"unpredictable, provocative, and gratifyingly visceral"
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ARTISTIC DIRECTORS / CHOREOGRAPHERS
MERLI V. GUERRA
Merli V. Guerra (MFA in Dance, Rutgers University) is an award-winning choreographer and interdisciplinary artist combining dance, film, art, and design. Guerra has performed lead roles as a modern dancer and classical Odissi Indian dancer with acclaimed companies on tours to India (2007, 2012) and Japan (2009); and in 2021, created a series of site-specific screendances across Tanzania in response to its national park ecosystems. Guerra's choreographic works have additionally been presented by 80+ events across the U.S., and abroad in Argentina, Canada, Georgia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Portugal, and Spain. She is a 2015 recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s prestigious Gold Star Award for her work with site-specific dance and community engagement. Her 2021 work “The Time Traveler’s Lens” is a series of 360-degree virtual reality screendance films illuminating the history of the colonnade ruins at Princeton Battlefield State Park, and is now a permanent installation on the park grounds. She presented on this project and merging dance with AR/VR/XR technologies at Our World Heritage International Globinar 2.0 (2021) and Harvard University Virtual/Augmented Reality (2021). Beyond choreography, Guerra is a freelance graphic designer and arts journalist who served as Art Director of Art New England magazine for five years, followed by her work at Princeton University Press. As a writer, she is Senior Contributor to Boston’s The Arts Fuse, and a dance critic for the Toronto-based Fjord Review and Vancouver-based Dance International magazine. Guerra is a Part-Time Lecturer at Rider University and Rutgers University. Learn more at merliguerra.com.
KIMBERLEIGH A. HOLMAN
Kimberleigh A. Holman is an artist working interdisciplinarily in dance, theatre and design. Her work gravitates to the exploration of human social interaction and behavior, both real and fictitious, miniscule instances or broad patterns, through comedic, dark, sensory or abstract narrative. As a mover and maker, one of her biggest considerations is authenticity; she hopes to enable those performing her work to find genuine ways to be present in the performance space and hopes to inspire viewers to react in genuinely felt ways of their own. Holman excitedly creates work around these principles for Luminarium, where she passionately leads the company’s Arts in Action Project; an annual outreach program that strives to make social impact through youth arts experiences. Besides nearly 80 performances with Luminarium across New England, Holman has been invited to choreograph for commercials and film, dozens of theatrical productions across Boston, and to bring her work to stages ranging from public library basements to the globally renowned APAP conference in NYC. Holman is frequently hired as a guest artist at Boston-area universities, speaks on her career as an arts entrepreneur, and serves on multiple boards of directors. Some favorite recent projects include collaborating on a video/performance piece by Adara Meyers, which debuted at the Boston Center for the Arts in early 2018, and a research and performance project where Holman traveled up the Eastern Seaboard, performing in public locations in each of the fifteen East Coast states. Holman earned her MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College. Learn more at kaholman.com.
Jessica Chang graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 2011, where she earned a BA in Dance. She began her professional dance career in Boston and has worked with companies such as Angie Moon Dance Theatre, Annie Kloppenberg & Co., Audra Carabetta, Chun-Jou Tsai, Luminarium Dance, Ruckus Dance, and Vimoksha. The greatest influences of her dance aesthetic are Omar Carrum, Deborah Flemming, Carl Flink, Terese Freedman, Kathleen Hermesdorf, Claudia Lavista, Katie Martin, Fritha Pengelly, Kendra Portier, Cheryl Quek, and Lisa Race.
Melenie Diarbekirian joined Luminarium in 2011 and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance from The Boston Conservatory. She started out her professional career with Urbanity Dance and currently dances with Pantos Project Dance, Luminarium Dance Company, and Turning Key Dance. Throughout her career, she has performed works by prominent choreographers including José Limón, Alwin Nikolais, Thang Dao, Larry Keigwin, and had the privilege to do Reagle Music Theatre’s Oklahoma!, where she performed the original Agnes de Mille choreography, restaged by Gemze de Lappe. She has performed in venues such as the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, the Jacob’s Pillow Inside Out Stage, events like the APAP Conference in New York City, TEDxCambridge at the Boston Opera House, and many other festivals and colleges along the East Coast. Diarbekirian currently teaches at the Acton School of Ballet, and serves as the Ballet Mistress for Commonwealth Ballet Company.
Amy Mastrangelo has been dancing with Luminarium since June of 2011. She studied dance at Boston University, and was an active and avid member and choreographer of BU’s Dance Theatre Group while pursing both a BS in Therapeutic Studies and an MS in Occupational Therapy. Mastrangelo has choreographed productions at Salem State College and Marblehead Public Schools, as well as with the Colonial Chorus Players, and Freelance Players. She is the co-founder and co-artistic director of Calamity Collaborations Dance, a multimedia production company out of Cambridge, MA. Mastrangelo works full-time as an occupational therapist at Boston Public Schools.
