Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Adventures of Ithaca!

Hello Lumi-followers,

This weekend offered Luminarium three days of adventure, as we traveled up to Ithaca, NY to perform our first commissioned work alongside a talented orchestra performing new work by Justyne Griffin.

The road trip got off to a bit of a rocky start, as Kim shuffled cars at the airport rental until landing on the biggest, best model they had (shy only of a stretch SUV, really). At 4pm we hit the highway (and traffic), and by midnight, we arrived two hours late for our 10pm dress rehearsal. Luckily for Kim and myself, this was not the first time we've been illegally let inside a building after hours to view a space. One sneaky, whispered meeting with Justyne and a short car ride later, we finally arrived at our new home:

Our home was perfect! Cozy, but spacious, with plenty of room for the six of us. Only downside, perhaps, was the sulfuric water that resulted in leaving our showers spelling like eggs. But all in all, a wonderful little home for our retreat.

Saturday's adventures began with Kim-made coffee (our resident coffee expert) in our kitchen, with each of us exploring the yard, living room, and wrap-around porch, followed by a trip to the Carriage House, a local breakfast/lunch destination that completely wowed us.

Perfection personified. 
After a meal of garlic-battered home fries, pig belly, brie-stuffed french toast, and fancy pesto grilled cheese, Rose suggested we find the waterfalls of Buttermilk Farms, "easily accessible by car." Sure, if you can find it! After a few wrong directions, we successfully forded a totally Oregon-Trail-worthy river in our hulk mobile and arrive at the falls.

Photo by Amy Mastrangelo
End of the day brought our performance...and also our first time hearing the music in person. Good thing we're all creative, and can make things click in just about any situation. Helped that we were a little giddy with adrenaline before going onstage, as well:

We had to keep quiet...Here's what we're saying:

Merli: Hey! We're about to perform-
Rose: in Ithaca!
Mark: Not the Hamlet of Varna
Merli: We have this whole dressing room to ourselves-
Mark: all 12 feet of it!
Merli: That's Kim. Behind you.
Rose: Enjoy the show...
*For those wondering at home, Hamlet of Varna is a real place, that we really drove through...every day. :)

A short clip taken from the first section of the trilogy of works:

The trip was a wonderful experience. Not only did it allow us the opportunity to spend time together as a company outside of the rehearsal studio, but it gave movement to music, and music to movement through a collaboration that (shockingly) took place over the past few months merely through email. The coming together of these two live art forms was powerful for Justyne, Kim, and myself, and we were so touched by the feedback we received from the audience after the performance.

And as we end this post with images of the amazing post-show gourmet cupcakes we eagerly consumed, we wish all of you safety during the impending hurricane Sandy, and hope to visit NY again soon.

-Merli (and Kim)
Dancers on tour: Rose Abramoff, Jess Chang, Mark Kranz, Amy Mastrangelo

Waiting to be eaten: Chai Latte, Pink Champaign, Green Tea & Orange Fortune Cookie cupcakes

So beautiful, so delicious. A Ginger & Rosemary cupcake...who would've thought!

Friday, August 10, 2012

24-Hours of Blog Entries!!!

Dear Readers:

Below, you will find 24 entries (one collected every hour) from start to finish of the inaugural 24-HOUR CHOREOFEST. Each entry comes from a ChoreoFest participant, sharing their experiences with all of you. Many thanks to our ChoreoFest Production Liaison Matt Johnson, who single-handedly gathered these entries every hour of the festival.

Please also enjoy this 30-second promotional film, created by Michael Russell (Great Idea Media LLC) at on site at midnight of the festival:


6:00pm getting ready and getting excited!!! -the crew

7:00pm People are pouring in. A little bit of anxiety, but excitement too in the room. -Michael, Videographer & Editor, Great Idea Media LLC

8:00pm what an eclectic, curious array of themes we have pulled out of the hat...some people are looking a little baffled- Jessica, Luminarium

9:00pm Meeting is complete, snacks have arrived, companies have dispersed to their respective and the smell of creativity is in the air!  ...or is that the coffee brewing... The all important caffeine machine is percolating away; wonder if we'll want an IV drip of the stuff by the end of the night.  Regardless, this is going to be fun! ~Matt, Production Liason

10:00 Did you know that the giant squid has the largest eyeball in the animal kingdom? Well if you did, your wrong! It is the colossal squid :) Let's have a squid debate ~ Nikki, Monkeyhouse

11:00 We look so lovely...lack of sleep, sweat....yep.  We just took a minute break to document this on photobooth.  Sorry folks, these photos are "secret". ~ Renee, Renee and Sarah Mae Dance
*EDIT* Fans and windows have been adjusted to provide a more beneficial choreographing environment.

