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, October 29, 2013

Review: A fanciful escape...

Despite being in the arts, day in and day out, I find there are often moments when my work becomes just that...work. Now of course, every moment I spend creating is the act of diligent work and focus, but that's not quite the type of "work" I mean.

Behind every beautifully laid-out page I design for Art New England magazine are approximately 50+ emails ranging from tracking down images to editing text and working with advertisers. And for every Luminarium Dance Company production comes literally a hundred hours (for both myself and my co-director) connecting with press, updating the website, arranging plans with the venue, designing collateral...

My point in bringing this up actually doesn't come from a place of complaint, but instead from that hidden inner voice that is sometimes made quiet when the brain takes over and trumps the heart. Every moment of the artistic process is a necessary one, but as Kim and I find ourselves in the last days leading up to yet another major production, I find myself in need of artistic balance. Where has the magical side of the artistic process run off to, as we toil away with the details of our work?

For my own need of balance (and for anyone else in need of a beautifully fanciful escape) I would like to share two artists whose work I've recently come across and deeply enjoyed. There is something so ethereal, creative, and whimsical about these images... Despite the fact that they, too, must put in their fair share of work to create them, I am grateful for the escape they provide me (the viewer), as I continue to focus on the cogs (rather than the joyful beauty) of my upcoming production.


"Conceptual Portraits" by Nicole Kennedy, Australia:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Glue-free, and toothbrush in hand.

Thursday, October 3, 2013. This was my view as I crouched inside my box onstage during the dress rehearsal for Luminarium's most note-worthy performance to date: Opening for Time Lapse Dance at the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall in Amherst MA.

Let's rewind. In April, I received a call from an important and highly influential woman in my life, though this time she reached out to me not as my Indian dance guru, but as the Director of the Asian Arts and Culture Program at UMass Amherst's Fine Arts Center. 

A few performance proposals and one roadtrip later, Kim and I found ourselves standing on the same stage where (as students) we once saw Bill T. Jones, Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham Dance Company, MOMIX, Hubbard Street, the list goes on and on. And here we were, about to join the list. 

Fast forward to October when Luminarium presented Andromeda (Guerra, 2012), whisper, rumor, rot. (Holman, 2013), and Hush (Guerra, 2013) on the main stage, with my Quilt Vignettes film series (2013) playing in the lobby. This was our largest new audience to date; 600 viewers, only a handful of whom had seen us perform before. We also had the fortunate opportunity of performing alongside Jody Sperling's Time Lapse Dance from NYC, performing in the Loie Fuller style.

Time Lapse Dance, in concert with Luminarium Dance Company, 2013.
Fine Arts Center, Amherst MA. Photo: Jim Coleman
As we find ourselves performing in these increasingly high-profile venues, and in the company of such prominent choreographers, it feels strange to be so...at ease. Three years ago, Kim and I were learning important Dance Company 101 lessons like Don't spill toxic glue on the stage you're renting--you'll never get that hundred-dollar security deposit back! and When a prestigious college puts you up in a swanky hotel as note-worthy guest lecturers...at least ONE of you needs to remember to pack a toothbrush. Now, almost three years to the day after our opening performance debut, it was no big deal--No big deal to bring multiple set pieces, equipment, costumes, and nine dancers across state. No big deal to pull the short straw with an early, brief tech; we were on our game, and it all went smoothly. No big deal to warm up onstage alongside the feature company, chatting casually, and discovering overlaps with artistic friends and connections; we had earned our spot there as well.

And perhaps that's why Kim and I found ourselves so determined to see one of the moose-crossing signs prove its worth on our long drive home in the dark that night. For once, in that whirlwind 24 hours, perhaps we were finally feeling a little unease--not because of the pressure from the prestige of the venue, but because of how smoothly everything had gone. Where was the tumultuous climax of taking that next step? (Where was our moose??)

Below are a few images taken during our tech rehearsal early in the morning--A religious experience for the Five College alums in our group, while admittedly a still-groggy one for the rest. Yet as our company continues to grow in leaps and bounds, it seems our sense of ease as we took this next big step was our moose...glue-free, and toothbrush in hand.

The beautiful UMass Fine Arts Center Concert Hall.
Kim lights us from the booth.
I play whack-a-mole inside my box onstage.

Teching for our performance with Time Lapse Dance.
UMass Fine Arts Center.
Luminarium Dance Company 2013.

Teching for our performance with Time Lapse Dance.
UMass Fine Arts Center.
Luminarium Dance Company 2013.

Elena Greenspan in tech rehearsal for Hush (Guerra, 2013).
Luminarium Dance Company, 2013.

Jennifer Roberts in tech rehearsal for Hush (Guerra, 2013).
Luminarium Dance Company, 2013.