Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Meet a Dancer: Amy Mastrangelo

Amy Mastrangelo joined Luminarium at the end of its Spring Tour in June of 2011. She is currently one of nine Company Members in LDC, and will continue to work with the company in 2012.
Hello fellow Luminaries! My name is Amy and I am pleased as punch to call myself a Company Member with Luminarium…and now a most distinguished blog contributor. (Merli and Kim asked me to contribute…I added the distinguished part.)

I joined the ranks of Luminarium in June 2011, to fill in for the Dance for World Community Festival. I had the exciting opportunity to learn all of you have hands, too? in a two-week crash course in LDC 101. While the task of learning 20 minutes of brand-spanking new choreography (never mind a solo choreographed by the original dancer FOR her original self) was certainly daunting, I felt secure and confident in the welcoming arms of Luminarium.

The performance came and went on a cold and rainy June day. As I wrote in my own journal shortly thereafter: “I am forever indebted to the universe/whatever higher being allowed me to dance with Luminarium. I truly cannot believe this has happened and as much as I wish it could be a long-term thing, I will accept the gift I have been given for what it is. I am so lucky and I do know that.”

However, the dance gods had more plans for me. Merli and Kim asked me to stick around as a guest performer and understudy for the remainder of the season. Obviously, I over-eagerly accepted and bounded to rehearsals as would a puppy. Push push, shove shove, Merli had me understudy her part as a timid dog walker in Bus Stop, as she finished putting final choreographic touches on the piece. As the Portsmouth Fringe Festival loomed closer and closer, Merli asked me to perform the role in the festival.

I was floored, I was elated, and I was scared out of my mind. The good kind of scared, though. The kind that makes you want to dance perfectly and meaningfully and the way the artistic director would if she were performing the part. We’ve all been there.

The weekend in Portsmouth was a whirlwind of fun, dance, and friendship. Cheesy as it sounds, I’m sure fellow company members would agree. We bonded during street performances (posing on a fountain) and in the men’s bathroom of a temple (our makeshift dressing room.) The performances went off without hitches. For me, the weekend wasn’t just about actually dancing (though that was pretty relevant,) it was about being a part of something wonderful with these people who shared my love of dance.

Amy (Yoga Girl) flirts with Matt Johnson (Hippy Guy) on the bench in the background after finishing their duet.

As the end of the 2011 season drew closer, Merli and Kim offered me to not only perform Bus Stop again but to help debut a new piece It was 4am…  Bus Stop was especially fun for me, as it gave me the opportunity to really explore and create a character. The dog walker evolved into a girl emerging from yoga class, who walks intently to the bus stop with her water bottle in hand and a matchy-matchy red-on-red yoga outfit. She is brisk, and arguably neurotic, careful to not get too close to fellow bus riders. After she notices a hunky hippie guy at the other end of the bus stop, she begins to shed her neuroses, loosen up, and eventually finds harmony with the other pedestrians. Connecting and moving freely causes her red shirt to shift, showing a bright blue detail on her yoga pants - not so matchy-matchy after all. Surprise!

Amy leads the group towards the end of It was 4am...

It was 4am… was a blast from the get-go. Giving us choreographic phrases and otherwise free-reign on our character choices, Kim and Merli enabled my fellow dancers and I to find our voices in movement. Literally. I, personally, am no stranger to making sound effects when dancing, and when the show was a short week away and a musical score had not been decided upon, the task of sound burst forth from the larynxes of we performers. From an honest “ouch,” following a thigh slap, to a sigh, to a rooster’s crow, to a crotchety “meh!” It was 4am… filled the space of Green Street Studios with captivating movement and exciting sound. My proudest moment was not when Merli asked me to encore my performance of the aria from “The Little Mermaid,” no. It was being able to contain my own laughter as my audio-inclined cast mates produced increasingly peculiar and silly sound.

Following the end of the 2011 season, Kim and Merli asked me to join LDC as a full-fledged company member for the 2012 season.

SPOILER ALERT: I accepted.

I am thrilled to continue to dance with Luminarium. I cannot wait to be a part of Kim and Merli’s continued artistic exploration and contribute to the process of making their visions in dance reality. And if they so insist that I perform an operetta at the beginning of every performance, so be it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Say Y.E.S. to another fantastic season!

