Luminarium Dance Company Showcases Landmark First Season With Y.E.S.

Amyko Ishizaki in "Upon" - Steph Hodge Photography

I never know what to expect when Luminarium Dance Company presents new work, . With every Luminarium piece I see, there is always something different and exciting evolving on the stage. Co-artistic directors Merli V. Guerra and Kimberleigh A. Holman are unafraid to take bold risks and explore multiple mediums – film, sound, design – through dance. The result, as seen in Luminarium’s recent showcase, is once again something marvelous.

Y.E.S – A Year End Show on Nov. 4 and 5 at Green Street Studios in Cambridge, MA celebrated Luminarium Dance Company’s first season. Since the company’s debut performance “Fracture” in November 2010, Luminarium Dance has presented new work at a variety of venues and festivals including Boston Center for the Arts, Mobius, and the Seacoast Fringe Festivalin Portsmouth, NH. Beyond these various shows and festivals, Luminarium also partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston to present LEAP: Leading and Engaging Artistic Pursuits.

Y.E.S. showcased the growth that Luminarium Dance has experienced throughout this formative year. The company has grown in size as have the audiences but the work remains just artistically challenging and impressive. The six pieces featured in Y.E.S. ranged in style, concept, and scope. No matter how Guerra and Holman approached their work, both choreographers seemed to be addressing one concept: how a community is created through dance. 

Guerra’s latest work “Bus Stop” opened the show. In this piece, six travelers gather at a bus stop. Though they have little in common – one character is a businessman, another is a beggar – the travelers slowly begin to form a community.  There are five vignettes within “Bus Stop” culminating with the dancers shedding their clothes and coming together in the final moments. Likewise “It was 4 am,” co-choreographed by Guerra and Holman, is a fun and quirky number. The six performers produce their own sound score and shine handheld lights upon one another. Their dueling lights create a lighthearted and comedic game of cat and mouse within the piece.

(L to R) Amy Mastrangelo, Jessica Jacob, Jess Chang, and Jarid Polite in "It was 4am" - Steph Hodge Photography.

“Agonía”, Holman’s work which debuted in October at Mobius, rounded out the first act. As a piece that interprets the emotional distress that comes from watching a loved one affected by terminal illness, “Agonía” is significantly darker than the two pieces that preceded it. Here four female performers, shrouded in stark lighting, move across the stage and circle a male performer. Attached the male performer are red ribbons that the female performers attempt to remove throughout the piece. The emotional affect of “Agonía” is something almost spiritual, provocative, and moving.

Christin Collins in Agonía - Steph Hodge Photography.

The second act took a different but equally enthralling approach to this idea of community. The three works here form the Upon/Within project, which has been in production since early 2011. “Upon” and “Within” debuted at the Boston Center for the Arts in March. The third piece, “you have hands, too?” debuted at Mount Holyoke College in May and at LEAP. During Y.E.S., these three works were performed together for the first time.

Prior to the performance  of “Upon | Within” at the BCA, Guerra and Holman explained that “Upon” and “Within” examine notion of the individual. In “Upon” a soloist moves across the stage on a piece of colorful fabric. She is confined and controlled by those surrounding her. In “Within” four dancers don white button-up shirts and surround a single light, their performance depending on each other’s movement. Immediately followed by “you have hands, too?” the majority of the company coming together and delivering a comedic, introspective, and fascinating conclusion to Y.E.S.

At the end of Y.E.S, I looked at my messy, hastily written scrawl and realized I had taken little notes during the second act. Not because I was bored but because this second act suite had been enthralling. It was engrossing and left me without any immediate judgments. The works featured in Y.E.S. speak to Guerra and Holman’s immense talent and the truly unique vision they have for Luminarium Dance. At this stage in Luminarium’s development as a company, I am willing to embrace however Guerra and Holman choose to move forward because what they produce is always something that one of a kind.

Meghan Riling and the cast of "you have hands, too?" - Steph Hodge Photography.

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