Welcome...

A Greater Boston native, I'm a professional dancer and award-winning interdisciplinary artist with talents in choreography, filmmaking, art, and graphic design. I'm co-founder and artistic director of Luminarium Dance Company (Boston, MA), art director of Art New England magazine, senior contributor for The Arts Fuse, and am the Boston area dance critic for the international Fjord Review. I recently completed a one-year term as co-chair of the Arlington Cultural Council, and am regularly hired as an arts advocate to speak at events ranging from legislative assemblies at the State House to entrepreneurial panels for students at Mount Holyoke College. This blog serves as a behind-the-scenes peek into the life and journal of an interdisciplinary artist. Learn more at merliguerra.com or luminariumdance.org, and thank you for reading my thoughts on setting the visual and performing arts into motion.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Curing the Concussion...Or is the Concussion the Cure?

Head injuries are a funny thing.

In a way, they halt every aspect of your life (no reading, no TV, no concentrating on a computer screen, no physical activity), allowing you nothing but time to think. On the other hand, even heavy thought is discouraged as you mend! Unfortunately, this brain never stops. And given the extra time, I found myself overflowing with new insights on choreography, artistry, business, and life.

Day 1 - The Injury
After a beautiful morning of graceful, yet exhilarating lifts during rehearsal (not Luminarium), I found myself falling backwards to the ground, with a resounding thud as my head (and only my head) collided with the floor. An unfortunate, and purely accidental, slip.

Fast-forward to a few hours later at work, feeling and looking violently ill, and joking about having a concussion. Still, I was so determined to see Trisha Brown at the ICA with Kim that I figured I'd tough it out and take the T. It was worth the hassle. Such a wonderful performance space, complete with a view of Boston Harbor behind the stage. (Though I must admit that both Kim and I had the same reaction to the performance: Beautiful movement, furstrating choreography. For a complete and excellently-articulated account of the performance, check out Kim's blog post HERE.) Little did I know this was the last hoorah for my now fully-concussed brain.


Day 4 - The Diagnosis
So, yes, it shamefully took me four days to realize that a concussion doesn't simply hit you hard then get better with time. Monday night brought a painfully slow visit at the ER, some scans, and some good news: Concussion, yes; Severe damage, no. And thus began my recommended treatment of turning off my brain and staring at the wall.

Day 6 - The Reclaiming...
...of my life! Finally! It is amazing how little time I devote to taking care of myself in certain aspects. By Day 6, I was handed a decent amount of energy and the inspiration to clean everything. Organized my files, cleaned the apartment, and when all was done and boredom began to sink back in...out came the Christmas decorations.

Those who explored Paris with me might recognize this
candy-tin-turned-candle-holder from one of the city's
most delightful little chocolate shops!

Snowflake time with the roommate!
Plus a gorgeous pink Gerber daisy from Russo's.

Katie's fun little tree from TJMaxx. Meanwhile, I'd just
brought home a real tree for the living room. Perfect.

"I'm making a winter wonderland in the kitchen," I texted to my poor roommate, as I pulled out the hammer and fairy lights, "How good are you at making paper snowflakes?" Now, I'm no Kaitlin McCarthy, Queen of Intricate Snowflakes (ranging from Christmas tree flakes to Manora flakes), but seeing as our skylight began like this...


And now looks like this...



I think it's coming together rather nicely.

Day 12 - The Present
It's been a week and a half since the fall, and in many ways I am grateful for the sudden, forced speedbump in my hectic routine. It served as a chance for me to separate myself from all electronics, paperwork and (dare I say it) even dance. It gave me a moment to breathe, to reflect, to reorganize, and--most importantly--to reconnect with many friends over the phone and in person. However, I'm not what I normally am. I'm not the tireless, multi-tasking machine that I was two weeks ago. Even Kim has commented on how strange it is to witness me in such a spacey/sleepy state of being. In fact, in many ways I'm feeling like the cupcakes I made tonight:

Friday shook me up, left me feeling disjointed and wobbly...


And by now, while whole again, I still don't feel completely like myself. I seem to be missing the flair that is Merli...

mmmm... Tasty Lemon cupcakes.
But what's missing?

Ah ha!


That's what I'm looking for. Well, it seems my cupcakes are more energetic than I am at the moment, but give me another week or two, and hopefully I'll be crazy, colorful, and concussion-free, too.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

It all comes back to family.

It's official. Luminarium's 2011 Season has come to a close. And with the completion of its first year end show (Y.E.S.) came a bit of a post-show depression for me today. I couldn't help it! All those endorphins and adrenaline leaving my body... It's tough to pull it together. But thanks to a persistent boyfriend and some nudging from Kim, I seem to be back on track.