Many thanks go out to the wonderful audience members who graced our theater space on Friday and Saturday night, and to the supporters who cheered us on through the final production of our 2011 Season: Y.E.S. - Year End Show

Thanks also to Steph Hodge Photography for the beautiful photographs we now have the pleasure of sharing with you, and everyone else who made this production possible.

l. to r. - Amy Mastrangelo, Mark Kranz and Meghan Riling in Guerra's Bus Stop.

l. to r. - Mark Kranz and Dahne Ledford in Guerra's Bus Stop.

l. to r. - Amy Mastrangelo, Jessica Jacob, Jess Chang, and Jarid Polite in Guerra & Holman's It was 4am...

Mark Kranz in Holman's Agonía.

l. to r. - Christin Collins, Dahne Ledford, and Mark Kranz in Holman's Agonía.

                                                           Amyko Ishizaki in Guerra's Upon.

  l. to r. - Meghan Riling and the cast of Guerra & Homan's you have hands, too?

l. to r. - The cast and Merli V. Guerra in Guerra & Holman's you have hands, too?

Thanks to all of our dancers for giving us such a brilliant performance this weekend, and throughout 2011!

We are so excited to see what 2012 will bring...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Memento Mori @ Mobius

Just a little over a week ago, Luminarium was preparing to present selected works at Mobius in Memento Mori, an exhibit and series of performance nights dedicated to the concept of remembering one's own mortality. Both LDC Directors were thrilled when not one, not two, but three of their works were selected for the show.

During Gallery Hours, Merli's film What seems so is transition played on loop along side Jimena Bermejo-Black's Tears, running from October 20th through October 24th. On Thursday evening, members of Luminarium attended the Gallery's opening, viewing work from the various sculptures, painters, and video artists in the space they would perform in the following evening.

Louise and Merli pose by What seems so is transition,
created by Merli in 2009 and performed by Louise.

The following evening, Luminarium presented Merli's Casting Shadows, Tearing Holes, which proved to be quite a challenge! Especially considering the large paper screen the dancers tear their way through literally took up the back wall of the space. With roughly 13 feet by 18 feet of danceable space, the performance proved to be extremely visceral for its audience, who not only heard the tearing of the paper up close, but felt the air rushing past them as the dancers swept past the front row, dodging those on the floor. 

By 8pm it was clear that the performance artist for 8:30 was a no show. Luminarium was asked to perform again. Unfortunately, the set up for Casting Shadows, Tearing Holes is extensive, and the company found itself out of paper and out of time. Looking around the room, it was Dahne who suggested performing a different work from our repertoire: Kim's Within from the Upon | Within Project, which will be performed one last time at Green Street Studios this coming Friday and Saturday in Y.E.S.

The company quickly sprang to action, with three of the piece's four performers, and Merli jumping in with the little bits she knew of the fourth dancer's role. Of course, this is what Mark chose to film as he, and others, stood outside the Gallery, peering in through the window...


The evening concluded with a beautiful performance art piece by Mobius' Sandy Huckleberry, and Kim's Agonía. Everyone who viewed Luminarium's work was wonderfully supportive, and many were taken by Kim's two pieces, which worked well in the small, intimate space. It was a challenging, but wonderful experience for Luminarium; an experience that has us all excited by the thought of working with Mobius some time in the near future...perhaps in 2012.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Meet a Dancer: Meghan Riling

Meghan Riling joined Luminarium for its first show FRACTURE in October of 2010. She is currently one of seven Company Members in LDC, and continues to perform in the company's newest works.

Soo hello blog-readers, I'm Meghan.  That is, I'm the very tall redhead who has been dancing with Luminarium from the beginning of the time in which Luminarium has been dancing.  Kim and Merli asked me to write a blog entry, so welcome to my mind.  I want to share some of my thoughts regarding (a) the traits that I see tying together the company's works and (b) what it is like to perform in character in them.

