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Luminarium Closes Season with Illuminating 'Secrets & Motion' (4 Stars)

Mike Hoban


November 5, 2013


'Secrets and Motion', Choreographed by Kimberleigh A. Holman and Merli V. Guerra for the Luminarium Dance Company. At Boston University Dance Theater (concluded)

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 offerings.

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