Saturday, September 1, 2012

SHADOW OF A SHADE By Beverly Creasey

There’s nothing new under the sun, they say. They’re wrong. Luminarium Dance Company’s MYTHOS:PATHOS (at Arsenal Arts through Sept. 2nd and elsewhere thereafter) includes an exquisite vignette called Andromeda, beautifully danced by Melenie Diarbekirian.

On her lithe shoulders rests an armature of lights approximating the stars in the most distant galaxy we can see with the naked eye. (The metal candelabra reminded me of a medical “halo” fastened to the skull in patients who have broken their necks.) If anything, this halo seems weightless as Diarbekirian undulates through the sky. The theatrical effect of the slowly changing starlight is simply stunning. Merli Guerra’s choreography is, well, luminous.

Luminarium’s directors, Merli V. Guerra and Kimberleigh A. Holman, are fascinated with the effect of light and shadow in the performance of dance. Theater and film have long thrived on shadow and light. From Indonesian shadow plays to European dumb shows to rough shadowing in film, narration itself is delivered via shadow. Guerra and Holman don’t necessarily use shadow in MYTHOS: PATHOS as narrative. They’re more interested in the intangible power of shadow to limit what we see and focus solely on what is illuminated.

It’s risky to depend on your audience to have read and absorbed the playbill info ahead of time. The work ought to speak for itself without a show-flow in the program. For the most part MYTHOS: PATHOS does. It’s problematic in the “good and evil” vignette although the silhouettes and classical poses do conjure up a Grecian urn. (It also conjured up the dance parody from THE MUSIC MAN for me). Ditto the storm sequence, which took me right to the shadow choreography in 42nd STREET, especially when the shadow enlarges on the scrim. (Any piece of art these days, particularly because of the internet, is subject to the collective cultural consciousness. Things rarely stand alone any more. It’s getting harder and harder to be original.)

When MYTHOS: PATHOS impacts with originality, it’s thrilling. Holman’s PROMETHIUS, too, resonates with compelling ideas. When Mark Kranz and Jess Chang playfully exchange “fire,” in a white ball of light, it’s delightful and mythic at the same time. It’s child’s play and demi-god play in a single breath. The two dancers convey all that with their bodies. Tigran Hamasyan’s music evokes Bacharach at one point, giving Holman leave to indulge in some ‘60s moves as the two dancers play: I never thought before about the joy Promethius must have felt giving fire to humans. (The story usually rushes to his liver but not here.) What a pleasure.

The LUMINARIUM company doesn’t stop with unifying dance, music, sound, light, shadow and performance art. Guerra’s myth-related visual art installation covers the display steps in front of you as you enter Arsenal Arts building. Guerra is creative services associate for New Repertory Theatre which launches its “text and context” series on September 24th at 7 P.M. The lecture with LUMINARIUM is free and open to the public. In addition MYTHOS:PATHOS will be performed at Oberon on Nov.29th.