12:00 Just finished the first meeting of dancer's after session one. Coffee is definitely starting to become key to the process even though we are all still going strong. The second session is where we really see how the nights going to go... 4 a.m. is going to be hilarious. - Dave, People Movers

1:00am This has been such a process... Meeting with the choreographers in the last hour was very telling: All were greatly enthusiastic, and excited to keep the momentum going as we head into this second 4-hour segment. However, the more we chatted, differences started to emerge... Some pushed fast and hard the first 4 hours to create a larger section of choreography, while others are slowly pacing themselves throughout the night. Some have found inspiration in the movement of their dancers, while others are deeply focused on their choreographic themes. As a group that is working on the idea of "addiction," it is so easy to fall into one track at this late hour: coffee addiction! Humor has its place in our work, but we are excited to expand this theme to encompass more possibilities through relationships with other movers in the space, and the objects around us. Looking forward to touching base with everyone again at 4am! - Merli, Luminarium

2:00am  I'm definitely starting to lose my energy.  So much that it's even hard for me to cohesively put all of my thoughts together to form a sentence. My brain really wants me to just shut down, but my body wants to keep pushing through.  I'm super sweaty, super sleepy, but still really inspired to keep dancing.  - Melenie, Luminarium

3:00am  I feel RAW. Ripe. Beautiful.  This collaborative synergistic process has been incredibly powerful and therapeutic! Yes, you've heard me right. The theme we picked was "Imperfection is a Whale" and within this theme we have explored and exposed our insecurities. How exhausting!!  I find that being sleep deprived makes us even more vulnerable which, personally, brings me more into my body and creativity just flows.  Just breathe.  I loved these ladies before this fabulous project... this just solidified our soul sister kindred spiritnessssssss.  I need a shower. Time to unstickafy! ~*~ Marinda (1,000 Virtues) ~*~

4:00am  Well it's 4 am and we are starting the "choreolympics." The process has been fun and interesting. My energy has definitely been up and down, but now I'm feeling the crash coming on. My brain and my body are no longer working together. Our group has worked really well together so far and we are getting a lot out of our concept. This is such a great experience! I'm looking forward to the rest of the process. -Jessica, The People Movers

5:00am  We are still up and actually really excellent at Twister! Playing with music and transitions and thinking of what our theme "secrets" might mean in terms of sound. Learning about how to work with our sleepy creativity. Falling into our weight and snuggling between creative bursts. :-) ~ Sarah Mae, Sarah Mae and Renee Dance

6:00am  We've just woken up and we're fresh and inspired by the sunrise that is warming the studio.  From the top floor of the Dance Complex, the view of turquoise and copper is really magnificent.  Now it's time to divide our time and prepare for the tech rehearsal.  :) ~ Anne Goldberg,  *(Synthesis Aesthetics Project)

7:00am  Wow wow wow!  It's 7, and I've been awake since 10 am on Friday, and yet I am totally and completely still awake.  Feeling great... is it the coffee?  Is it excitement?  Am I just that strange of a human being?  (yes to all of the aforementioned.) I am waking the lovely dancers/co-director up in 15 minutes, and we will put an ending on our piece, and run it a couple times before teching at 8:30.  Then I get to see everyone's work, as I light their pieces.  I was a tiny bit worried about being a choreographer/participant and also organizer and tech director/lighting designer, but it's been smooth sailing.  Now, don't expect any Broadway lighting design, but I think the beauty of this show comes in its simplicity.  11 hours ago I knew very few of the people in this building, and I had no idea about the 11 minute choreo-baby we would conceive in the space.  Now... there's a piece, six, to be exact, and they don't need anything fancy because they stand on the sheer feat that they were so so freshly created, and that's pretty beautiful already.  Here we go... the final stretch!  Off to finish our Luminarium piece, tech 7 groups (don't forget our opening act Jo-Me dance arriving around noon!), get through a dress rehearsal and two performances... and then?  Who knows!  I REALLY hope anyone reading this will come check out our show, and the crazy feat that's happened in the last half of a day!  -Kim, Luminarium!

