Let me begin with an admission. I know absolutely nothing about dance. In the seventh grade I did enroll in a hip-hop class at the local racquetball club. (Yes, I am from New Jersey.) However, the percentage of infants in the class was much higher than I anticipated at registration time. That being said, I am absolutely fascinated by truly talented dancers.
With this in mind, I set off late Saturday night to attend the final performance of the Luminarium Dance Company held in the BU dance theater on Buick Street. While the audience was largely made up of older Bostonians, the atmosphere was undeniably modern. Entitled Secrets and Motion, the performance made use of avant garde installation art and strategic use of light to portray all of the intricacies associated with gossip, whispers, rumors, and secrets.
As the lights dimmed for the show, I suddenly realized that note-taking would be nearly impossible for the duration of the program. Despite this handicap, I scribbled my thoughts on a scrap of paper hoping to record something useful and fearful that I would miss some crucial aspect of the performance. When the house lights rose at the night’s end, my weird, overlapping observations surprised and confused me, but also perfectly captured the performance as a whole. What follows here are my surrealist impressions of a thoroughly baffling evening.
First the veil. Oh yes, there is something called The Veil in this story. The Veil, created by installation artist Hannah Verlin, was a single sheet of clear latex hung from the ceiling in a back corner of the stage. If that wasn’t conceptual enough, written in white on the Veil were entries from Martha Ballard’s 1785 diary. For those readers who are not familiar with Ms. Ballard, she was a midwife and healer in Maine. The Veil served little to no purpose during the show and initially made me feel like I was dropped into some weird parody, I kept waiting for someone to scream “LIVE FROM BOSTON IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT!” but I was met with respectful, cultured, silence.
The rest of the program was equally bizarre, including strange, metallic, haunting musical arrangements (featuring Thom Yorke of all people) and one dance set to a slam poem. There were moments when, in the absence of the ghostly music, all you could hear was the squeaking of the dancers’ feet and their labored breathing, which was uncomfortable to say the least. And although I spent a good portion of my night trying to contain my laughter at the absurdity of it all, I found myself strangely hoping that it would not end.
The dancers were incredible, moving fluidly and conveying so many emotions that my notoriously stone cold heart nearly exploded inside my chest. At one point, a dancer was drawing on black paper with chalk and the sounds she created were otherworldly. All I wrote on my paper during this segment was “entrancing.” The penultimate performance of the night, set to Mozart’s piano sonata No. 13, was actually hilarious and joyful and had the audience in stitches unironically. One audience member remarked, “The beginning was a bit weak, but overall the performance was a sight to behold.” As confusing and conceptual as the event was, it was nothing short of inspiring.
So after all of this, after the dancing light boxes and complete non-use of the Veil, I sat in my seat, genuinely upset that it was over. I, an ordinary BU freshman with zero dance knowledge, had thoroughly enjoyed the performance and found myself immediately googling the company’s next shows. Leaving the theater, a couple shared their thoughts, noting that the show was “innovative, astounding, and inspired.” If you missed this show, which, judging by the sheer amount of grey-haired audience members probably means you did, I highly recommend checking out the company’s upcoming performances. While I cannot offer an intelligent and perceptive dance critique, I can promise that the Luminarium Dance Company will deliver a thought-provoking event that you will not soon forget.