Katie McGrail joined Luminarium in 2012. She is a Registered Dance/Movement Therapist, a license-eligible clinical mental health counselor, and a 200-certified yoga instructor. She also has experience teaching ballet, modern dance, improvisation, creative movement and yoga to movers and shakers from age three to 90+. McGrail counts her early training at Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre and the lineage of the Connecticut College dance faculty (Shani Collins-Achille, David Dorfman, Heidi Henderson, Adele Myers, Lisa Race, and Derrick Yanford) among her greatest movement influences. She has had the honor of performing and having her choreographic endeavors presented in venues in the Boston area, around New England and New York, and in 2016 co-produced Dance Shorts, a professional concert featuring the choreographic voices of emerging female artists in the Boston dance community. McGrail is a graduate of Connecticut College (BA) and Lesley University (MA).
Angelina Benitez graduated from Salem State University with a B.A in Modern/Contemporary Dance and has since studied at Bates Dance Festival. She has worked with local Boston-based artists including but not limited to; Betsy Miller, Peter DiMurio / Public Displays of Motion, Lonnie Stanton, Meghan McLyman, and Jenny Carlson. Lately, Benitez has taken to teaching in the Greater Boston area, moving with the Click, creating fiber art, arts admin, and training in pole dance. Connect with her art-making and follow her at @shemovesandmakes on Instagram.
Caitlin Canty is a dancer, dancemaker, and educator from Somerville, MA who is thrilled to join Luminarium this season for their BCA residency. She began her dance training at the West Concord Dance Academy, where she is now on faculty, and continued her training at Colorado College. She also teaches professional level contemporary dance classes with MIDDAY Movement Series. Upon returning to Boston, she has danced professionally with Ruckus Dance, ATTN:Dance, Jenna Pollack and Projects, Ballet Russes, and others. Canty is currently supported by Art Assembled in Somerville, MA, as a member of their Artist in Residence cohort. Outside of dancing, Canty loves to sew and design both quilts and clothing, and she has built and designed dance costumes for VLA Dance and Jenna Pollack.
Cassandre Charles is an an Interdisciplinary/Embodiment artist with fiery Haitian artistic blood and revolutionist’s fire. Through visual and digital art and dance, she’s developed a style of storytelling filled with beautiful rage and cryptic symbols, bended text, and cultural, ritualistic, embodiment. She is excited to work with the brilliant souls of Luminarium in storytelling through movement and her first love, technical theater.
Katrina Conte is a dance artist and choreographer. She was raised in Mt. Pocono, PA, and has recently moved to Boston. Conte graduated with her BFA in Dance with a minor in Technical Theater from Ball State University. During her time there she had the opportunity to work with Sidra Bell, Jamy Meek, Shen Wei Dance Arts, and Noa Shadur. She currently is working with Luminarium Dance, ALIVE dance collective, and is a trainee with Kairos Dance Theater; she couldn’t be more excited to dance and create with these inspiring artists.
Eliza Malecki is a Cambridge based dancer, choreographer, administrator, and producer. She graduated from Goucher College with a BA in Dance and was a Young Artist in Residence at Bearnstow in Mt. Vernon, ME. Her choreographic projects have been funded by the Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture and The New England Foundation for the Arts. In 2021-22 Eliza served as an Artist in Residence for the City of Lawrence, MA. Eliza has performed for Natalie Johnson Dance, Molly Hess, Grant Jacoby and Dancers, and Catherine Siller. Her driving question when creating is "how can I create serious art that does not take itself seriously?"
Cassie Wang is a multidisciplinary artist from Kansas City who recently graduated with a BA in Computer Science from Pomona College and minors in Dance and Digital Media. She has trained with the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance and the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, and had the opportunity to perform works by Derion Loman, Ohad Naharin, Tristian Griffin, and John Pennington. She is currently dancing with VLA DANCE, KAIROS Dance Theatre, and other independent artists in the area.
SATELLITE GUEST ARTISTS
Tanisha Anand is an international student from India who recently graduated from Rider University with a BA in Dance. Anand has been in the industry since age 2, and is trained in Bollywood, jazz, hip-hop, and ballet, among other forms. She was the president of Global Outlooks Club at Rider University; an international students mentor and a dance mentor; and also worked as a student worker at the library. Anand conducts Bollywood dance workshops in India through which she aims to raise funds for the needy. She is a four-time recipient of the Dean’s scholarship and was also awarded the Dance Merit Award. Her mission is to spread versatility and diversity in dance by creating fusion-based choreographies.
