Agony and ecstasy are the repetitive driving forces in Gregory Hancock’s idealized rock dance version of the final week in the life of Jesus, Superhero: the story of a man called Jesus. Depicting a chronological account of events as they have come to be accepted, Hancock has placed the 2,000-years-ago story into the context of modern music, moves and behaviors.
Hancock writes of his work as having “a beautiful evolution … from a very harsh and primitive beginning to a classical ending.” Indeed, we are glaringly accosted by the frenzy of a seeming rock concert in full tilt at the introduction, at the entrance into Jerusalem. Within minutes, through a dichotomy in costuming between the locals who seem to be using the temple as a trading post and Jesus and his followers, we are made aware that discord is a-brewing. Between this noisy, overbearing scene to the closing pieta-picture moments two hours later, two dozen scenes (“small moments” in the words of Hancock) attempt to show what happened to turn a man into a martyr. His choice of music encapsulates his point of view.
The most compelling story Hancock tells is of the relationship between Jesus of Nazareth and Judas Iscariot. The interaction between Martin Casanova as Jesus and Ogulcan Borova as Judas skirts along the nuances of a modern-day saga of an alliance that runs afoul. In this, Hancock captures a timeless tale of a power struggle between a charismatic leader and a sidekick who initially feels the person whom he serves has betrayed him. Casanova and Borova provide the most layering, first in their dynamic macho scene and then in the confrontations leading up to and following the betrayal. With the “anointing” and “Judas’ Demons,” Hancock provides aspects of inner turmoil during an individual’s decision-making.
Also treated are Jesus’ relationships with his mother, danced by Heather Helene King, who believes he was born to fulfill a destiny, and Mary Magdalene, whose tenuous relationship comes through with Melanie Heazeltine’s somewhat unsure-ness of footing.
The public sequences are danced in fine corps choreography, depicting throngs of townspeople, soldiers and carriers of the text.
Aesthetically, the most inspired choreography remains with Casanova’s relationship with the Cross, interpreted by Rachel Rutland Mryanovskaya. Superhero as a work set within the choreographic vocabulary of Hancock and on a company of women with only two male dancers remains as a work-in-progress to allow all of the complexities Hancock is exploring to surface.