Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre features world premiere of ‘Golem’ and ‘Pinocchio’


Gregory Hancock’s latest creation uses a folklore tale to address the rise of antisemitism.

Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre’s production of “Fables and Folklore” features the world premiere of “Golem” and the return of “Pinocchio.” The performances are set for 7 p.m. April 5-6 at The Tarkington at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.

Abigail Lessaris performs as the Cricket in “Pinocchio” (Photo by Lydia Moody)

Hancock, GHDT executive artistic director, said “Golem” is a story from folklore of a rabbi who creates a creature out of mud to protect the Jewish ghetto of Prague from persecution.

“I draw elements of this story into the piece, but it really is addressing the rise in antisemitism and current conflicts throughout the world,” Hancock said. “It is a timely piece that draws inspiration from the past to direct a voice to the present.”

Hancock said Prague is one of his favorite cities and he has visited several times.

“The story of the golem of Prague has always intrigued me, and I thought it should be used in a dance piece in some way,” Hancock said. “The piece was planned over a year and a half ago. Even at that time, I wanted to find a metaphoric way to represent the light being overshadowed by darkness. I had thought about a solar eclipse to represent this but was not sure how to create that on stage. At the time of planning, the upcoming solar eclipse was not on my radar, so the timing just seemed to work out serendipitously. The creation of new pieces often requires a good deal of time simply because they are new, which means new costumes and props need to be created. With ‘Golem,’ a film of an eclipse is being created that will be projected on the cyc, and I have also been constructing a 9-foot golem.”

Josie Moody dresses up as the Blue Fairy from “Pinocchio.” (Photo by Lydia Moody)

“Golem” is presented in partnership with the Jewish Community Center of Indianapolis. “Pinocchio” was last presented in 2013 at The Tarkington.

In “Pinocchio,” the main roles are Gepetto, The Cricket, the Blue Fairy and Pinocchio, along with an array of steampunk puppets. Abigail Lessaris is reprising her role as The Cricket, but all the other roles are being performed by new dancers.

Hancock said the two dances, “Golem” and “Pinocchio,” are interesting paired together.

“While the storylines and the music are vastly different, the common thread of a man creating a puppet or golem tie the program together,” Hancock said.

Lessaris said Hancock always finds a way to take a classic story and add an element that will enthrall an audience.

“This piece will not disappoint.,” she said. “‘Pinocchio’ is a piece returning to the stage after 10 years. I am honored to be reprising the role of Geppetto’s Cricket. I first performed this part 10 years ago when I was a senior in high school. It’s incredibly rewarding to return to this piece with the maturity and artistry of a seasoned dancer.”

Thomas Mason said the process of building and creating a new work is always exciting.

“The opportunity to experience the creation of the golem is something our audience will not want to miss,” Mason said.

Mason will perform as Geppetto.

“This is a part unlike anything I’ve danced before,” Mason said. “In our version of the story, Geppetto is bound to a wheelchair. It has been challenging to find a new way of dancing within the wheelchair. I have loved every second of working in a new way. Not to mention the joy of working with our wonderful student Vincent Kitchen. He will bring to life the character of Pinocchio. This talented 12-year-old will amaze you.”

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