Aside from the sweet and goofy people I've met in Luminarium, one thing that I've really enjoyed is seeing how Kim's and Merli's overall vision gets translated to individual pieces and very different performance spaces.  Distinctive lighting and large objects frequently serve to add drama to works created around accessible dance-plot.  These devices have helped the pieces in very different locations feel connected to one another.  In particular I'm thinking of these groups of things:

-Large spreads of fabric/color
   -the enormous paper square in Casting Shadows, Tearing Holes, first performed in a traditional dance concert
   -the bedsheet in Through the night (all you have is self and shadow) (traditional concert)
   -teal aerial silk used in Upon, first performed in an art gallery
   -the jewel-toned 80s party dresses popping out of Boston environments, in the short film everything but blue -- while the dresses are not one large rectangle, they are a large amount of soft but strong material

-Strong, bright lighting in mostly dark spaces
   -lamps in Experiment III (jazz on jazz) (traditional concert)
   -the narrow lane of light in Casting Shadows, Tearing Holes (traditional concert)
   -construction-site-style bulbs providing the main lighting for 4 separate pieces (art gallery)

I think that these two elements have made Luminarium pieces seem like they can be touched and felt.

But those things can be seen from outside, whereas I spend most of my time inside the pieces.  I have really enjoyed working inside of them because I've been able to work out what my characters (be they people or more object-like characters) are like and perform in a way that is in line with them.  Merli and Kim have given me a nicely long leash with this, which has made rehearsals and performances intellectually stimulating and enjoyable, as I am never more comfortable than when filling in a character I've helped to create.  

The piece where my standard stage personality comes through the most is everything but blue, in which I get to be a bit twitchy and awkward with a hint of shine.  When I perform it, I think of myself as going through a series of tableaus.  I see a gorgeous man from whom I can't move my eyes, and then I'm a small birdish creature avoiding predators, and later I'm a bratty girl who won't follow 'the rules.'  

On the other side of things, the piece that I was originally worried wouldn't have much room in which to develop a part was Upon | Within, as I spend a great deal of time not quite on or off stage, or being still on stage.  However, by the time it came to the performance, I felt that my physical body had enough of a connection to the light (a loose bulb of which I was mostly in control) that I knew what I was in the piece.  That is to say, I had some moth-like tendencies.  I'm glad that we'll be performing this again, as I think there are still connections that I have yet to make between my role with the light and my role as a dancer without it.

My newest, un-debuted role in Merli's new piece has been a lot of fun and very difficult in this respect.  I play a totally annoying homeless person, which has been a challenge in that I want to bring a certain amount of humor to the piece without disrespecting anybody.  It reminds me of something a man recently said to my sister after a person in a wheelchair was rude to her: "People in wheelchairs are just like everybody else -- some of them suck."  So I guess I'm sorting out how to be obnoxious in a way that is particular to my made-up homeless woman, rather than a way that people will think is a quality that I attribute to all homeless people.

In conclusion, here is a terrible joke:
What did the acorn say when it grew up?
Gee, I'm a tree!    

(Say it out loud and, when you do, remember that I am a high school math teacher.)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Luminarium meets Jordan Matter... aka a Gorgeous Photo Opp!

On June 21 and 22, we had the great opportunity to collaborate with Jordan Matter (a NYC based photographer) and his Dancers Among Us project.  The project focuses on finding dancers in moments of movements set within everyday life.  With tons of national and international attention already, the project had used dancers of outstanding caliber from organizations both large and small, and we were ecstatic to be involved.  While nervous about the weather holding out for the limited time Jordan was in town, Louise, Mark and I got in the car and blindly embarked on a photographic adventure!  

The following photos are just a few candids I was able to capture on my phone amidst Mark being impaled by a pickax and trying to direct some traffic...

Louise and Mark in the backseat, as we drive around Dover, MA!  We weren't sure what to expect, and there was a pickax in the front seat...
Mark and Jordan review the photos, and figure out what to change.

After commandeering someone's driveway (and someone else's farm), Jordan shoots Mark while he jumps off of a fence, carrying the aforementioned pickax!

While I got to drive the getaway car and watch Jordan's creative process merge with the dancers' talents, below are Mark and Louise's experience from their own points-of-view.  Even better... we are thrilled to present the final images- Luminarium's small portion of the Dancers Among Us Project.