Alexa Barreiros is a New Jersey native and student at Rider University studying Dance and Elementary Education. Barreiros has trained with many different studios starting at a young age. She had the opportunity to train with the Tap City Youth program and performed in off-broadway pieces by Caleb Teicher, Melinda Sullivan, and Sarah Reich. She previously taught multiple subjects in different studios in North Jersey. Barreiros is currently in her junior year at Rider University, where she has participated in several pieces since being admitted into the University. One of the many choreographers she has performed for is Merli V. Guerra in her piece Constellation Stories in Rider Dances 2022.
Starting his journey at Montclair State University, Dane Burch decided to pursue his dance career from the moment he finished his first class at nineteen years old. From that moment on, his life became constant practice between many different styles of dance. After graduating from Montclair State University, Burch performed with several groups including Free Space Dance, Jersey City Dancers, and Nikki Manx Dance Project. Along with performing, another passion of his is nurturing the technical and artistic abilities of his students. In the future, Burch plans to continue auditioning and working on his technique so that he may continue to move forward in his career. For the current work created by Merli V. Guerra, Burch is ecstatic to be part of the creative process in exploring history and combining it with dance.
Victoria Francesca is a movement artist and visual storyteller currently based in New Jersey. Labeling herself The Dancing Filmmaker, Victoria focuses much of her energy on perfecting her skills as a dance artist and director of photography. Most recently, she has combined both passions by embarking on a year long project creating dance films that showcase Francesca painting large canvases, using herself as the paintbrush. Francesca has performed as a guest artist with Luminarium in the past in The Hostess Diaries at Liberty Hall Dance Festival 2018 and Global Water Dances 2019.
Kate Harbison, a sophomore at Rider University, is a double major in Dance Performance and Acting for Film, Television, and Theatre. In her hometown of Columbus, GA, she studied ballet at the Columbus State University Youth Dance Conservatory. Since coming to college, Harbison has studied modern, hip hop, and contemporary, and taken master classes in various cultural dance forms. She is also a member of Rider Dance Ensemble and sings in an all-female a cappella group called “Noted.” She has many professional theatre and children’s theatre credits from the Springer Opera House: State Theatre of Georgia such as Annie, Winnie the Pooh, and The Giver. After graduating, Harbison plans to be a full-time stage actor and substitute dance teacher when she can.
JOSCELYN E. HUNTER
Joscelyn E. Hunter is a Dance Performance major at Rider University with a minor in Psychology. She has been dancing for 15 years and competed competitively for 8 years. Hunter trained in ballet, modern, contemporary, acro, and hip-hop at a studio in her hometown of Hamilton, NJ, until she graduated in 2021. Her greatest accomplishment is winning the World of Dance competition with her traveling team and continuing the competition in California where she had the opportunity to train with many well-known choreographers. Hunter's goal with dance is to become a dance movement therapist or to take it as far as the big stages.
MCKENZIE LANI JONES
McKenzie Lani Jones is a senior at Rider University where she is a double major in Criminal Justice and Sociology and a minor in Dance. Jones has been dancing since she was 2 years old and was trained at Movement Dance Academy in New Jersey in ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop, and other styles. Throughout her training she has specialized in hip hop and was professionally trained at I Am Phresh Dance Academy in Philadelphia in the hip hop styles of locking, popping, breaking, house, and more. Jones was additionally awarded a scholarship to Joffrey Ballet School where she spent the summer training in New York. On campus, she is the Rider University's Dance Team president where the team performs at men's and women's basketball games and the MAAC tournament in Atlantic City. Jones is a four-time recipient of the Dean's scholarship and a manager at the Rider University SRC. Her passion for dance derives from her ability to express herself and share her love for dance with others.
Nikola Palivoda began dancing at a young age with his church's traditional Serbian Folk Dance group, Dukati, where he learned, performed and eventually choreographed professional and traditional choreography for 20 years. He trained and performed with the dance programs at Middlesex County College, Montclair State University and Raritan Valley Community College. Palivoda has performed with the Nikki Manx Dance Project, T.MAJ Dance, HealthQuest Fitness, for Freespace Dance, at several Dance New Jersey events and at the Koresh Showcase Series. He also Produces and Directs two annual dance concerts "Just Dance!" with Main Street Theatre Company Community Theatre and "Culture Crawl Dance Series: UNBOUND" at the UCPAC'S Hamilton Stage with the Rahway Arts + Business Partnership. When Palivoda is not choreographing, rehearsing, or teaching dance and fitness classes, he can most likely be found developing a new project.