Looking back over the year, one could professionally summarize our 2011 prime moments as:
  • Movement at the Mills, Boston Center for the Arts
  • Co-Founders Speak at “Crafting a Life in the Arts,” Mount Holyoke College
  • Kickstarter Countdown and World Premiere, The Dance Complex
  • MHC Commencement Concert, Mount Holyoke College
  • LEAP: Leading & Engaging Artistic Pursuits, Cambridge YMCA Theatre
  • Dance for World Community Festival, Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre
  • IN SYNC/Sambandh ~ Japan Fundraiser, Williston Theater
  • Dancers Among Us, Jordan Matter Photography
  • Sponsor Benefit Gala, AKA Bistro of Lincoln
  • Seacoast Fringe Festival, Portsmouth NH
  • Memento Mori, Mobius Alternative Arts Center
  • Year End Show, Green Street Studios
     And yet, the moments that accompanied these accomplishments are the ones I hope to never forget:
    • Screaming on the phone with Kim after receiving our first performance invitation...at the BCA, no less!
    • Staying with Kim in Mount Holyoke's fanciest hotel, while converting their washcloths into makeshift toothbrushes, having BOTH forgotten to bring one.
    • The 40+ takes it took to make our Kickstarter film, due sneaky interventions from a certain little dog...
    • Working with children and a talented costume designer to create a fantastic 15-foot-long piece of artwork that doubled as a skirt!
    • 1) Forging a makeshift tent at the DWC Festival out of found materials, safety pins, an umbrella and plastic wrap. 2) Bracing ourselves against the legs of said tent every ten minutes when the wind picked up and turned it into a sail. 3) Seeing the look on Mark's face, having left him in charge of the crazy hovercraft tent for just fifteen minutes, and now finding everything soaked and Mark looking pummeled/dazed/confused.
    • Presenting Luminarium's repertoire along side Nataraj Dancers...the other company that has meant so much to me.
    • Pick axes, and a fun movie night.
    • Feeling a debilitating pain in my side at the Gala, being told I was just nervous to give a speech to all of our sponsors, and later being diagnosed with a kidney stone....who knew!
    • Having my face bashed in by one of our more dynamic dancers, who then handed me a cold apple to roll across my swollen nose.
    • Staying up til 5am in Portsmouth, jabbing bobby pins and a wedding ring into an apple wearing a tiny top hat and declaring him Mayor Macintosh of the Autumn Fair.
    • Dancing in truly the TINIEST gallery space imaginable, and gracing just a single painting with our presence.
    • Creating a brand new piece in 4 rehearsals over two and a half weeks...technically 5.5 hours, though several were only there for half of it...getting puchy with Kim by the end of the last rehearsal, and deciding to have our dancers create their own live soundscore with funny noises to accompany their movements...nearly hacking up a lung every time I saw the piece from this moment on. SUCH a fantastic little new work, with six of our most humorously-talented dancers.
    • Receiving flowers from the cast. Didn't expect it. Meant so much.

    So why the title of this post? Well, after reflecting on a year of hard work, beautiful presentation, and meaningful bonding, it's clear to me that the company Kim and I started in 2010 is now more than an assembly of talented dancers. It's a family, and a strong one at that.

    But the main reason I feel that it all comes back to family, is that it does literally come back to me each time I perform or face another challenge, just how encouraging and instrumental to my work my family has been. As I put away my costumes last night, it struck me as symbolic that I began Luminarium's year with fabric from my mom, and ended it with fabric from my dad. In March, my breathing installation in Movement at the Mills at the BCA was centered around my mom's beautiful and artistic collection of fabric quarters (to someday be used in a quilt). It started the year off to a wonderfully colorful start. Eight months later, having gone through nearly a dozen white shirts in you have hands, too? (due to be written on with sharpies during each performance), I found myself in need of one last shirt. By perfect chance, my dad had just the shirt I needed, heading to the scrap bin. So for my very last performance in the very last show of our season, I wore another piece of fabric from my family.

    The breathing installation at Movement at the Mills in March.
    you have hands, too? at Green Street Studios in November.
    Photo by Steph Hodge Photography.

    And as a final "It all comes back to family" remark: A special note of thanks must go out to my brother, for being such a positive influence on my work as a comedian/artist. J-Dag, you are my toughest critic. You tell me when something doesn't strike you, and you're honest when you would've taken it in a different direction. As the funniest person I know, it was so wonderful to receive such high praise from you after this last performance.

