An exploration of the self: Luminarium Dance Company Presents “Fracture”

"Experiment III (jazz on jazz)" - Photo by Christina Pong

with fractured light comes self and shadow

“Fracture,” the debut performance of the Cambridge-based Luminarium Dance Company on Friday, October 8, brought six distinct pieces which incorporated dance and film projections to the stage.

The styles, approach to the medium, and the influences of co-artistic directors and choreographers Merli V. Guerra and Kimberleigh A. Holman could not be more distinct. Through each choreographer’s three pieces for “Fracture,” Guerra and Holman left a definitive mark on the notions of human experience, self, and shadow. Guerra’s work, which integrates dance and video projection, is often reminiscent of lyrical experimental cinema as she explores ideas of memory and existence. Holman’s work, however, is unquestionably influenced by jazz – one piece was set to a Miles Davis composition – and is noticeably more dependent on light and shadows. Individually, their work would seem disconnected and unrelated. But in succession, the six pieces expressed a semblance of the human experience, stemming from this theme of “Fracture”.

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The Magic of Bill Robinson

Thank you, last night’s episode of Modern Family for inspiring this post.

In first minutes of the episode, before the earthquake and before Nathan Lane’s fantastic guest appearance as Pepper Salzman, Phil and Claire are arguing over what Phil has fixed around the house and he hasn’t. He defends his staircase repair work exclaiming, “I’m like Shirley Temple and that black guy.” I had a good laugh.

“That black guy,” as Phil so eloquently put it, is Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, arguably one of the greatest dancers of all-time. Fred Astaire famously paid tribute to Robinson in the tap routine “Bojangles of Harlem” from Swing Time.

Robinson is perhaps best known today, just as Phil Dunphy implied, for his appearances in three Shirley Temple films: The Little Colonel, The Littlest Rebel, Just Around the Corner, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

This is unfortunate. Although Robinson has an intriguing presence in the Shirley Temple films, even more so when you compare his role to the brief appearance of Willie Best in The Little Colonel, they in no way showcase his best cinematic work or even his immense dance skills. Stormy Weather, a 1943 musical, which is loosely based on Robinson’s life and features 20 musical numbers, does just that. Stormy Weather was released the same year as Cabin in the Sky, two films that feature predominantly African-American casts and showcase some of the top African-American performers of that time. It was Robinson’s last screen appearance.

Still, my favorite Bill Robinson act is whenever he performs the version of the stair dance. You saw the Stair Dance briefly in the clip from The Little Colonel. It never fails to capture my attention.

The Red Shoes and Martin Scorsese

Last night, I saw a restored version of The Red Shoes. I have never seen The Red Shoes before so this was a complete treat. What made it even better though was Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker introducing the film. The families of William Powell and Moira Sheerer were also in attendance.

Scorsese began his introduction by recounting the first time he saw The Red Shoes when he was child. Listening to Scorsese talk about his love for classic Hollywood films was a complete treat. I’m so glad I decided to ignore how exhausted I am and saw this movie.

Martin Scorsese introducing The Red Shoes

The verdict? I absolutely loved it. The dancing, the performances, the visuals – just wow. I am absolutely in awe and I can’t put into words how this film has astounded me. I’m speechless.

I don’t think anything will top this moment for me for quite some time.

Bill Robinson Takes Center Stage

Today in my musical class, we discussed Bill Robinson and his role in several Shirley Temple films: The Little Colonel, The Littlest Rebel, and Dimples.

I am probably one of the few people who has no fond childhood memories of watching Shirley Temple films. It’s even safe to say that I don’t like these movies at all. But Bill Robinson has always been the one part of these musicals I have ever enjoyed, both for the entertainment value he contributes to any film and the cultural signifcance of his work.

Here is a clip of Robinson and Temple’s stair dance from The Little Colonel.

My professor also showed this clip she found on youtube of Robinson performing another version of his famous stair dance routine. It is, for lack of a better word, really cool.