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.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Reflecting on Four Days of Dance and Art...

The first weekend of March was incredible for me, as it gradually became a much needed 4-day art retreat!

Kim and I spent all day Friday preparing, hammering, coordinating, and ultimately presenting new work at the Boston Center for the Arts' Movement at the Mills. It was an amazing, exhausting experience, involving two new choreographed pieces, an installation, and a group improv piece.

The show was held at the Mills Gallery on Tremont St, Which normally showcases a creative array of artwork by visual artists. Three times a year, the BCA selects "three prominent Boston dance companies" to present work as exactly this: visual art. It's been a long, long time since I last had the opportunity to merge my dance and visual art, and I did not want this opportunity to go to waste. A little unconventional for the type of performance, though certainly not for the venue, I decided to create a "breathing installation."

A few film stills. (I'm still waiting to see the photos taken by Liza Voll.)

I do not yet have any photos from inside the installation, but a woman sat inside the installation, surrounded by bundles of cloth. Over the course of thirty minutes, she gradually sewed scraps of cloth (donated heavily from my mom's collection of 1940's fabrics, and partially from friends, including fabric from Africa!) onto her dress, which was made of a twisted and tacked old bedsheet, like the rest of the installation. The installation itself looked somewhat like a child's fort, with the exception of a free-standing window shane from my childhood bedroom and an image of fireflies in the grass at night projected onto the outside. At times the dancer turned on the old rusted lights inside; at others, she sat in the quiet blue light seeping inside from the projection.

Eventually the dancer emerged, covered in bits of fabric, as a dancer with a light drew her out into the space. Like a moth to a lamp, the dancer was both drawn to the light, while also curious about the space around her.

The two performed in the windows, attracting viewers on the street!

Jessica Jacob was both beautiful in her movements and committed to the role. We are so fortunate to have her perform with Luminarium.

Meghan eventually led her away from the windows and into a hidden corridor by the installation. Here, you can see a tiny bit of the video projected onto the wall.

This piece was a very deep experience for me. It began with the idea of evolution, so when a mere three hours before the show, the construction of the installation was thrown a few curve-balls, it only seemed fitting.

The performance overall was wonderful, though I did wish the rotation of the visitors throughout the space could have been better orchestrated, rather than bottlenecking at the entrance. With so much to see, and so many visitors, it was difficult to navigate the space!

The next morning, Kim and I hopped in the car and headed West to Mount Holyoke College to speak on a panel about succeeding in the arts. How do we bridge that gap from being a student to having a career in the art world?

The lecture itself went very well, and smoothly. It was wonderful to reconnect with old peers and friends, to meet some new students in the department, and to (hopefully) shed some light on what it's like to start a company, as we did last June with Luminarium.

The guest speaker to begin the event, Jane Hammond, was excellent. It was so encouraging to hear her speak, as everyone in the room could clearly relate to her words. For a moment, I felt I was a student all over again, enjoying the arts in a somewhat academic fashion. In fact, we finished the day viewing the Five College Faculty Dance Show, and speaking with my old advisor Jim Coleman. It was excellent to reconnect with that part of my growth as an artist: to revisit the places and people who so greatly affected the ways I move and think now when I choreograph.

Much of Saturday, and all of Sunday, Kim and I were in constant communication, full of new-found inspiration for our new "Upon | Within Project." With a group of ten dancers, we are ready to take our first two "chapters" presented at the BCA and end with a "Celebration Piece." Big, sweeping movement, individual solos vs. the whole, the piece will be fun, uplifting, and a celebration of self, mind and body. With no work that day, it was easy for me to focus on this new endeavor without feeling the pressure of a place to be.

*As a side note, we will be presenting the work in May at Mount Holyoke and the Cambridge YMCA Theatre, in the summer at various Fringe Festivals, and in October at the Seacoast Fringe Festival. So here we go!

And Monday
Monday was an equally artistic day, as I had the opportunity to hear Heidi Latsky speak in an intimate setting at Harvard University. She spoke of her newest work, and what she called "the collision of dance and disability." The lecture was wonderful in that it forced me to think in new terms and new ways. I found that by the end of the lecture, having spoken with her afterwards (and with many of the attendees), I was mentally exhausted. I would highly recommend attending a lecture of hers in the future, should you have the chance to go!

So that was my four-day artistic retreat. It served as a chance to focus fully on the arts: creation, presentation, striking, listening, lecturing, viewing, connecting, learning, and networking. An intensely conceptual four days.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Luminarium on the South End Patch!

Check out our latest publicity HERE! An article written about the company's latest work, and our most recent performance at Boston Center for the Arts' Movement at the Mills.

It seems I'm falling behind on my latest news...

...in writing, that is.

Since creating my online portfolio (www.merliguerra.com) in 2009, I have found it difficult to find the time to wrestle with Dreamweaver and keep my "news" section up to date. So here I am! Entering the world of bloggers.

My goal?

To share my latest artistic experiences, be they excerpts of my own choreography, performances that moved me, art shows I'd recommend, or places to visit for inspiration! I would like this to become a forum for all insights and intrigues related to the arts. My work with Luminarium Dance Company will most certainly take center stage, though I hope that by the end of the year my visual art will become equally represented in my blog.

Thanks for checking me out! By the end of next week, this page will be flooded with photos, videos, and info on upcoming events, so be sure to check back soon!