    So much love to Kim, my company, my family, and the one man in the world who keeps me sane. It all comes back to you.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    As Midnight Meets the Morning Glory

    You don't have to be an artist to feel that you are frequently faced with conflicts. Obstacles present unforeseen opportunities for a shift in one's current path, while forcing us to re-evaluate just how much our current paths mean to us, as we try to jump these hurdles to continue down the road. There are always moments of questioning, be it through life choices, artistic choices, or matters within ourselves, but with this questioning inevitably comes new answers, or at the very least...new thought.

    It's night time in Concord. The world is asleep; I am heading to dinner with family, then a dance with friends. The past two weeks have been physically and mentally strenuous, balancing work and Luminarium, while trading in sleep for more time to work on grant proposals with Kim. And yet, over the last ten days, some of the most memorable moments took place in that same dark black: Bonding with company members late at night on the streets of Portsmouth, driving home at midnight after an incredible play (windows down and music up), finishing Luminarium's latest grant proposals by the blue light of a computer screen, dancing with friends in Peterborough in a hall brimming with laughter and music, and seeing this...tucked away, nearly out of sight against the garage door of my family's home:

    A morning glory. A beautiful, brilliant blue morning glory bursting forth through the panes of the heavy garage door. Unbelievable! How this graceful little plant made it is both a mystery and the perfect example of overcoming an obstacle. Having taken root on the far side of the building, the plant apparently crept its way inside the roof, taking care to loop its way intricately across the back inner wall of the garage before lacing itself through the wheels of some old bikes mounted there, and ultimately poked its vines back towards the sun through the tiniest of cracks in the center window pane (having fulfilled its curiosity of the dark-lit room through which it wandered).



    What wonderful little monster of a plant, popping out where least expected, taking the long, windy road, rather than the short one around the corner. It was such a comically beautiful sight, seeing this single, proud flower blooming towards a black sky with its companions peering through the glass from inside... It has defeated everything: the garage, the window, and even its name. There's no "morning" in this glory. Just a plant with a mission and a meeting with Midnight.

    This week, as yet another fork in the road beckons me, as an obstacle makes me challenge my current direction and the possibility of new ones ahead, I will do my best to attack it like my little monster plant: I will accept the challenge, take on the adventure, and break away towards something new...that is, all while keeping my roots firmly in place.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    365 days, and so many thoughts with each...

    Overwhelmed.

    Beautifully, emotionally, physically, mentally... Excitingly overwhelmed.

    That is how I have felt for the last five days, and as I sit here in what some would call the "wee hours of the morning," it's just another late night full of progress and frustrations as Kim and I pace ourselves to finish six grants over the next two days, to promote our show in four weeks, and to prepare for Memento Mori in just 10 days. There is always something Luminarium in nature keeping my brain churning long into the night. But tonight, it is time to reflect on the last five days, as I force myself back into reality.

    Thursday, Oct. 6
    Dress Rehearsal for the Seacoast Fringe Festival. Finally, a chance to put everything together (lights, costumes, props, choreography) and begin to unify as a group. The evening was wild with fast-paced corrections, adjustments, and timings. Somewhere in the middle I found myself completely caught off guard as an early birthday cake emerged and my sneaky dancers presented me with one of the most creatively constructed cards I've ever received in my 24 birthdays. What a surprise! After a long week of hard work, it was difficult not to be sentimental at such a kind gesture. At the time I made a mental note of how wonderful it is that we are in many ways a family. Little did I know just how true this would be over the next few days.

    Fast forward to an hour after rehearsal when Kim and I received the news that her grandfather has passed. Exhausted and distracted by the daunting task of taking our company on tour in a little over 24 hours, we both sort of stood there in a bit of a daze. In the calmness of that moment, I couldn't believe the beauty of his timing. As a performer in Kim's new work Agonia, based on her emotional ties to her grandfather and his gradual departure to cancer, I had become very attached to the piece. Just a few hours earlier, I had poured myself into the role of a femme fatale, pulling the final ribbon from Mark's chest in (what I have interpreted as) an oddly tender, yet menacing manner. The piece felt so smooth, so solid, so beautifully alive with Kim's lighting breathing and exhaling across the dancers throughout the piece, it seemed only appropriate to receive the news that it was, indeed, complete.

    It's not my piece, and I will in no way claim that experience to be solely my own, but there was a beauty about it that not only lingered with me for the rest of the weekend, but that added a new level of sincerity to the performance of the piece from all of us involved.

    Friday, October 7
    My birthday. Over-worked, and over-tired, it was an emotional day preparing for the big trip, and reflecting back on birthday #23, half of which was spent teching for Luminarium's debut performance FRACTURE.