8:00am  After a brief nap I went downstairs to start taking pics of the tech rehearsal (I'm the photographer). It's amazing how twelve hours ago they were choosing topics and now each group has a fully choreographed dance. I've just seen the lighting for Luminarium's dance and it is awesome! Here's to creativity and all nighters! -Michelle Boule, photographer

9:00am It is 9am and we have finished our dance! We got ourselves some much needed coffee and are taking a little break before our tech rehearsal at 9:30. We got our costumes sorted out this morning and now its time to tackle the music. I can't believe how much we got done in just 7hrs of rehearsal. This has been a very interesting experience thus far. I can't say I have ever danced on such little sleep. Looking forward to checking out what everyone has come up with later today! - Sarah Feinberg, Monkeyhouse

10:00am  Definitely a lot of tired dancers and choreographers here at The Dance Complex.  Troupes are running through their tech, checking lighting and sound, then disappearing to the coffee shop or a comfy spot to nap.  But things are certainly coming together.  It looks like during that time from midnight to 8AM was really successful for everyone.  And it looks like everyone has done a great job!  Can't wait to see them all back to back during the shows! - Michael, Videographer & Editor, Great Idea Media LLC

11:00am  We are now finishing up our tech. rehearsals, and we will soon be running the dress rehearsal before the two shows.  Though the early morning hours were pretty rough, I'm feeling slightly refreshed after having showered and having a good breakfast.  I think we are all plugging along on a fairly small amount of sleep, but I'm really looking forward to seeing all the pieces in the dress run.  We did come together throughout the night to check in, but we haven't really had much chance to check out what the other groups have created.  I think it's going to be quite a diverse show! -Louise Layman, Luminarium

12:00pm  I am now watching the last group run their dance for dress rehearsal. This is... almost it! I have watched dances that make me laugh out loud, and watched dances that make me want to cry because they are more honest that I thought we had the energy for at this hour, and they make me look at myself in ways I want to but don't want to..and they have all surprised me... no sleep for the weary, or the stretchy. I'm going to go melt into my leotard right now, and feel thankful that I am surrounded by beautiful dancers dancing beautiful and terrible things.  ~Sasha Krumholz Lynn, 1000 Virtues

1:00pm  There have been hours that have lasted longer than others throughout this process. 5 am was one, as I sat on the floor next to one of our very delirious choreographers and tried to make sense of an intricate pattern of paper plates on the floor...7:30-8:30 was another, as we were awoken from our all too short comas in order to learn one final movement phrase and finalize our transitions. But I believe that this final hour until our performances start may be the longest yet. Muscles are tightening up, fog is settling over my brain, and I keep drifting off in the mid....dle of a sent....  ~Jessica Jacob, Luminarium Dance

2:00pm  I just got off stage for the first show.  I can't even believe that I am awake, never mind dancing.  Every time I see a dance performance, I without a doubt am awe-inspired the inexplicable dedication that goes into a sweet little show.  For what?  Not for money.  For the impulse to move.  For the desire to express ourselves.  For the irrepressible vitality within.  For real.  ~ Chien-Hwe, 1,000 Virtues Dance

3:00pm  It is so nice, in a mixed concert, to be able to speak to the audience right before you perform - not only in giving something of a "narrative" context but also in being able to create an emotional relationship.  At least that was true for us today, following Sarah Mae and Renee, whose piece was so powerful and sweet, with our piece being so much more about straight whimsy and ridiculosity.  Being able to give the audience space to take in what they just saw, take a breath, and prepare for taking on a new emotional experience really makes you feel good about what you're doing in the world. ~ Jason Ries, Monkeyhouse.

