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Performing arts industry feeling the pain during coronavirus crisis

Posted at 4:00 AM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 08:46:21-04

CARMEL — Several industries are impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and the need to social distance, but one in particular was immediately impacted when our state leaders had to put a stop to events and crowds to slow the spread. The performing arts are on hold during this virus and that leaves many professional singers, dancers, comedians and artists out of work.

RTV6 talked to the founder and director of a local dance company who says this is a trying time for both the artists and their audiences.

Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre (GHDT) is a contemporary dance company that combines numerous dance forms to create a unique style of movement and drama.

Founder Gregory Hancock says the company was preparing for an upcoming April show called, Exodus, which featured a modern day version of this book in the Bible about plagues. Ironically, a growing global pandemic upstaged the production and put their dreams of taking this piece to the stage on hold.

"We were rather stunned as you know," Hancock said. "What do we do next ya know, what happens?"

GHDT is the resident company at the Center for Performing Arts in Carmel, a place where audiences and crowds are suspended from gathering to fight against the coronavirus.

Hancock said on the day the decision was made at a meeting, they had a feeling there could be bad news.

"And then we did our run through and they gave me the greatest gift that morning," Hancock said. "The run through, they danced like that was the last time they were ever going to dance. Just the kind of dancing that a director always wants to pull out of their dancers."

Not only is the news difficult to swallow for the professional dancers who rely on these performances for their work, but it impacts younger aspiring dancers as well.

In addition to the work of the professional company, GHDT provides numerous training and performance opportunities for youth through The Academy of Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre, including an "all-student" production of The Nutcracker, an intensive Summer Dance Academy featuring international faculty and G2, the second company of GHDT.

The Academy is also suspended at this time while the state practices social distancing.

"You know our dancers are hired to dance and to prepare for performances if we have no performances at some point we need to let our dancers um, be on a layoff period, you know, they may have to go on unemployment," Hancock said.

He says while the idea of unemployment is scary for dancers, they don't do this for the paycheck and the thought of not being able to perform is also heartbreaking.

"You know, dancers dance because they need to dance and because they love to dance, so I'm heartbroken that we don't get to present live art," Hancock said.

Hancock said while the use of social media and videos is helpful at this time of isolation, nothing can replace live art. And he said art is so important for our society and it is something we are deprived of at this time.

"I think it's one of those things we probably take for granted a lot," Hancock said. "How art impacts our lives, how much we need it, how it lifts our souls, it feeds our souls."

GHDT had two more shows in addition to Exodus in the works for May and June. Right now those performances are up in the air as well.

GHDT said in a statement on their website: "We are saddened that the theatre has temporarily gone dark, but look forward to a heightened appreciation for the arts, and the part we play, when the lights come back on."

GHDT is offering refunds to any ticket holders for upcoming shows, but they also ask anyone who is able to use their ticket purchase as a donation to the company.

To stay up to date on the latest info with GHDT and to make a donation, you can visit their website.