    Me! On my birthday in 2010,
    excitedly preparing for our very first show.
    Photo by Christina Pong.
    How funny to think that the eve of my company's debut in 2010 would sync up perfectly with the eve of Luminarium's New Hampshire debut. I cannot begin to process just how much we have all accomplished in literally 365 days. It is truly remarkable, and I can only hope that birthday #25 will be celebrated on some other continent on the eve of our international debut.

    Saturday, October 8 & Sunday, October 9
    The fun begins. I am so pleased with how this weekend went. It not only gave us the chance to wander the fun and quirky streets of Portsmouth, but it forced us to really get to know one another. Good news; we all still like each other, too! No small feat for a group of 10 dancers, 2 directors and a handful of wonderfully supportive family and significant others joining us. Of course there were the typical moments of panic...The hour-long wait for a "20-minute" pizza delivery before our show...The sinking feeling of realizing the space is arranged in a completely different manner than planned on...The quick fixes involving the creative rearranging of bookshelves to create a makeshift wing...The hostile nature of a true curmudgeonous old man keeping guard over his carpets... But these things are only to be expected.

    Meghan and Adam dancing in the streets of Portsmouth.
    Photo by Amy Mastrangelo.

    We hit the streets, connected with other performers, gained the interest of nearly a dozen Boston natives up north for the Columbus Day weekend, and enjoyed a fun night out on the town. We artists are funny people; we can be shockingly deep and focused on stage, and lively and downright silly off of it. Thank goodness for that balance!

    One of the most enjoyable moments of the trip for several of us was when we stumbled across a water fountain with eight pillars circling it. We spent a few hours on those pillars throughout the weekend, moving in response to passersby shouting numbers 1 through 7. It was so wonderful to react to the children shouting, and so amusing to watch them begin quietly and shyly, then boldly, then downright sassily with directions such as "The square route of 4!" (to which I, being #2, responded with a sassy gesture and stare at the now bashfully giggling little boy on his father's shoulders). Take a peek here!

    Monday, October 10
    Having returned home, and worked a more than full day at work, the arts struck me one last time this weekend as I viewed New Rep' opening night of Collected Stories. An exceptional play, masterfully directed and intricately set, with two actresses who gradually begin to feel like old friends from afar. Having just spent the past four days colliding with emotions of pride, satisfaction, frustration, sadness, calming synchronicity, excitement, and the ever-present awareness of Where was I one year ago? and Where will I be one year from now?, this play struck me in a way it hadn't when reading it in my room late at night during my first week on the job. Subtleties of the characters' relationships spoke to me in ways I was little expecting, and comforted me in ways I needed most. The lighting, the set, the stage all entwined to create an absolutely believable world. Funny, that I found myself entering yet another world of non-reality, after Thursday and Friday's stress and numbness escaped to a world of joy, excitement, and artistry over the weekend.

    It's hard to come back. Hard to focus on the grant proposals due in two days time. Hard to focus on the behind-the-scenes flurry that surrounds every great production. And yet, I know that on a crisp fall day in 2012, gathering birthday cards from relatives off my porch, I'll be looking back at this moment and just shaking my head with a smile....as I fly off in my hover car, and head to the newly constructed Luminarium Dance Center that our million dollar grant provided us.

    you have hands, too?
    Photo by Amy Mastrangelo.

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    And the good news just keeps coming in...

    Some wonderful news for followers not only of Luminarium Dance Company's work, but of my own work as an artist. Just five days ago, Kim informed me of a wonderful opportunity to present our work in Mobius' upcoming performance and art event entitled Memento Mori. For those unaware, Mobius is a well-known name in the Boston/Cambridge community. They are a collective of visual artists, musicians, poets, performers...all that is artistic, you name it! Mobius is a well-established group who used to have a home in the South End, but recently moved to 55 Norfolk Street in Cambridge (Not far from the Dance Complex).

    Memento mori, Latin for “Remember your Mortality” has provided inspiration for artists for centuries.  Even in the twenty-first century, ways of coping with the shadow of death continues to haunt aesthetic imaginations.

    We are currently seeking submissions and proposals for a performance and art event that explore the theme of mortality, mourning, remembrance, and memory.   This event will take place at the Mobius Alternative Arts Space in Cambridge, MA from October 20 to 24. 

