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.

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."