Mark's Dancers Among Us Experience

Its one thing to schedule a photo shoot in the pouring rain.  It is quite another to greet your formerly unknown photographer while he carries a pickaxe and asks you to drive into backwoods farms where no one is home...in the pouring rain.  It wasn't that I was scared, but I think that unnerved would be a good word for it.  As Kim drove us through winding roads, Jordan Matter's head would bob around, almost like a crow looking for the right shiny object for his nest.  Suddenly he would ask her to stop and then he was out the door, exploring for the right setting for his shots.  Using just such a technique 
Jordan found an all white farm with deep green fields, gravel driveways, and a white fence.  This was it.  First we tried various t-shirt and ball-cap color combinations and when it was just right, he asked me to soak both the shirt and the hat in a nearby puddle to emphasize the rain.  (Did you remember that it was pouring rain this whole time? Just checking.)  Then we practiced.  Jordan had asked what my strength in dance was and I answered inversions.  And while inversions may be my strength, inversions with a pickaxe are not.  So we moved on to another one of my strengths:  jumps.  Jordan asked me to climb the fence, sling the pickaxe over my shoulder, leap from the fence, and maintain a calm demeanor as if I were strolling off to work in the field.  The first attempt told us this was exactly the shot he was looking for.  Landing the first attempt explained the physics of momentum, levers, pickaxes, and spines.  More plainly, as I landed the first jump, the pickaxe acted as a lever on my shoulder and crashed into my spine.  Luckily the pointed end of the pickaxe as quite dull and only resulted in a bruise.  After taking a few moments to regain my sanity, I remounted the fence leaped once again, this time releasing the pickaxe just before impact so it fell to my side.  This process was repeated nigh on fifteen or so times until we got the perfect shot with the perfect framing.  Jordan turned out to be a very kind, if eccentric, guy who truly has a talented eye, particularly for environment.  Just the guy for a rainy day photo shoot.


Louise's Dancers Among Us Experience

            After having tagged along for Mark’s photo shoot the day before, where I witnessed the semi-dangerous, repeated act of Mark jumping off the side of fence, in the rain, with a pickax in one hand with the other hand in his pocket, I didn't really know what to expect for my photo shoot with Jordan Matter.  But Mark’s photo had turned out excellently so I was eager for my turn.  We weren't sure if it was even going to happen, seeing as it was yet another rainy day, but ultimately I wanted to take the chance because it was Jordan’s last day in the Boston area.  He seemed like a pretty spontaneous person, giving just a moment’s notice and ready to go for it even if it was a long shot.  So I too decided to take a gamble on the rain.  He had two shots in mind: one in front of a beautiful farm and one...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Happy First Birthday... and more!

Blowing out the candles to one year of dance!

With the arrival of Luminarium's very first anniversary, we decided to throw the Sponsor Benefit Gala - an event that would serve as a birthday party, a fundraiser, and to say thanks to our sponsors. Generously hosted by AKA Bistro (owner Christian Touche) in Lincoln, MA, the celebration was well attended and very well received. Our guests enjoyed passed hors d'oeuvres and live jazz (many thanks to Jenn Allen, Alex Baboian, and Aaron Liao from Berklee College of Music), chocolate covered strawberries, and birthday cake!  A very successful silent auction featured items such as a gift basket of gourmet chocolates, a professional photoshoot/graphic design work, a pet portrait sitting, a gift certificate to Madison Floral of Somerville MA, handcrafted jewelry, and more! We cannot wait to have another anniversary extravaganza in 2012, mark your calendars!

On a more personal note, both Merli and myself are beyond words with celebrating our first year. We have had 2 of our own fully-produced concerts, shown work in performances at the Boston Center for the Arts, Mount Holyoke College, the Williston School in Easthampton, MA (with Nataraj Dancers), and at the Dance for World Community Festival in Harvard Square. We completed a successful community outreach project with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, took part in a nationally-acclaimed artistic photoshoot, and so much more. All while becoming a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization, holding two auditions, fundraising and (oh yeah!) forming an entire dance company from scratch! While we take what we have done and where we are at for granted, upon inspection this is truly quite amazing. What I believe has propelled us so far and so fast is having our company carried on a solid partnership. It is wonderful to be half of a team that is equally motivated and thorough (and of course it helps having similar lofty goals and dreams). What is a bit scary is the thought and task of keeping our momentum strong over the next year, and beyond of course. We accomplished so much in so little time, the thought of where a continued pace could lead is both nerve-wrecking and fantastic. For now, we are looking forward to the Seacoast Fringe Festival in Portsmouth, NH in October, to our Year End Concert in Cambridge in November, to the official word from the IRS on our nonprofit status, and of course to the creation of innovative new work! Believe it or not, it is already time to start creating material and looking for performance opportunities for next season!


