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, March 30, 2014

Review: From billowing skirts to bonfires

Every once in a while, I am pleasantly provided with an abundance of opportunities to watch "the greats" perform. Over the past month, my planner boasted tickets to Bill T. Jones, the Boston Ballet, and Camille A. Brown & Dancers--all with the added pleasure of having an insightful (and equally dance-knowledgeable) viewing buddy at my side. Thanks, Kim!

It's important when watching these "greats" that we don't check our personal opinions at the door. Every viewer can take away his/her own reaction, just as every choreographer (be they world-famous or famous only to their own bedroom floorboards) has his/her triumphs and disappointments artistically on stage. Among these three productions, I found myself aware of all the above: Aware of the triumphs, aware of the disappointments, and most importantly, aware of my reactionary opinions on both.

In a nutshell, the Boston Ballet performance was at times the most disappointing, and at others the most unexpected. While the first two pieces were (as always) technically impressive with snapshot moments of visual intrigue, the choreography seemed to lack the depth many of us had anticipated. (An older woman at intermission walking by me commented to a friend "Well, disappointing, but those are the types of works the company needs to produce to keep the Board happy...") Luckily, Jiří Kylián saved the day with his mesmerizing Bella Figura. Kylián's masterful use of the curtains to shape and enhance the space alone made this work riveting to watch, as did his signature quirky (yet powerful) choreography. From billowing skirts to bonfires, this work had it all!

Jiří Kylián, Bella Figura
Photo: Javier del Real, idu.cz

Meanwhile at the ICA, this was my first encounter with the work of Camille A. Brown & Dancers, and in some ways I still do not feel fully acquainted. The evening consisted of nearly an entire selection of excerpts, giving the audience a taste, but unfortunately not the full meal. Still, what was offered was wonderfully energized, engaging, and enthusiastic, with each "entertainer" bringing a clear individual personality to the group. Despite this impressive kinetic energy between the dancers, I admittedly found the simplest piece (just Camille and a pianist) the most enthralling. Perhaps it was the simplicity itself (of the set, the space, the solo) that made this piece such a pleasure--An intimacy between musician and performer that could only be found in the subtleties of the moment.

Camille A. Brown & Dancers
Photo: berkshireonstage.com

But not unexpectedly, it was Bill T. Jones whose work transported my artistic soul to new plane. Even weeks later, I find I cannot put into words the journey undergone by the audience, but by the end of the night, it was clear that the journey had been made. Perhaps not in physical steps, but miles had been walked in my mind. At the beginning of the work, the clock in the background was a constant reminder of time passing, with myself aware of every interaction and moment, but it was not until the clock reappeared at the end of the performance that I realized how blurred those lines had become, the experience I'd had, and the beauty I'd ingested having taken in the full work with breath held and anticipation exceeded.

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
Photo: newyorklivearts.org

And now we are on to the next month... Looking forward to the next wave of dance!