    With only 4 days until the submission deadline, Kim and I scrambled! Fortunately, I already had two works ready to submit: Casting Shadows, Tearing Holes, which premiered in Luminarium's debut concert in October 2010 and was later performed in Nataraj Dancers' IN SYNC: Sambandh (a performance remembering the devastation in Japan) in June 2011; and my film What seems so is transition, created back in 2009 as I headed out of Mount Holyoke College.

    Kim had the good chance of also having relevant work to present. She has most recently been putting her choreographic energy towards a wonderful new piece dealing with one's mortality. As one of the serpentine, sultry, yet deadly, women in the piece, it has been a moving experience to become so involved in such an emotionally-driven new work.

    Now, just one day after submitting our work, I'm happy to announce that we are three for three! All three works have been selected to be shown just three weeks from now. A wonderful success for Luminarium, and a personal goal reached for myself, as What seems so is transition has always been a favorite of mine, but has not yet had its opportunity to be shown professionally.

    Below are the photos, and film stills I submitted with my application. It is an eye-opening experience to be asked to submit five photos of one's past work. It makes an artist stop and think, "Where do I begin?" and "What do I include?"






    More details on the performance times and dates to come. Until then, it is time to focus on performing at the Seacoast Fringe Festival this weekend...and somewhere in between, remembering to turn 24! :)

    Thursday, September 29, 2011

    A broken watch with perfect timing...

    It's been a while since I've updated my blog, not from a lack of artistic endeavors, but rather due to the loss of time while tackling these endeavors!

    Luminarium is now just 9 days away from its New Hampshire debut at the Seacoast Fringe Festival in Portsmouth, NH, and the time we have spent rehearsing has (as usual) flown by. You can view more about the festival here, but for those who are too far away to make it, allow me to describe to you the process of my newest piece: Bus Stop.

    At first, I began with the most comedic sections of the piece. It was a fun experience for everyone involved, and I believe it was the right choice for me to start at this point. It provided a fun, albeit somewhat superficial, range of relationships between characters, and gave me a high point of joyous energy from which to expand. From there, I began working on more intimate sections until, finally, we arrived at the last section of the piece (viewable below).


    I recently sent an email to my dancers addressing my original and current thoughts on the piece, and I believe my 3am choreographic-mad-man-mind hit it right on the nail:
    I know this sounds sappy for a relatively comical piece, but the truth is there is more to it than comedy, movement and expressions. My original working title was going to be "Stories" and I think that's what this piece really is. It's a collection of stories: "What if..." "What the-..." "Well, hello..." that shift into "May I?" and finally "I'm here." The final section should be a moment in which everyone is physically pulled out of the daze of individual traveling, and a moment in which we become so involved with our neighbors that we are not only having moments of emotional connection, but we have to physically rely on them as we spin from one neighbor's arms to the next, and trust they'll catch us. That's how I view this section, and I think that now that the movement is in your bodies, we will soon reach the emotional components that go with each minor relationship. It's almost there. Almost!
    It has been so inspiring to watch the characters I presented to my cast on day one develop in directions I both anticipated and did not. In many ways, they are the characters I envisioned, yet the part I did not expect was the sincerity of the relationships that my cast formed between one another. By the time we reached the end of the final section, I no longer felt I had to direct their thoughts, feelings, and movements, as each of my dancers has learned how his or her character thinks, feels and moves. They know how to interact with one another in a very convincing way, and as one of my dancers put it this evening, "there is a real sense of community" that develops throughout the piece.

    But now you might be wondering about the title of this post. And well, I was wondering too...for quite a while! For weeks, I have been on the search for a watch for Mark. As a monied, uptight businessman, Mark needs a watch that is expensive-looking, yet easily removed by his duet partner. Despite both our efforts, everything we found was too cheap, too girly, too buckle-y, too plastic-y... Until last night, when I had the miraculous discovery of the perfect watch at none other than the local Boomerang just one hour before our final rehearsal! There it was: The perfect, gold, nice-looking watch with an elastic expandable cuff, cast aside at this little thrift store for just three dollars, waiting for me to find it.


    It's moments like these when I remember that everything is going to go smoothly. All the big issues and little kinks, all the last-minute adjustments and the long-awaited deadlines will all come together and work out just fine. Because even though this greatly sought-after little watch is broken, it still has an excellent sense of timing.

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    I'll trade you: My thoughts for a ride.

    So much has happened over the past few months, and at the same time, so little progress...or so it seems!

    Luminarium took a one-month break after our gala, and I have to admit it was met with a variety of emotions from this Artistic Director. It was necessary both mentally and physically, as we'd spent the past 5 weeks performing four traveling shows (plus one additional one for a few of us), so it was a wonderful moment to relax and regroup. But at the same time, life felt so empty. There was such a void of creative energy in my day-to-day life that I truly felt out of sorts.

