Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre returns with ‘Live!’


The title of Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre speaks for itself. It is simply “Live!”

The show features GHDT’s return to The Tarkington in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel for the first time since October 2020.

The performances, set for 7 p.m. June 3-5, features GHDT’s more endearing and lighthearted pieces.

“We went back into our repertoire and pulled a lot of fun and comic pieces,” Hancock said. “We wanted to be light and fun and entertaining — not heavy, not about COVID, not about isolation. We want people to laugh and enjoy music and dance. There is a lot of humor and upbeat, energetic pieces.”

Hancock said the productions usually aren’t a collection of past pieces.

“It’s usually a bigger-story ballet,” he said.

There are seven different pieces that aren’t related in any way, Hancock said.

Hancock said he hopes the dancers won’t have to wear masks but is awaiting new guidelines from the Center of the Performing Arts.

“As far as we know, social distancing and masks are still in place for the audience,” he said. “Things are changing every day.”

Capacity is still limited to 25 percent, but that might change by late May, Hancock said.

There was a live performance in October 2020 with social-distanced seating at The Tarkington.

“We had a specific piece where we had no partnering,” Hancock said. “The dancers didn’t touch. That was the last time we were live, so this is our return to the theater, which we are excited about.”

The 2020 show centered more on emotions people felt during the pandemic.

Dancer Abbie Lessaris said GHDT did a collaboration with Carmel Symphony Orchestra in March with eight dancers appearing in one piece.

“We were just a small part of it, but we got a little taste of the live audience for nine minutes,” Lessaris said. “Many of our supporters did come to that show, but we’re excited to be back to The Tarkington with our patrons and our families cheering us on in the audience.”

Lessaris performed with GHDT in “The Nutcracker” when she was 10 years old in 2006. She enrolled as a student of the Academy of GHDT when it opened in 2009.

“What is so wonderful about Gregory’s company is we are always bouncing back and forth between dark and dramatic and humorous and light,” Lessaris said. “Our show before we got shut down was ‘Once Upon A Time” (in February 2020), which was fairy tales, so that was fun and humorous.”

Her favorite piece is “Communion Girls,” a four-minute piece of three little girls dressed for their first Holy Communion.

“One girl slowly starts dancing and having fun and then other two girls join in,” Lessaris said. “It’s very playful and allows us to tap into our inner-kid a little bit.”

Lessaris said eight company dancers and a company intern will perform. There will be 10 students doing two sections separate from the company dancers. The productions, which include livestreams, have been more serious.

“Given we have all gone through and (are) still going through this hard time in the world, it’s good to have a lighthearted show,” she said.

After shutting down in March 2020, the dancers returned in August and have worked consistently.

“We’ve been able to keep them employed and everyone has stayed healthy,” Hancock said. “The school has stayed healthy. We’ve been strict with all our guidelines.”

Hancock said he expects a rebuilding process for arts organizations.

“It’s going to be a challenge for the arts to rebound,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be the quick, ‘We’re open, and everybody can come back.’ It’s going to be reeducating people and letting people be comfortable. I think we’re still in for a challenging few years.”

Hancock said the motto for the year has been flexibility and adaptability.

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