Luminarium (literally, a body that emits light), which recently ended its season with the final iteration of its work “Mythos:Pathos”, performed at the Oberon complex in Cambridge, is a contemporary dance company founded two years ago by two Mount Holyoke alumnae, Merli V. Guerra and Kimberleigh A. Holman. Their intent was to provide a new entity for performing arts, a space in which they hoped to merge dance with other visual and aural elements such as projection, video, film, lighting design and music. In so doing, they are attempting to shed light on issues and enlighten audiences as a self-described “think tank, museum, and gallery for contemporary dance and for contemporary ideas”. Thus it was supremely ironic that the event was held in Cambridge, concurrent with two external events, one unpredictable, one predictable. The former was a power outage that left significant parts of Cambridge, including the campuses of Harvard and MIT, in complete darkness (but not the Oberon); the latter was a full moon. Luminarium, as its name suggests, hopes to heighten the senses of its audience.
Often contemporary dance is perceived as somewhat abstract exercises that emphasize the beauty of graceful movement and precise athleticism, concentrating on a viewer’s intellectual appreciation while not particularly affecting her or his emotional involvement. In the case of “Mythos:Pathos”, as the name suggests, there are intentional and easily discernible allusions to Greek mythology as having resonance for an audience today with themes that are timeless. This work attempts to do this in the form of nine related pieces. “Now we are here” (a solo performed by Kara Fili), “Of good, evil” (with Virginia Byron, Guerra, Amy Mastrangelo and Katie McGrail), “A voice without a tongue” (featuring Akshaya Tucker and Fili), “Seiren” (represented by Rose Abramoff, Jess Chang, Melenie Diarbekirian, Guerra and Mastrangelo, with the sailor performed by Mark Kranz), “The passing storm (Nephelae)” with Byron, Fili, Jessica Jacob and McGrail), “Andromeda” (danced by Diarbekirian), “Hubris” (with Abramoff), and two segments identified by their suffixes, “-us”, the first being “Icarus” (with Kranz along with Abramoff) and the second being “Prometheus” (featuring Chang as well as Kranz). The choreography for the whole work was split between the co-founders and artistic directors, Guerra (who also created an accompanying film segment) and Holman, with the lighting designed by Brandon Bagwell and Matthew Breton. The music sources are about as eclectic as one could imagine, perhaps chosen precisely to emphasize the universality of the ideas presented throughout.
It isn’t absolutely necessary to follow the segments too specifically as they segue from one to another more or less seamlessly, but the more familiar one is with their mythological origins, the more the work impacts. This reviewer was fortunate enough to have had formal classes in mythology as well as acting, music and dance, even if some of this foundation is a little rusty. Those less familiar with the ancient archetypes could still find significant enjoyment in the company’s fluidity and seemingly effortlessness. That effortlessness is, of course, the fundamental illusion at work here; in order to seem so free, so spontaneous, a great deal of painstaking study, work and rehearsal is essential. It helps as well that the performing space was so flexible and the technical elements so well coordinated. What might not have helped some in the rear of the space were the imperfect sight lines; much of what took place in the work was on the floor, which can hardly be easily visible from that vantage point. At times, there might have been a bit more light on the subjects in order to discern who was in which segment, but perhaps again universality rather than individuality was the intent.
This is a young company which has managed in an incredibly brief lifetime to make its unique mark on the local dance scene and promises to enlarge that audience if it maintains the standards of quality and effort evidenced in this work. Pathos is defined as the power of life experiences to affect us emotionally, something this company is well on its way to attaining.