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, April 22, 2014

A Busy Boston Bee

Recently when I wrote, it was to promote the work of the greats in the field of dance... This time, it's to promote my own company's work (and my work as an individual artist)!

What an incredible month it's been. Below are some of the dance-related highlights that I just have to share. I cannot emphasize enough the pride I feel watching Luminarium grow, coupled with the surprise I feel each time I receive a personal invitation to be involved in someone else's extraordinary event. I guess this is what it feels like being "the real deal."

1. DANCE+ Series
Every year, Kim and I make sure that Luminarium produces two major community outreach projects: One in the field of Arts Enrichment, the other Cultural. This year's AE-COP has been such an incredible weekly high--We'll be sad to see it go! This season, Luminarium produced its first DANCE+ Series, providing weekly free classes to grades 1-6 (which turned into ages 3-12, haha) combining dance with other fields, namely: Technology, Science, Music, and Light. Enjoy a quick clip from one of our fun Saturdays here!

Week 2 of Luminarium's new DANCE+ Series. Lumi Company Member
Rose Abramoff (far left) teaches us how rocks turn into lava during the
DANCE+Science class on April 12, 2014!

2. Cultural Council Celebrations
This month, Kim and I were honored to attend a celebratory reception at the Mayor's Office in Boston, having won a substantial grant from the Boston Cultural Council. Sadly, the event overlapped with the tragic fire on Beacon Street, so while the mayor himself could not be present, we found ourselves chatting with a variety of local shakers in the arts, from Boston Ballet to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and from the Huntington Theatre Company to the Boston Public Schools. It was a wonderful event--And somehow we got talked into posing for a photo in the Eagle Room...

Kim and I rock the "Why B Cultural" sign at the Boston Cultural Council
grant awardee reception, only to later regret not insisting that the photo be
taken in front of the distressing and enormous bronze eagle sculpture just
a few feet away...

Just a week later, Lumi Company Member Katie McGrail and I (because Kim was busy being a snazzy devil choreographing Chicago at Babson) joined fellow local grant winners at a celebration hosted by the Arlington Cultural Council. The evening marked the first official declaration of our 2014 Culture-COP (aka, my own community outreach program baby for Luminarium's 2014 Season), converting the Arlington water tower at Park Circle into a breathing work of art for a two-hour, free, public dance event on Saturday, September 6th. The evening offered us the opportunity to learn about all of the other stellar projects lined up for Arlington this year, while eating possibly some of the tastiest cupcakes and felafels to date.

Katie and I pose with this year's grant winners after enjoying a celebration
hosted by the Arlington Cultural Council.

3. My Simon Cowell Moment
While waiting for the T with Kim post-Boston Cultural Council reception, I found an email inviting me to act as a judge at this year's Boston College Annual Showdown. Little did I realize what an incredible night awaited... Held in BC's Conte Forum stadium (complete with impressive theatrical lighting, fantastic DJ, and two giant video feeds panning the crowd), the annual dance competition boasted the talents of 14 dance teams to a sold-out audience of 3,500! Joining me as judges were Reia Briggs-Connor, owner, choreographer, and dancer for Phunk Phenomenon Dance Complex (middle), and Sarah-Katarina "SKooJ CorE-O," founder and director of Boston Community Dance Project, and artistic director of Static Noyze Dance Company (left). What a blast!

l. to r. Sarah-Katarina "SKooJ CorE-O," Reia Briggs-Connor, and
Merli V. Guerra: Judges at the 2014 Boston College Showdown.
Photo: Christopher Huang

4. Breaking Barriers Conference
It's always inviting returning to the Valley for an afternoon event: This time, it was Mount Holyoke's Breaking Barriers: (Re-Defining) Entrepreneurship Conference that drew me back to the fresh air of Western Mass. The afternoon consisted of impressive presentations from aspiring MHC student entrepreneurs; three panels featuring alumnae from Boston, New York, and beyond; and a keynote address by Senior Producer of CNN's In America, Alicia Stewart. Among the words of wisdom shared: "Just do it, and learn from your mistakes as you continue moving forward," "Turn your challenges into advantages for the future," and "You alone don't need to have every skill necessary; create a strong team to carry out your mission." As always, it was a fun experience tossing my own thoughts into the ring while speaking on the Innovation in Art & Design Panel, while meeting some fabulous alumnae pursuing their work to the fullest.

Breaking Barriers Conference 2014
Mount Holyoke College

And with that, I'll have to end this entry here, because if I don't then one month will quickly turn into two, three, four... Next week, you can catch me (and with luck, Kim as well) at an MHC Speed Networking Panel at the Lenox Hotel in Boston. Then May brings performances for Luminarium, followed by our first festivals of the season and the company's 4th Anniversary Gala & Showcase in June, and so much more after that. Welcome, summer weather, and with it the heat of the season!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Water Tower Project: Early Sketches

Time for some simple sketches!

Each season, I create a new body of work centered around a previously-untapped cultural landmark through the integration of dance and the arts. In 2012, it was the Celebration of Preservation Project at the centennial anniversary of Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House (Concord MA), and in 2013, it was the Threading Motion Project at the New England Quilt Museum (Lowell MA).

Now, as Luminarium's 2014 Season continues to pick up speed, I find myself hurtling towards one of the most complicated projects I've taken on to date: The Water Tower Project (or as Luminarium has now marketed it, "Night at the Tower"). In short, my goal is to transform the water tower at Park Circle (Arlington MA) into a breathing work of art, through dance and artistic film projections, while accentuating the architecture of this local landmark. The support we've received both within and beyond the Arlington Cultural Council is inspiration enough! And now that we have our date set (Saturday, September 6, 7-9pm . Park Circle, Arlington MA) and a new-found appreciation and understanding of local government (Ask me about it sometime...), it's now time to consider, construct, and create.

Please enjoy these early thoughts and sketches of the project, and if you have contacts or suggestions for ways to make this happen to the level that it's playing out in my head, please reach out! Leave a comment below, or write me at mguerra (at) luminariumdance.org.

A very early sketch from the start of the season, showing
the dancers performing on the path along the front of the
tower, and (maybe??) some inside the tower's overlook!

"Digital sketches" of the Water Tower Project:

Ideally, I'm looking for a short-throw projector that can
cover the entire front surface of the tower. Among the pieces
I plan to project, last year's film The One I Keep is a work
that I feel would look beautiful in this space, with its
thousands of pieces of paper flying up and out the tower walls.

Through the help of Linda Shoemaker at the Arlington
Center for the Arts, I'll be creating a video feed devoted
to the impact of the tower on the town. This series will
combine early photographs from the 1920s (when the tower
was built) along with the ACA's collection of artwork depicting
the tower through the eyes and minds of Arlington's professionals
and children over the years. Viewers will have the chance
to see their own artwork stretched across the tower's walls!

Performative digital sketch:

And of course, no new project would be complete without
the creation of one entirely new work. My mind has been
bubbling for quite some time, but in the end, I think I have
settled on a new work involving projections of bright,
dripping watercolors cascading down the tower, with our
dancers performing an equally vibrant piece below. Perhaps
last year's colorful umbrellas can also once again join the mix?

Luminarium's Night at the Tower will be held Saturday, September 6, 7-9pm, at the water tower at Park Circle, Arlington MA--Just off Rt. 2!

This project is supported by a grant from the Arlington Cultural Council, a branch of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.