‘Secrets and Motion’, by Luminarium Dance Company

‘Secrets and Motion’, Choreographed by Kimberleigh A. Holman and Merli V.
Guerra for the Luminarium Dance Company. At Boston University Dance Theater

You’re never too old to appreciate something new. That was the point driven
home to me this past weekend when I took in the Luminarium Dance Company’s
latest effort, “Secrets and Motion”. Given that I’m a middle-aged man whose sum
total of experience with dance performance is limited to watching ‘Soul Train”
and a PBS performance of “The Nutcracker” a few years back, I’m probably not
the most qualified individual to be weighing in on artistic merits of modern
dance. But as it turned out, my lack of sophistication with the art form had
zero effect on my ability to thoroughly enjoy this performance, and as many
have said, “I may not know art, but I know what I like.”

In fact, the beauty of this show is that familiarity with dance doesn’t
seem to be a prerequisite for anyone – no matter what their background – to
enjoy this performance. A couple of friends of mine attended and dragged their
reluctant boyfriends along, and after 
the show, the guys admitted that while they weren’t exactly excited about going
before they saw the show, they thoroughly enjoyed the experience (translated
from menspeak).

  “Secrets” combines a range of
musical genres, imaginative lighting, surreal visual effects and a pretty brilliant
video along with the dance, and is accessible to anyone who enjoys watching
creatives work their craft at a high level. The seven performance pieces varied
widely by which ancillary medium they incorporated, with some carried by a
dominant or emotional musical score (a highlight throughout the evening);
others by the use of light and shadows; some by the narrative of the piece; and
others on the sheer grace and skill of the performers.

The opening number, “whisper, rumor, rot” was a beautifully
executed piece with five dancers brandishing cigarette lighter sized LEDs and
incorporating the lights into the routine, but had me wondering if I was in
over my head in my ability to “get it”. But my fears quickly disappeared with
the following number, “Neck-Deep (and then some)” which opened with
the dancer (Amy Mastrangelo) essentially behaving as a child writing in chalk on
the sidewalk, then performing an emotional dance in front of a large screen
which projected hand-written notes, including one that read, (something to the
effect of) “This is the time of year when the depression takes hold”.  Choreographer (and Artistic
Director/Co-Founder)  Kimberleigh A.
Holman told me after the show that the notes on the screen were ‘secrets’ that
were solicited and sent in anonymously to their blog, and when she read them
she said to herself, ‘Wow, some of these are fantastically accurate  – for everyone’ and she incorporated them
into the work.

The next piece (“For you, I”) presented two dancers in tandem and
featured Melenie Diarbekirian and the other Co-Founder/Artistic Director Merli
V. Guerra. The narrative depicts a “kind of
a co-dependent relationship where friends that have some kind of history,”
where one of the pair has a secret that the other may or may not know, according to Holman. The pair begin the
dance in seamless synchronicity then abruptly break apart, and there appears to
be some form of emotional struggle between the two as the dance progresses. It was
my favorite pure dance number of the evening.

Guerra choreographed the next two pieces, with the first featuring her
dancing solo to a poem by Caryn Oppenheim. The next, “Hush” was the
evening’s most ambitious and surreal number, with five opaque, illuminated 3.5′
x 3.5′ boxes, each containing one dancer with another performing outside of
each box. Each outside dancer then helped/encouraged/drew/re-animated the
inside dancers out of the boxes, and it was fascinating to watch the work
unfold. Guerra told me after the show that it was inspired by Japanese lantern
festivals, which combine secrets, dance and light in a similar fashion, as
participants put a secret in a box, light a lantern and set it in motion on the
water to send messages to loved ones.

For me, I found it easiest to enjoy this piece (and others) by forgetting
about analysis, shutting off my head, stop worrying about interpretations and
just let the action in front of me speak for itself. If I missed the point of a
piece it didn’t really matter as long I enjoyed it. In some ways it was like
watching a foreign film in a language I don’t speak – without subtitles.

The last dance piece (choreographed by Holman) was called ‘A Secret in
Three Phases’ and reminded me of a Charlie Chaplin movie at times. Set to
Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 13 in B-flat Major K.333, the piece was aggressive
and humorous at the same time, and featured the only male dancer (Mark Kranz)
of the evening along with Rose Abramoff and Diarbekirian. The show concluded
with a short video by Guerra entitled, “The One I Keep” that reveals
Guerra to be a pretty talented film maker as well. The short shows dancer Jess
Chang seated in a chair with a cascade of confetti falling upward (an effect
produced by reverse camera motion) and it’s just really cool to watch. It was a
terrific ending to the multimedia show.

What made the show for me was that each piece was radically different from
the next.  “That’s what’s really
wonderful about the partnership that Kim and I have,” said Guerra.
“We both come from two very different backgrounds within the dance
community (modern, ballet and classical Indian dance for Guerra and for Holman
a stronger jazz influence as well as studying with several prominent lighting
and sound designers), so that’s how we ended up with this beautiful medley of
works ,” said Guerra.

Unfortunately, “Secrets and Motion” was the final show of the
season for Luminarium, but I highly recommend keeping an eye out for their 2014

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