    So this is my big epiphany after weeks of feeling artistically frustrated: It is not enough for me to produce art. I am not satisfied when I simply create work, complete it even. I need to live it. I need to discuss it at length with my peers. I need the thrill of choreographing, shared not only with the people performing it, but with those viewing it from the outside. I need that creative chatter, that dialogue, that moment of contradicting viewpoints, those even sweeter moments of excited agreement in taking the work in a new direction. As one of our dancers (and more accurately, a friend and artistic peer) said to me last night, what I'm describing is the process, and in our crunch to fit rehearsals into a space rented by the hour, with our car meters eating away our quarters and our schedules packed each minute, there isn't time for this process. No time to study the piece verbally as well as physically as a company.

    I remember I once attended the MFA performance at Smith College with a good friend and artist Rachel Chen, only to realize after the show that it was cold, dark and late. We were in Northampton, at the mercy of the PVTA bus back to Hampshire, and then a second bus back to Mount Holyoke. It must have been freshman or sophomore year, because neither of us had a car, and we were facing a long trip home.

    Jim Coleman (future advisor, choreography professor, and eternal inspiration and mentor) was seen darting through the lobby, and we quickly asked him for a ride. While he couldn't take us all the way to South Hadley, he promised to bring us to Hampshire so we could catch an earlier bus and stay warmer a little longer. I didn't know him that well at the time, so it startled us both when we hopped in the car, started to drive and heard him exclaim "THOUGHTS, PLEASE!" I remember glancing at Rachel and really not knowing what to say. This had been a high-level thesis concert, and I wasn't sure if I was at liberty to reveal my honest reaction to the performance. I'm pretty sure we mumbled something vague about it being good, and quickly realized that this was not a good enough response. It was as if we were expected to share our thoughts and critiques with Jim in exchange for passage to Hampshire. So I dug right in and told him everything: the good and the bad, the exciting and the expected, the things I would have left alone and the things I would have taken further. It ended up being an incredible little journey in that dark car flying down 47, discussing our artistic visions and laughing at the oddities of "art."

    Fast-forward to last night, feeling a let-down of creative energy as I left the studio after rehearsal and headed to my car. I still didn't realize that my heaviness came from my need to discuss where my new piece was going, and the little intricacies of its relationships. I am so grateful to have ended up spending the evening with Mark over crappy desserts and dodging the rain, discussing at great length something as basic as shoes and lighting within the piece! It was such a relief to hear his thoughts, to throw out mine, and to toss them back and forth. Of course, I am equally grateful for the relationship I have with Kim. Whether it's a piece, a performance opportunity, or a crazy idea for a project, I know she is there to gather my jumble of artistic legos and help me piece them together in a way that's a little more structurally sound.

    So in short, let's all try to discuss the artistic process more, as we drive along in our little Luminarium mobile, headed for "great things."


    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Chihuly Photographic Entry

    For anyone unfortunate enough to not be living in the Boston area right now, here's a little taste of the incredible blown glass artwork exhibit at the M.F.A. by Chihuly. It is a beautiful show, both in craftsmanship and conception. As I wandered the rooms and took in the sights, I truly felt that this artist had captured many of the things I aspire to: Where I set still visual art into motion, he seems to have captured motion in these still pieces of glass; and where I yearn to work with light in unusual ways in my art and choreography, his work seems to glow from a light within.

    Remarkable.

    Please enjoy these images and my thoughts...

    My favorite part of the exhibit: Ikebana Boat

    ...

    Louise, glancing at her favorite vase (aka: trying to think up a quick way to steal it!)...

    While I didn't care much for the vases with the chunky entwined flowers, I absolutely loved this one! The juxtaposition of fluid, life-like leaves against the surface of a flawless, traditional vase was wonderfully striking. Also, after loading these photos from my camera onto the computer, and complaining to myself that they'd uploaded in a jumble, I was surprised to find a resemblance between the coloring and movement quality of this piece...

    ...with Justine in her beautiful Mohiniyattam costume! Just as classical Indian dance has a fluidity juxtaposed with its statue-esque qualities -

    - so, too, does this work of art! (And the colors...look how they match!)

    ...

    These pieces, at first glance, did not seem nearly as elaborate. Yet, the closer I got to them, and the longer I stared, I began to love them the most. To me, these pieces truly embody movement. They are the wind billowing through the glass, captured in time. They are fluidity frozen into a form. So beautiful.

    ...

    Inspiration behind the work.
    It's amazing to see what inspires artists in relation to the work they create!