4:00pm When I woke up this morning as the sun rose over Boston, I thought I was dreaming. Working through an idea at 6 AM didn't feel like a choice - it was what we were doing. I trust these people to create great work, and it has been truly educational to witness the end product of such a quick process. Everyone is so committed, so intense in their commitment to showing; it feels like the work comes from a spontaneous, unharried place that we all should go to more often. Brava Luminarium. I look forward to the next wonderful opportunity ~ Martha Cargo, Synthesis Aesthetics Project

5:00pm  I am so impressed with and grateful for my EXTRAordinary dancers who pushed through a whole lot of really tough conditions to make something really unique and inspired. I am so happy to have been a part of this event. I am constantly inspired by not only them but the whole dance community-- groups of people who will push through and create even in the most extreme of circumstances. I am so drained but at the same time so filled with joy. Thanks to all who made this experience so fulfilling! ~Kate, The People Movers

6:00pm Post show. We made it! This experience has reawakened the joy of dance for me. I love working with Kate and having some new faces join The People Movers brought a whole new energy and chemistry. The two most amazing things I observed was A. how much can actually be accomplished if you lock yourself in a studio with an impending goal, and B. being tired and pushed to extremes creates a great sense of camaraderie between total strangers. I whole heartily enjoyed this experience and can't wait to see what comes from all my new found inspiration. ~ Ayla, The People Movers

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Exploring Icarus and Learning How to Fly

One of many pieces of Icarus art...

When I was younger (I would say much younger, but it would be a lie) I used to search for walls, tree stumps, large rocks… anything I could test myself on by jumping off of.   I loved everything about my strange habit, the nervousness leading up to leaping off an eight-foot retaining wall at my grandmother’s condo complex, the excitement of doing something any reasonable adult would probably not approve, and that crystal clear moment of free-fall before scrambling to land.  Now that I am an adult, and one without a great deal of free time/living in an urban neighborhood (parkour, anyone?), I’ve been remarkably grounded.  I’ve come to terms with this, there are plenty of other ways to get an adrenaline fix, but I think it is a valid link to my interest in the myth of Icarus, and translating that story into a new work for Mythos:Pathos.

Icarus, to seriously summarize, was the son of Daedalus, a craftsman.  Trapped on the island of Crete by King Minos, Daedalus constructed wings of wax and feathers so the two could fly to freedom.  Despite his father’s warnings to follow him and not fly too close to the sun, Icarus breaks from the plan, inevitably flies too close to the sun, and falls to the sea.  Most retellings and discussions of this tale attribute Icarus’ fall to over-ambition or hubris, but I don’t think I agree, at least not with the connotation behind ‘hubris’, or being overly ambitious!  As a storyteller it is my responsibility to represent the myth accurately, but in relating to this character I am opting to present the story (especially causes of Icarus’ extended flight) from my own perspective.  I am very lucky to approach this work as a choreographer, since the tale is indeed movement-based, but more on my movement research in a bit.

Adrenaline Amnesia.  I’m sure this isn’t an original phrase, so I won’t take credit for it, however, it is catchy and concisely sums up my thoughts on and personal connections to Icarus.  It is something, I would hope, most everyone has experienced at one point or another, and often as the result of unheeded advice.  A physical action or not, one does something contrary to advice or a mandate from an authority-figure, experiences the rush, and is much more apt to continue the action and have the advice vanish from the mind.  The obvious examples; sneaking out of high school to do [non-academic activity of choice about town] against parent/teacher rules, a taboo relationship, or physical examples; driving too fast, swimming too deep in the ocean, jumping off high objects (!), various other semi-risky and addictive activities.   It is possible that flight just feels so wonderful and freeing that Icarus keeps flying and flying, not to prove that he can, but because that authoritarian warning has simply dissolved from his mind in the euphoria of the moment?  My dislike of authority decrees is simply a coincidence here, since while I approve of the disregard, it wouldn’t be a conscious choice in this situation, now would it?

I was fortunate enough to get to experiment with both adrenaline amnesia and the physical feel of flying in an indoor skydiving session at SkyVenture NH.  Mark (Icarus performer/fellow adrenaline connoisseur) and I suited up, complete with kneepads, goggles, earplugs and of course a one-piece flight suit and made our way to the flight chamber.  My personal goals were to see if, in fact, I would fall into the 100 mph winds and experience some sort of thought-erasing euphoria, and also to experience how a body suspended in the air actually feels as movement research.  The results varied.  I was very interested to discover how whole-body the physical flying experience was.  As movers, I can say we approached learning how to fly from a different perspective and understanding than the others in our group.  Every slight shift in working muscle groups had the potential to shoot you high into the air, or bring you plummeting down to the metal grid below.  If it was allowed, I could have easily spent an hour playing with the varying effects of slight body movements in the vertical space, I could probably write an entirely separate blog post on this topic. 