A current sophomore at Rider University, Jamie Peña is a double major in Dance and Arts & Entertainment Industries Management. Since age six, she has been dancing and is trained in numerous genres of dance including ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, and modern. Peña recently choreographed Mill Pond Elementary School’s production of Mary Poppins in Forked River, NJ. Outside of choreography, she provides private dance technique lessons for junior competition team dancers and live performers. At Rider, Peña is an alto in Noted A Cappella and a member of the Rider Dance Ensemble. She is passionate about teaching dance and is preparing to own her own dance studio.
Aniky Salima is a dancer, actress, and choreographer based in New Jersey. Salima is currently a student attending Rider University, double majoring in Dance Performance and Acting for Film & Television. She has danced for more than 8 years with training in modern, ballet, jazz, street jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, and West African. During her time at Rider, Salima has performed in Rider University’s annual dance production: Rider Dances, and Dance Day. Along with performing, she has also done backstage work as an Assistant Stage Manager, Spotlight Operator, and Prop Supervisor. Salima has previously worked with Merli V. Guerra in 2021 for Rider Dances: Negotiating Balance. She also works as a choreographer, creating pieces for dance studios in northern New Jersey.
Marissa Stellato is currently pursuing her degree in Dance Performance, with a minor in English, at Rider University. She has previously danced in Guerra's piece Kaleidoscope with Rider Dances: Negotiating Balance in 2021. At Rider, she is a member of the Dance Team, serving as Communications Director this year, and Rider Dance Ensemble, serving most recently as a workshop instructor and choreographer. Prior to attending Rider, Stellato studied original Fosse choreography with Mary Ann Lamb, Bill Hastings, and Justin Boccitto. She also performed the Kitri Variation as instructed by Christiane Wersinger. Solo performances include Arabian/Coffee from The Nutcracker, and as “Boredom” in Untitled by Laney Englehard for Rider Dances: Here We R in 2022. Stellato is influenced by the choreography of Twyla Tharp and Isadora Duncan, and enjoys the challenge of taking contemporary ballet into other forms of dance, especially hip hop, and pushing to expand her interpretive abilities.
VICTORIA PAIGE WILLIAMS
Victoria Paige Williams is a creative innovator and experimental artist from South Jersey. She completed her studies as of May 2022, with a Bachelor of Arts in Acting and Minor in Dance from Rider University. She has previously worked as a Hip-hop instructor for 6-7 year olds at Dance Forum South in Galloway, NJ. During her time at Rider, she choreographed and performed for Rider Dance Ensemble and participated in student-run productions as well as making her mainstage debut as Persephone/Semele in the play Polaroid Stories. She debuted her first self-produced dance film in April of 2021 and continues to choreograph and create daily. Williams is preparing for her position as Company Manager Apprentice at Bristol Riverside Theatre Company. She is thrilled to experiment with Luminarium again, as her previous credits with Luminarium include Global Water Dances 2019, a featured soloist in 8.7 Million Minus 1, and annual productions of Rider Dances where she has made a variety of appearances. Visit victoriapaigewilliams.com.
A long-time social dancer, Ryan Carollo became fascinated by photographs of dancers in motion. In 2010, he began to experiment with making his own images and became proficient in capturing the spirit of motion. He began collaborating with Luminarium on its Mythos:Pathos production in 2012, and has since photographed all of the company's major productions, including joining Luminarium overnight for its annual 24-Hour ChoreoFest.
Russell Holman is the host of Luminarium’s Backlight Boston interview series and acts as a frequent set creation/electrical consultant for the company, having worked on all major productions since 2011. During the day, Russell is a certified arborist and sales representative, and has more than 17 years of field experience in the green industry with more than 10 years as a practicing arborist. Russell enjoys running all over the Greater Boston area and adventures with his wife, Kim, and Luminarium mascot, Twyla.
Stephanie Jossey, Marketing Consultant, has served on the Luminarium Dance Company Board since it's inception in 2010. She is an avid support of dance and theater, having directed, stage managed, and produced local Boston theater. She currently lives in Los Angeles where she works in TV marketing and advertising.
Christos Zevos, Composer, is a Boston-based music theorist, composer, and educator. He is currently completing his Doctorate in Music Theory at the New England Conservatory, focusing on the analysis and construction of both EDM and video game music. He plays bass in the band Ben Rudnick and Friends, the early Chicago tribute band Introduction - The Chicago Experience, and performs as a freelance bassist. He currently works as a teaching fellow at NEC, teaching undergraduate students. Zevos regularly assists with Luminarium's sound needs, and is the composer for the company's production HIVELAND.