    ...

    From here on out, I will simply post some of the images I feel best capture the experience of the exhibit. If you have the opportunity to go, please do!


    So many colors. So much light. So much fanciful creativity.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    A Huge Post: Work changes, life changes, and artistic milestones...

    A fellow commuter watches the train rush into the station as we all stand there, tired from a long day's work, wondering what tomorrow will hold.

    Work Changes ~

    I my case, I stood there waiting for the train excited to think that this was my second-to-last commute into the North End for a long time. Not to say I didn't enjoy that commute, or working at the Paul Revere House, because I did! And of course, it felt so short-lived to have finally become comfortable in the museum, with the history and with my coworkers, but sometimes changes come when they're least expected, and not when we try for them.

    For two years, I have searched for a full-time job, and on that day I finally had one! Two weeks later, I am just beginning to become adjusted at my new home, as the Creative Services Associate for New Rep Theatre in Watertown (in residency at the Arsenal Center for the Arts). So exciting! In the interviews, my bosses seemed apologetic that I would be wearing many hats each day from graphic design projects to social networking sites, and from website updates to creating promotional video pieces. For anyone who knows me, my interests in the arts, or has at least seen my seemingly disjointed resume, I could not believe it. How perfect. Finally, a job that will challenge me in every regard, while teaching me skills that will prove useful in my own career as an artist and dancer, and one in which I can grow and expand while supporting the ARTS! I cannot begin to express how happy I have been since receiving that call, but it has certainly been a change.

    The empty theatre between my Creative Ballet classes.

    For one thing, this change, while so positive in so many ways, does mean that I will have to give up teaching through Cambridge Performance Project. Those kids have been such a huge part of my life since taking on the job back in September. They've made me laugh, dance, sing...yell, lose my vocal chords, and go absolutely insane chasing after them. They've had their good days, they've had their bad. They've allowed me to teach them dance, while I learned from them patience and trust. They are all such wonderful children, and it has been such an intense experience working with them for so long. It is a difficult thought to realize I have finally made it to that point of comfort with them, only to pass them off to another teacher. Very upsetting for me, and for them.

    The stickers I gave my kids as they left. Hearts; both to show my love for my students and for our mutual love of dance. (I'm sure this was lost on my three-year-olds, but they were at least thrilled by how shiny they were!!)

    Me, with my older class. Here's hoping they keep dancing!

    Life Changes ~

    Obviously this heading applies to all parts of this post, but I am trying to come to peace with giving up my 3 or 4 part-time job juggling act and instead carving out some time for myself and my relationships. Be it trying to go out more with my roommate (did someone say Bruins / game 7 tonight??) or spending time with my boyfriend, I need to focus on this as a larger part of my day, week, life. My work and my passion for the arts tend to consume me, so instead I have been trying to find simple ways to brighten my day, and allow myself to breathe now and then.

    Something peaceful; something calming.

    In fact, that's why I'm sitting here writing this blog post. Hopefully soon, if not later tonight, I will have a chance to post some recent beautiful photos for another Photographic Entry...

    Artistic Milestones ~

    That's right. The Gala is fast approaching, and with it comes the happiness, pressure, excitement, and overall overwhelming emotions that accompany one full successful year as a company. Truly unbelievable. (For more on our latest performances, please do check out our blog at www.LuminariumDance.blogspot.com.)

    The beautiful Gala invitations that were mailed in the hopes of gathering even more of our community to celebrate with us.

    One year. And yet it feels like it's been a part of our lives...forever. I mentioned to Kim last week, after touring the BCA Calderwood, that trying to remember the year in between college and Luminarium is such a blur for me, only in that I literally can't remember the days without Luminarium as a constant presence in our lives. Kim and I talk night and day, and sometimes in between. We send emails, we text...we're one dove away from carrier pigeon messages...it has taken over our thoughts, our inspirations, our time, and our lives. But I think I speak for both of when I say that we also love it. We have found such a solid support base in the Boston community; such lovely dancers who are dedicated to the company and their art. A wonderful network of arts administration gods and goddesses who have helped us shape who we are today...

    It makes me so excited to think that in just one year, we have started so much more than a company. It has become so much bigger than us over the months. With work, we can keep our momentum going until we are a solid, constant presence in the Boston arts scene. I'm determined, so is Kim, and so are our collaborators.

    Separately, or not so separately, we are keeping our fingers crossed. Just applied for a grant that will drastically change our company for the better. It will allow Kim and me to fully explore what it means to be "Luminarium" and will give us the chance to fully embrace dance as art (or in my case...to set the visual arts into motion). So if you believe in the power of positive thought, please send us your good vibes, so that this July we can announce the most incredible project of Luminarium's short career.

