington Theatre auditorium and, masked and distanced, we were treated to a polished, albeit fairly abstract, program of dances.

Choreographer Hancock spent a few minutes talking to the small gathering, telling about how the pandemic has depressed his artistry, as indeed all performers and artists have been set back. But he eventually came to the decision, he said, to not concentrate on what he could not do, but rather to focus on what he could do. This attitude change propelled him into his current creation – a program he developed regarding how Covid-19 has affected our lives, and our world.

From the eerily portrayed opening piece, “Isolation”, through the triumphant penultimate “A New World”, Hancock and his talented troupe express the loneliness, strife, new discoveries, longings and self-awareness of this period in our history which has altered most everyone’s life. Indeed, the company has found some wonderfully creative fodder in our plight.

Strong work is done by all involved. The eight member dance corps gets high marks for their crafting of the various portrayals here, both as an ensemble and in the eight solo pieces titled “Silenced” which are presented without any musical accompaniment, spotlighting their individual skills.

The various sections have notes of modern dance, mixed with strong reliance on the aforementioned abstract qualities. Balletic forms are also visited, never so aptly as in “A New World”. In all cases, an overall freeness prevails.

The two male dancers, Thomas Mason and Adrian Dominguez, bring power to their movements, though this aspect is also markedly present in the mostly gentler runs given by the accomplished females. All the ladies impress, however special mention is deserved by the newest and youngest company member, Olivia Payton, who is a recent high school graduate, and whose level of ability and flair clearly matches that of her more experienced fellow cast members.

The show’s technical aspects deserve acknowledgement, as Ryan Koharchik’s dynamic lighting design and costumes by Gregory Hancock add much to the work seen here. Music accompaniments are offered with booming intensity at times. Personally, I would prefer a slightly lighter touch on this part on the production.

My only notion about any lacking is that the 20+ pieces are titled in the program, but in the dark it is impossible to use this labeling in any way to promote what is being conveyed onstage. Perhaps a titled projection somewhere on the proscenium could have helped.

Bottomline: This was an enjoyable evening of dance performance, offered by an adept cadre of dancers and the expressive talents of Gregory Hancock. Unfortunately, it is only offered on a very limited scheduling.

Dances for a New World: Part One will be presented at The Tarkington in The Carmel Center for the Performing Arts October 22 – 24 at 7pm with a matinee performance offered at 2 pm on the 24th. Call for tickets at 317-843-3800 or go online at https://thecenterpresents.org/ .