Mentally, while there was no magically activated euphoria, there was a huge sense of calm.  As an individual with a mind that’s typically thinking about 5+ different things at once, and also probably 3 irrelevant distracting things in addition to that (attention defi-what?) I found this strange peaceful nothingness that was really quite lovely.  Perhaps it was caused by serious wind rushing past my ears, but also it was the first occurrence in an indefinite amount of time that I was completely separate from the rest of the world.  No verbal communication was possible in the wind tunnel, no iPhones or electronics to use, the wind blocked my ears… I wasn’t even connected to the ground.  For 6 minutes, I was a completely independent-free-floating body suspended in air, and while I didn’t have that stomach-twisting, blood-pumping, heart-racing thrill, I found a sort of break from the world.

Phew!  Does this prove anything I set out to investigate?  Not fully.  However, I’m satisfied with my own Icarus story, as we approach performance, and I am completely content to think about this myth for months to come.  I hope my artistic liberty with Icarus serves to let viewers feel free enough to question the myth, my retelling, and of course to enjoy the piece as a whole.


PS:  Think this post is interesting?  Come see and discuss Mythos:Pathos.  This week's show is at the Armory (Somervile) and will take place Friday (Aug 3) and Saturday (Aug 4) at 8pm.  Tickets can be purchased at, or at the door.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Making Monsters

by Rose Abramoff

I have always been a bottom. Let me explain, because being a bottom in dance is like being a top in life. When I was a little girl, I was actually a fairly big girl (not like child obesity big, just, you know, AMERICA big). As a big little girl dancer, I was always the one lifting people. I would even lift the boys, who in their adolescent bodies were scrawnily easy to pick up. Even though I am normal sized now, the empowering effect of dance lifting makes me feel if we got in a fight, I could totally take you down....or at least pick you up. By the time I got to college I was a lifting machine. I could throw a lithe ballerina-type person over my head any way you like: right side up, upside down, sideways, one leg over here, one leg over there, shaped like an octopus, whatever. Sometimes I would help the boys (uh, is this right? yeah, bro, now put some MUSCLE IN IT). I wish I could give everyone two tickets to my gun show, but I've never grown big arm muscles. I just balance people over my spine as best I can, lift with my legs, and try not to freak out.

So it's lucky (or maybe planned) that the piece I'm dancing in, Sirens, involves a lot of lifting. We are making multi-person monsters. Some of these monsters are very sexy indeed - big and sexy. To accomplish the big part we are climbing on top of each other. In the first five minutes of working with Luminarium I learned to lift my partner Hannah with her feet on my hands and throw her over my head, flip her back on her feet and then pop her back up in the air again. In the next five minutes I learned to do this in the dark. There may have been a $0.65 keychain light to guide my way. No big deal, starting off easy. Then we invented some never before seen lifts of epic (poem) proportions. Some are epic fails and others are epic successes. 

Dances are just like sausages: wonderful, but you don't want to see them get made. To be a good lifting partner, you can't wear loose clothing, so we have to stuff ourselves into tight wrappings (like sausages). During the rehearsal, we have to occasionally scrape ourselves off the floor (like sausages). But in the end, I hope the dance will be meaty and satisfying (like sausages)!

Come see Rose perform the "Sirens" piece in Mythos:Pathos. Learn more and buy tickets here: 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Andromeda - From the Dancer's Viewpoint

You may have seen the recent photos online advertising Luminarium's upcoming Mythos:Pathos Project, specifically featuring the Andromeda Solo; a piece that incorporates intricate movement with complex (and wearable!) visual art and lighting design. It is a feast for the eyes, and a feat for those currently building it. But while Luminarium choreographer Merli V. Guerra, lighting designer Matthew Breton, and visual artist Julia Wagner continue to create the wearable light-based structure, it is the soloist who will ultimately become the most intimate with the final product.