    So come celebrate ONE YEAR with us on Sunday, June 26th.
    Tickets can be purchased at www.LuminariumDance.org/e-store

    As always, many thanks for taking the time to read.
    Merli

    Saturday, May 28, 2011

    ...for the stars

    Last Friday night, Luminarium presented LEAP: Leading & Engaging Artistic Pursuits. The show went very smoothly and received a warm and enthusiastic review from its audience. For this post, I would like to focus my thoughts on my piece ...for the stars performed by Amyko Ishizaki and accompanied by musician Robert Flax. Beautiful costuming by Meghan Boehmer, and most importantly: colorful, fun and insightful artwork contributed by 6-8 year olds at the Jordan Boys & Girls Club of Chelsea, Mass. The following images were taken by the talented Steph Hodge, found at www.stephhodge.com.


    The piece begins with images of children's future careers, as they speak about their goals.

    Children tell us their plans for the future; shown here are the projected drawings on the stage.

    Amyko rises as the lights fade, plucks glow-in-the-dark stars from the sky, and proceeds to plant them on the ground as the children interpret the phrase "Reaching for the stars."

    Amyko dances, interacting with the stars, while being serenaded from above by musician Rob Flax on violin.

    Her skirt, designed in collaboration with Meghan Boehmer (who also did a wonderful job constructing it!), shows yellow taffeta on the outside, hiding 15 feet of white muslin within.

    Towards the end of the piece, Amyko unravels herself across the stage, revealing more children's drawings: this time of their future dream houses. She eventually ends the piece in a sophisticated pencil skirt, having shed the layers of childhood behind her.

    Creating this piece has been a largely collaborative experience, from interviewing the children for dialogue to incorporating their voices into the beautiful auditory narrative interpreted by Rob Flax, and from working with Amyko to choreograph her movements to collaborating with Meghan on a costume that would not only portray a childish Alice in Wonderland feel, but could integrate Amyko's movements and the children's drawings into it as well. It has been a piece (like most of my work!) that has evolved with each new addition to the team. With the children came context, with the dancer came embodiment, with the musician came emotion, and with the costumer came meaning.

    The most heart-wrenching aspect of this piece for me, is that I originally went in to interview these kids with a preset series of questions, the most important one being "You know the phrase, 'Reaching for the stars?' Tell us in your own words what that means." To my shock, of the eight children in the room, only one seemed to recognize the phrase. All the other seven looked painfully confused, even when I prompted them with "You know, like following your dreams. Have you ever heard that?" No. They hadn't! After a series of uncomfortable moments, I worried that my plans for this piece were falling through, but coming home and re-listening to the interviews, I realized that what I had was far better than a simple response to an age-old phrase; instead, it showed children puzzling their way through and interpreting it as best they could. My favorite is the child who says "It means you're reaching for a star and you put it in your hand, and you make a wish on the star in your hand." What a beautiful interpretation! Still, it bothered me to realize just how differently I was encouraged as a child. It made me want to run around the neighborhood shouting "Tell your kids they can grow up to be anything if they just try! Make them realize they don't have to be limited by their means!!"

    The Final Piece:
    It is not my goal in this post to describe every moment, but rather to give my own interpretations of key moments in the piece... For instance, I begin with Amyko taking stars from the sky and placing them in a line across the ground. She plays with each, examining and interacting, as if trying out different paths and identities. Ultimately, she enters the stage space, coming into herself and acting on her own. When she finally unfurls her skirt, watching her childhood unravel behind her, she is both coming into adulthood and realizing it is time to choose. In one rehearsal I told Amyko and Rob to think of the section in which she walks down the line of stars in her pencil skirt as a moment to ignore the childhood skirt on the ground and to walk straight ahead until acknowledging each star. You might not remember all your experiences as a child, I told them, but you will definitely remember a few important goals, dreams or ambitions that carried through into adulthood. Try to make this section say that!

    The piece ends with my favorite quote from our young fashion designer to-be: "I don't want to be a model just to get money. I wanna be a model so I can show who I really am, and how I really am inside, because if I can't show my fashion, then I'm not anyone." There's a lot of wisdom to be gained from these kids, and it was incredible to see a few of them after the show run up onto the stage to examine the skirt and tell me "I made this one! This is my dream house in the future." I think they're on the right track, and I thank the Boys & Girls Club, my amazing co-director Kim Holman, and the 50+ kickstarter contributors to Luminarium for making this experience available to these kids. Thank you.