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.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A simple post.

A simple post for tonight. A few thoughts before throwing myself head-first into another hectic week full of show openings, rehearsals, photoshoots, and teaching.

During my concussion, I found myself with a heightened awareness of all the things in my life that I care about and enjoy...the sites around me, the projects I've taken on, the people I interact with... When I was finally able to drive into the city for my Luminarium rehearsals again, allowing my regular routine to take shape, I counted myself lucky to have that weekly ritual back in my life. Each week, I began taking photos of the city, trying to capture that specialness I'd found in it, having freshly returned to it; and each week I promised myself I'd post some photos on this blog, and write a short entry on the importance of taking in everything around us.

One week led to two, and before I knew it, it would be the sudden death of a fellow dancer that would hurtle me back into that frame of mind: That constant heightened awareness of every sound, sight, smell, touch, taste surrounding me. But even then, one week led to two, and now I'm sitting here with a couple of blurry images, and little left to write.

So I'll simply sum up my insights and emotions in a brief description of my affection for my Thursday night routine:

What I love: I love what I do after hours. I love that a new world unfolds as I race home from work, throw mismatched dance clothes into my bag and grab my ipod with my newly arranged playlist for class/rehearsal. I love that I know exactly which red light to stop at and make a call to my favorite Thai place for a quick bite to eat. I love the way Central Square welcomes me in the winter, as I drive under its beautiful dancing Christmas lights. I love pulling into the parking garage a block from the studio, knowing I'll run into Kim (coffee in hand) by the Thai place, or even just leaving the garage. I love walking into the studio, but first leaving my shoes and my other lives at the door. And I love working, engaging, and creating with such a diversely inspiring group of dancers.

It's not enough to "get through" the day. Even on the bad ones, it's important to remember how beautiful it is to feel. Whether it's the weight of a heavy chest, or the headache that comes from too much laughter. It's our own choreographed dance that we perform each week, so why not enjoy every minute we have on the stage?

And I love saying goodnight to the woman at the parking garage. She always gives me a smile...even when I'm bailing out Kim for being 40 cents short.  ;)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Where does your story begin?

A few weeks back, I posted an entry with sketches of a female soloist, a geodome of wire and hanging lightbulbs hovering over her, and the lines of her body visible through a skin-tight veil of costuming. It seems whenever I begin an artistically-driven project, I always start with an image. At the time of my post, I didn't have much more than those sketches to work off of--that, and the idea of having this figure awaken, with her movement and the pulsing of the lightbulbs glowing as one.

Since then, Kim and I have hurtled ourselves into an excitingly creative world of contemporary takes on Greek mythology. Between her sculptural piece stemming from Green urns, and my group piece exploring the Sirens, we began to realize that the second half of Luminarium's year will be...in a word...epic. With mythology as our guide, I began to research how my soloist would somehow fit into all of this, and was thrilled to find such a perfect match:

Andromeda by Edward Poynter


She's the perfect match. A quick synopsis of the story will tell you that she was once the beautiful daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, and that her mother's vanity led to her peril. Cassiopeia bragged that her daughter was more beautiful than the Nereids--angering Poseidon who began destroying the city with floods. Andromeda was chained, naked, to the coast as a sacrifice to the sea monster Cetus. Luckily the heroic Perseus, back from slaying Medusa the Gorgon, killed the monster, while asking for the girl's hand in marriage. Although already promised to Phineus, the wedding took place, during which Perseus turned Phineus to stone. The story ends with Athena placing Andromeda among the stars in the northern sky. (And, as the daughter of an astronomer, I couldn't help but be reminded of the constellation and galaxy named after her!)

All in all, not the easiest life for Andromeda.

After reading and re-reading numerous accounts of this woman's life, it seems the same key moments continue to be pronounced as "her story." But for my solo with the woman laden with lights, I'd like to pick up her story from the supposed end: From awaking among the stars.

Andromeda chained to a rock, depicted in the Uranographia of Johann Bode (1801).

We know the events of Andromeda's life, but do we know her perceptions of them and the emotions that drove her? What was her take on the key life-changing moments of her life...all decided by those around her, rather than herself? It's a daunting task, but I'd like to use this solo as an opportunity for this character to evolve past the ever-popular myth, and instead, to enter a realm of personal reflection. And all the while, as the lights pulse around her, she will regain a new awareness of her body and existence as a constellation in the sky.

But the question of where to begin one's life story doesn't only pertain to this piece and this character. It pertains to each of us. I'd be a liar if I swore I'd never had thoughts (hopeful ambitions, really) of someone, someday, writing a biography about my artistic achievements...a documentary, perhaps. Will my future accomplishments merit this? Who knows! Even then, will someone take the time to write about them? Probably not! But occasionally, in my moments of frustration (or even in my moments of success and clarity), I wonder: Where would they begin my story? Is there something I will do in the next decade that will set me apart from other artists and gain me artistic respect in the community? Or have I already begun? Will "Luminarium" be a name the press will grow to recognize? And if so, will they bother researching our first concert in their articles? Or will they simply skip ahead to a milestone we have yet to reach?

The truth is, I have no idea. But I do have curiosity. And somewhere between the two is where I'll begin my work on the Andromeda solo.