Presented by The Luminarium Dance Company
Choreographed by Merli V. Guerra and Kimberleigh A. Holman
Review by Gillian Daniels
Spektrel is four stories sewn together, a series of modern dances united by themes of self-realization and independence. More broadly, it’s about millennials that have figured out what they want. Each modern dance piece slides into place beautifully, from the playful re connect to the harrowing Phoenixial Cycle. The Luminarium Dance Company knows what it’s about and directors Merli V. Guerra and Kimberleigh A. Holman put together a show that shines.
re connect is probably the most unambiguous of the narratives presented. In it, dancer Gabby Pacheco communes with her inner-child after a day of balancing waitress jobs and crushing student loans. Said child is Raeden Veino, filmed, projected on the screen behind her, and murmuring excitedly and incoherently. The highlight of the piece is young Veino prompting Pacheco to, “Jump!” and “Spin!” in her excited babble. Pacheco complies with grace and polish, each move joyous but studied. The voice over by Amy Mastrangelo is intriguing but virtually unneeded. Pacheco’s melancholy when the other company gathers to ask about taxes, laundry, and car payments, literally having her roll on the ground from exhaustion, is enough to carry the portrait of the college graduate finding her way. Her weightlessness when she re-discovers the happiness in her art already speaks volumes.
rabbit hole cycles is both more abstract and nerve-wracking. Dancers Melenie Diarbekirian, Nikki Girroir, Katie McGrail, Alison McHorney, and Pacheco smile, move, point, and gasp cartoonishly in unison. They act like automatons learning to be people. It’s viscerally disturbing to watch them in an artificial city-scape, a mime show metropolis where their patterns and group dynamics begin to crack. There’s a great deal of emotional truth about peer pressure and tangled inter-relationships folded inside Holman’s choreography, but there’s also a creeping sense of the uncanny valley. Their identical behaviors feel like traditional ballet transposed onto a busy street corner. Watching it break down feels disconcerting and freeing.
In a section with the slapstick flare of a Marx Brothers’ film, Getting There is Half the Battle has dancers Guerra, Mastrangelo, and Brittany Lombardi vie for three chairs across the stage. In their way are suspiciously modern obstacles, from a bright red moleskine to an iPad. Their fighting displays their personalities and their sharp competition. It’s a light, frothy piece free of drama, balancing the weight of the other sections. It’s just fun.
The crown jewel of Spektrel is its finale, Phoenixial Cycle. It begins with the show’s most striking image: performer Chun-jou Tsai wrapped in forty yards of satin, tall and elegant, held aloft. Before it’s revealed she sits on the shoulders of another, unseen performer, she is a formidable creature, a phoenix before she spreads her wings. It builds from there, climaxing in color and feathers. The music includes samples of Apparat and Ludovico Einaudi, taking flight as Tsai does with Diarbekirian, Girroir, Matt Kyle, and Lombardi. Cycle has the most traditional theatrical narrative, a myth grafted onto the stage. It maintains the big emotions and ancient reverence of its source. It’s a triumph. Pieced together with the rest of Spektrel, it’s a success that rounds out a passionate evening.