“There’s nothing new under the sun, they say. They’re wrong. Merli V. Guerra's choreography is, well, luminous.“
BEVERLY CREASEY BOSTON ARTS REVIEW
Guerra's award-winning choreography has been presented by more than 100 events across the U.S., and abroad in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Macedonia, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey.
She is regularly commissioned to create custom choreographic works for historic sites, cultural festivals, award ceremonies, TED Talks, universities, and mainstage feature productions.
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“...a myth grafted onto the stage. [Guerra's Phoenixial Cycle] maintains the big emotions and ancient reverence of its source. It's a triumph.”
NEW ENGLAND THEATRE GEEK
Over the past 15 years, Guerra has choreographed 46 ‘made for stage’ works, 23 screendance films, 8 performance installations, 6 AR/VR 360-degree choreographic works; and self-published one dance/art storybook.
Enjoy perusing the full choreographic collection by clicking on the thumbnails below.
(2022 - 5 min) Hailed as “a stunning piece, where landscape, heritage, movement, and dance merges in a poetic composition,” this striking screendance film features the 16th-century monastery ruins of Messejana, Portugal. This new film was created while working as an artist in residence with Buinho Organization.
(2022 - 10 min) This artistic screendance film was created as part of coLAB Arts' SHELTER Project in response to the oral history of Christina Dougher.
(2022 - 14 min) A collaboration with composers Madeleine Shapiro and Andreas Bergsland, and set designer Yoshi Tanokura, "Constellation Stories" illuminates Estonian and Asian mythologies surrounding the Milky Way. Created as a Guest Choreographer for Rider University's 2022 "Rider Dances" production.
(2021 - 17 min) A series of eight site-specific screendances created in response to the ecosystems of Tarangire, Ngorongoro, and Serengeti National Parks in Tanzania.
(2021 – 8 min) The colonnade currently serves as an entryway to the burial of 36 unnamed soldiers from the famed Battle of Princeton (January 3, 1777). This duet serves to honor the sacrifices of these unnamed soldiers and to encourage park visitors to visit the soldiers' final resting place on the grounds. Created as part of Guerra’s AR/VR production “The Time Traveler’s Lens,” 2021.
(2021 – 5 min) This film depicts the role of the architect as a deity of sorts, birthing from his mind the plans for the Newkirk house and its colonnade entrance. Created as part of Guerra’s AR/VR production “The Time Traveler’s Lens,” 2021.
(2021 – 9 min) A quartet, "Passage" pays homage to the colonnade’s journey from Philadelphia, PA, to Princeton, NJ, up the Delaware & Raritan Canal on canal boats in 1901. Created as part of Guerra’s AR/VR production “The Time Traveler’s Lens,” 2021.
(2021 – 5 min) This film reminds visitors of the colonnade’s original purpose as an entryway to a private home. Inspiration was taken from a Maxwell family Christmas card dated 1949, yet the characters in this film are not meant to literally depict the Maxwells—they are instead honoring all three families (the Newkirks, Owsleys, and Maxwells) who called this colonnade "home." Created as part of Guerra’s AR/VR production “The Time Traveler’s Lens,” 2021.
(2021 – 5 min) "Remains" depicts the architect as an insignificant mortal who—like the columns—was eventually displaced from wealth and would perhaps feel akin to the columns, alone and forgotten. Created as part of Guerra’s AR/VR production “The Time Traveler’s Lens,” 2021.
(2021 - 6 min) "Dance with Violoncello and Electronics" was written as a collaboration between composer Melika M. Fitzhugh and dancer/choreographer Merli V. Guerra in 2017. The piece was reworked for film in 2021, performed by Guerra and played by internationally-acclaimed cellist Madeleine Shapiro. The film made its international debut at the 2021 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival.
(2021 – 4 min) Using 360-degree videography and editing, "Kaleidoscope" celebrates diversity and individuality, while reuniting dancers across different continents, time zones, and Covid quarantine statuses. Created as a Guest Choreographer for Rider University's 2021 virtual "Rider Dances" production.
(2020 – 15 min) Created in collaboration with Rutgers University, coLAB Arts, and intellectually/developmentally disabled (I/DD) self-advocates across New Jersey, this dance theatre work for five performers / vocalists calls attention to the struggles and accomplishments these self-advocates face. What daily dignities do we each take for granted? What does "self-advocacy" mean to those in the I/DD community? Created for Rutgers University's 2020 "Motion: New Dance Works" MFA production.
(2020 – 13 min) Using shimmering fabric and classical Odissi-inspired movement vocabulary, this commissioned work for nine dancers interweaves storytelling, spatial patterning, and intricate rhythmic precision while evoking a sunset reflecting along the river. Created as a Guest Choreographer for Rider University's 2020 "Rider Dances" production.
(2019 – 7 min) This pensive duet with handheld lights originated as an artistic abstraction of the “Janus molecule,” whose rare properties make it both medicinal and lethal. It later grew to encompass the Panopticonic nature of the microscope, observ-ing versus being observ-ed, and the implications of exposure. Created for Luminarium's 2019 feature production Luminarium in Concert.
(2019 – 14 min) For you, to mentor me follows a mother-daughter relationship shifting over time, featuring a multigenerational cast ages 4 to 60, and newborns 11 to 19 days, as it highlights a growing young woman’s thirst for independence, and a mother’s desire to nurture, guide, and mentor. Awarded “Best Choreography” and “Best Narrative Dance" at the 2020 SounDance Film Festival (Spain & Argentina).
(2019 – 1 hour) This migratory performance installation for five dancers took place along the edges of Lake Mercer in Mercer County Park as part of this international event, bringing awareness to water pollution. Created for Global Water Dances' 2019 worldwide event.
(2019 – 9 min) A sextet integrating classical Odissi Indian dance, modern, and shadow theatre to literally and metaphorically illuminate the effects of human waste and pollution on the planet’s ecosystems. Incorporating found sound and spoken poetry by Guerra, the work aims to remind each of us of our direct impacts on the problem, and the habits we can change in our daily routines to do our part. Created as a Guest Choreographer for Rider University's Dance and Sustainability Project.
(2018 – 60 min) Hailed by the Boston Globe as "a compelling exploration. It is provocative, unpredictable, and gratifyingly visceral," HIVELAND is an evening-length, single narrative work co-choreographed with Kim Holman. Within HIVELAND are three works by Guerra: –For you, to mentor me (duet) –Here (solo) –Worlds apart ('duet' for 7 dancers)
(2018 – 5 min) Performed on the beautiful Clermont Historic Site grounds in upstate New York, this commissioned piece sets into motion the real-life story of Clermont historic figure Nancy Shippen—from her marital abuse and custody battles to her ultimate reunion with her child. The program was sponsored in part by a Humanities New York Action Grant.
(2017 – 7 min) Created in relation to Linda Cunningham's striking bronze sculpture War Memorial III, this towering duet used 1970s CBS Vietnam newscasts as a sound score—at times, standing tall as the heroes of war, and at others, becoming engulfed by the darkness as civilian and military victims of war. Created for the 2017 Outlet Dance Project at Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ.
(2016 – 5 min)
At the start of 2016, Luminarium was commissioned to create a new work to open TEDxCambridge at the renowned Boston Opera House on June 9, 2016. With an audience of 2,600, this production was the single largest TED Talks event, worldwide. The choreographic commission promoted creativity and innovation.
Co-choreographed with Kimberleigh A. Holman.