Below are photos of the Gala, and parts one and two of the video shown at the event. These videos provide brief clips of all of our performances over the past year!
All photos were taken by the talented Julia Wagner. View her portfolio here: http://wagnerwordsandimages.blogspot.com.

The company! l. to r. - Chritin Collins, Amyko Ishizaki, Louise Layman, Kimberleigh A. Holman, Meghan Riling,
Merli V. Guerra, Dahne Ledford, Jess Jacob, Mark Kranz and Guest Performer Amy Mastrangelo.
Unable to attend: Guest Performers Lori Celeste, Melenie Diarbekirian, Jarid Polite and Anna Reyes.
Guests were instantly greeted with the sounds of live music...

...the sounds of chatting...
...and laughter!
Guests enjoying the opportunity to mingle with company members.
Rekindling connections from the past-
-and making connections for the future.
Merli discusses the wonderful connections that can be made through the Mount Holyoke College Alumni network with MHC alum (and Luminarium lawyer) Freya Shoffner.
Sponsors, artists and community members of all ages  joined us for a festive night!
Our incredible host, and the owner of AKA Bistro of Lincoln, Christian Touche. Many thanks to everyone at his restaurant for making our evening unforgettable.
Drinks, laughs, and our film on the wall...
Company members Meghan Riling and Amyko Ishizaki (l. to r.) enjoying a drink inside.
Friends and Sponsors 
Family and Artists
l. to r. - Company Members Mark Kranz, Jess Jacob, K. Louise Layman, Christin Collins, and Amyko Ishizaki welcome the Artistic Directors as they enter to thank the crowd.

Kim and Merli thank their company, sponsors, family and friends, and reflect on their first year running the company together with humor and introspection.
The candles are lit!
Kim & Merli blow them out...
...and everyone enjoys cake!
Thus ends Year One. If you haven't yet, please help us improve and enhance Year Two by leaving us a comment below, in the comment box on our website, or by emailing us directly at Luminarium.Dance@gmail.com.

Thank you!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Another show down, one more to go...

The Day from Merli:

Picture this: It's 11am on June 11th -- the big day of the Dance for World Community Festival has arrived! -- and just as we approach "Advocacy Way" to set up our table, it pours. Kim and I scramble to check in, find a half-available tent, then pick up a giant table and run to safety! Within moments we realize it'll take far more than just a tent to save us, our many paper products and our assortment of bags from the rain. As it blows in from the back, we team up with the booth next to us to push our tents together. Kim finds a huge roll of lime green plastic wrap, and together we embark on...

SURVIVOR: Luminarium Dance Style

Kim, cradling our precious safety pins in her mouth as we work quickly to kludge our tent together.

Quick! The rain is soaking our beautiful t-shirt display! We grab our only umbrella and put it to work.

Caption: "WHAT have we gotten ourselves into..."

Hanging up the t-shirts in an attempt to weigh it all down.

Suddenly, it becomes clear that NO where is safe. The one dry spot left under the table has turned into an active river coursing through our tent.

Finally things start to settle. We are cold and wet, but happily secure in our survivor tent.

Merli...and the table! Not yet in its full glory. We put out posters, t-shirts, raffle tickets, mailing lists... It really looked quite lovely in the end. Not to mention, we were the most colorful tent on the street!

The day went much better after that. We were excited to share information on our company and recent performance projects, and eagerly listened to the other dance organizations that visited our tent. Despite the rain, it was a wonderful chance to get our name out there, and the diehard dance fans of Boston and Cambridge did not disappoint. Our audience was very full when we performed at 4:40, and everyone seemed to enjoy the show very much.

We soon learned that on average, the tent would turn into a sail boat and blow about 4 feet across the pavement every 33 minutes or so, leading Kim and I to become very good at bracing ourselves against it throughout the day. Kim suffered a waterfall from a neighboring tent towards the end of the day, and I lost most of my toes the moment my bare feet hit the stage (turning a beautiful, numb white!), but all in all, it was a fun experience, and our dancers -- as always -- did a wonderful job.