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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.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Phoenix Piece: First thoughts behind the work

It's mid-May, and rehearsals are about to commence for Luminarium's feature production of its celebratory 5th season: SpektrÉ™l. For the first time in a long time, I'm feeling the need to create a piece that's lengthy. A piece that has weight and substance, but can also be broken down into separate sections. As far as memory serves, the closest piece that resembles this urge is my 2013 work Hush (or as many refer to it, "The boxes piece"), yet even this isn't quite what my creative urges have in mind. Still, rather than worrying if the end result will be a success—or if working outside my comfort zone will prove too large a challenge—I've decided to begin by writing out the reasons behind this piece, in the hopes that it will help me solidify its corresponding movement.

For more than two years, I've balanced two jobs that each have the following workflow: 1) The post-crash lull / a chance to catch my breath; 2) Restoring my body and mind (restocking the fridge, catching up on laundry, and taking time to do the "silly little things" I find calming and enjoyable); 3) That first fresh burst of creativity: Jumping into a new project with joy, excitement, and a mind that never stops running; 4) The swift, fast-paced race towards the finish line that ultimately leads to being pushed past the point of exhaustion / living on adrenaline (and the determination to succeed) alone to make it through; 5) Deadline reached: The crash / The burnout. Be it designing a magazine or preparing for a show (or the rare occurrence of managing both at once!), I feel—once I've crossed that finish line—as though my brain, body, and spirit have been burnt to a crisp. It's as if I'm one of my orchids, petals dropped, needing time to just sit quietly for a period before I can grow that new stem and begin the process all over again. 

So believe it or not, while "burnout" is certainly a key element of my inspiration, I'm more accurately aiming to create a piece about the cyclical nature of regeneration—That with each burnout comes a chance to pause, reflect, then start fresh. And that while the burnout may be exhausting and damaging in the moment, the blaze preceding it is what pushes us to show our brightest colors, going beyond our comfort levels to cross that personal finish line.


It will thus come as no surprise that my working title for this quartet is "The Phoenix Piece," and that my costuming and artistic illusions on stage are reminiscent of this mythological counterpart.

Image: wikipedia.com

One last thought for this entry: The sheet.

I'm envisioning a lot of fabric for this piece, specifically a giant sheet that ultimately engulfs the dancer, but first appears at the start of the work spread across the stage. The piece will begin with the central character trapped beneath it, then finding a hole to pry herself through, gasping for air. As my thoughts on this sheet have expanded, I've come to realize its intriguing potential: The sheet is two-fold. At one moment, it smothers the central character, yet at the next, it becomes almost a security blanket for her—as if waking up the morning after a big production, feeling pummeled, but safe and cradled in one's own sheets.


So wish me luck with this big new endeavor! I'm eager to see what the production will bring, and even more eager to see what this piece will teach me about my own Phoenix moments in life.