Melenie Diarbekirian as Andromeda
(Guerra 2012) - Mythos:Pathos
Photo by Julia Wagner

Luminarium Senior Company Member Melenie Diarbekirian joined LDC a little over a year ago. She is an accomplished performer, currently also dancing with Urbanity, and has worked in a variety of theatre settings. But! As the character of Andromeda in Mythos:Pathos, Melenie now finds herself facing some very new and exhilarating challenges. Below are some of the thoughts that cross her mind, while working with one of the most unique costumes she has ever experienced:
It's really interesting having to dance with a crazy contraption above my head. At first I thought that my movement was going to be very limiting, but I'm able to do a lot more then I thought I would. Because the piece is built around a bra, I'm able to move my torso so much more which is great!

When I dance with the piece on, I have to be very spatially aware of the area above my head.  I think of it as having extra limbs that are growing out of me.  Just like my arms and legs, I have to be careful of my limbs.  But I also have to make sure that I don't break the lightbulbs, so especially when doing movement on the ground I have to be very careful.  I try to extend my energy into the piece above so that it's not weighing me down, but lifting me and extending myself to my fullest.  This also makes me feel as though the piece is part of my body as opposed to something that is on top of me.

I love experimenting with it. There are so many places to weave my arms in and out of the piece and even places to grasp onto it. I'd have to say that turning is one of the most difficult things to do. Because the piece is not symmetrical, the weight is off balance and can sometimes throw me off, but in recent rehearsals I've learned to work with it and acknowledge which side is heavier so I can adjust it on the other side.

There is certainly plenty of consideration going into all aspects of the Andromeda Solo, as well as the Mythos:Pathos Project as a whole. Stay tuned for more entries chronicling the making of Andromeda, and keep your eyes open for some exciting indoor skydiving posts!

TICKETS to MYTHOS:PATHOS are now online for our performance at the Armory in Somerville (Aug 3 & 4) and the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown (Aug 31, Sept 1 & 2).
CLICK HERE to buy tickets, or to learn more about these performances.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dance for World Community Festival 2012

This year's Dance for World Community Festival was much warmer and sunnier than last year's! What a joyous experience meeting and cheering on members of our local dance community, and performing on the beautiful Sanctuary Theater Stage. Enjoy these photos and video excerpt below!

Below is a video excerpt, performed in the beautiful Sanctuary Theater. Enjoy!

Looking forward to next year's 2013!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The "Celebration of Preservation" Project

Luminarium's 2012 Season is officially off and running! On May 5th, the company presented its repertoire piece What seems so is transition (live) in the Hatch Presenting Series at the Jennifer Muller/The Works center in NYC. But this past Sunday (May 27, 2012) marked the company's first local performance of the season...and it couldn't have gone better!

Take a peak at the photos above, then view some footage of the dancing below...

The day was perfect. The dancers performed in beautiful, sunny weather to an ever-expanding crowd of all ages. The people we met and the connections we each made were just as integral to the day's experiences as presenting the work itself.

"Celebration of Preservation" Project.
Choreographed by Merli V. Guerra
Performed by Amyko Ishizaki,
Amy Mastrangelo, and Matt Johnson.

Many thanks to Jan Turnquist and the staff of the Orchard House for allowing us to be a part of their festivities, and for making our stay so inviting.

This project was funded with a grant from the Concord Cultural Council.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Photography Preview...More to Come!

Luminarium began March with a bang, as we met with Shane Godfrey (of Shane Godfrey Photography) for an 11-hour photoshoot.

Melenie warms up as we prepare the set.

DJ Collins provides the tunes...

Shane sets up his lighting to work within the tight space.

Mark and Jess J watch as the first three dancers do their solo shots.

Matt gets groovy as the afternoon progresses.

Moving on to group shots, Shane instructs the dancers on how
to center themselves within the frame.

Christin, Jess C, and Amyko experiment through structured improv.
 The final product? Kim and Merli can vouch for the beauty of the final selection of unedited photos. So stay tuned to see the final product! In the meantime, here's our new season image as a little taste of the photoshoot:

Many thanks to Shane Godfrey and Meg Elkinton for their hard work on our season's photos!