Superhero: the story of a man called Jesus
Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre
Pike Performing Arts Center
Superhero: the story of a man called Jesus is a sterling amalgamation of all the right elements to bring arts production into a realm beyond expectation. From beginning to end, this fast-paced depiction of the final week of the life of Jesus is a whirl of energy coming at you through color, light, movement, sound.
Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre takes on a touchy subject — a rebel, a revolutionary who dares to speak and act for God. A simple man, a carpenter, in midlife hears a call, and in the spirit of Abraham and a succession of prophets, answers the call. “Follow me,” says this man during a Galilean ministry and a contingent of messianic believers do indeed follow. This leads to theological conflicts. What is the purported radical message in this man’s one-year whirlwind? Why is Jesus seen as acting to destroy a delicate balance of power in Roman-ruled Palestine?
Superhero is less interested in philosophy than in relationships. In his version of the events, Gregory Hancock interweaves the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John with other legends surrounding the story of Jesus in Jerusalem. Hancock’s choreography is always splendid for integrating young dancers from the GHDT academy into the main action. The dancers never disappoint. They add emotion and lend subtext to the group mentality. Here we comprehend the tension, the angst in the duality of ordinary people trying to get on with their daily lives while trying to comprehend this man’s religious vision and the chaos he is causing.
Courtney Cole, as Judas Iscariot, is amazing. She is a fusion of Lucille Ball and Twyla Tharp in her ability to sell a character and dance him to perfection. Cole is all over the stage, appearing simultaneously vertical and horizontal. Equally superb is Rachel Rutland Maryanovskaya as The Cross. What she can do has to be seen — it is beyond description through words. The relationship between Martin Casanova as Jesus of Nazareth and this living cross is both brilliant and startling. It is the high point of the work.
Hancock brings a dimension to what it means to carry the death instrument, the finality of life through life. It is breathtaking. Set design of copper pieces by Becki Banet-Lucas and fabric text by Hancock evoke Jerusalem in architecture and imagery. Lighting and costumes are as if from the same dye lots. Choice of music shows the timelessness and timeliness of one man who changed human story.