A Creative/Scholarly/Pedagogical Digital Portfolio
Welcome; the following portfolio provides documentation of the choreographic works, screendance films, performance opportunities, and scholarly research I engaged in during my two-year MFA in Dance program at Rutgers University.
like mercury in the palm of my hand
This duet began as an artistic abstraction of the “Janus molecule,” whose rare properties make it both medicinal and lethal. It has since grown to encompass the Panoptic nature of the microscope, observing versus being observed, and the implications of exposure.
Performed December 2019, Cambridge MA
Choreography & Lighting Concept: Merli V. Guerra
Sound: Arrangement by Guerra, including found sound and Benoît Pioulard
Performers: Victoria Kreutzer, Karina McKenna
Guerra worked with Intellectual / Developmental Disability (I/DD) self-advocates across New Jersey from September 2019 to March 2020, conducting oral histories in collaboration with the Rutgers University MFA in Dance program and coLAB Arts.
Based on oral histories drawn from I/DD self-advocates who self-identify as having intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, the resulting dance theatre work, "ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ—STUVWXYZ," calls attention to the struggles and accomplishments these self-advocates face. What daily dignities do we take for granted? What does "self-advocacy" mean to those in the I/DD community? Evoking moments of accomplishment and perseverance, this work highlights the day-to-day overlaps of I/DD and neurotypical communities.
Performed on March 11, 2020, Rutgers University.
Choreography, Text, & Sound: Merli V. Guerra,
in collaboration with the dancers
Dancers: Paolo Arante, Emily Cornish, Nik Palivoda,
Camilla Poniz, Noah Teeling
Inspired by the 1966 Czechoslovak comedy-drama film "Daisies," this piece leaps through the centuries marking innovations is painting, theatre, alphabet, magnetic recording, and autotune. Directed by the Slovak-American choreographer and director Pavel Zuštiak.
Choreographer: Pavel Zuštiak
Dancers: Ekaterina Bronshteyn, Kimberlee Gerstheimer, Merli V. Guerra, Amber Hongsermeier, Jessica Lynch, Elizabeth Malone, Elena Notkina, Ashton Waldron
Composer Michael Zavorskas
Costume/Set Designer: Cleo Mack
Photo: John Evans
Choreographer Jody Sperling worked with MFA students to develop movement explorations, in their backyards and inside their homes, that responded to local ecologies and considered the nature of habitat. The underpinning of these explorations is ecokinetics, a practice Sperling is developing that relates human movement to environmental systems. The final project, "Shimmer," sets the students' explorations in conversation with one another.
Director & Editor: Jody Sperling
Choreographers: Kimberlee Gerstheimer, Merli V. Guerra, Amber Hongsermeier, and Jessica Lynch in collaboration with Jody Sperling
Composer: Michael Zavorskas
Costume Designer: Cleo Mack
Palimpsest of Self
Revealing Past and Present Identities Through Choreographic and Extended Reality Tools
My MFA in Dance thesis examines what I have termed as the ‘palimpsest of self.’ Palimpsest originally refers to writing that has been rubbed out, yet traces remain. My creative and scholarly research investigates the notion that self can be viewed as a layered entity, much like how tree rings or rock striations illustrate a visual history or palimpsest of the whole. The thesis expands on this concept by examining past identities of an historic site, while employing a combination of site-specific choreography, film, and extended reality (XR) virtual tools to create a viewing experience that is both immersive and co-produced between the participant and myself as choreographer. Using the historic colonnade at Princeton Battlefield State Park as a site-specific study, I investigate using choreographic and XR tools to simultaneously reveal both past and present identities of the colonnade’s palimpsest of self. Chronological layers of the site’s palimpsest are expressed through artistically abstracted means while working cross- and interdisciplinarily across the fields of dance, film, technology, philosophy, design, sound, and architecture. Research presentation includes The Time Traveler’s Lens, an ongoing site-specific production with pre-recorded movement currently viewable both at the colonnade and remotely. Through my research, I created a series of five choreographic works, each representative of a different layer of the colonnade’s palimpsest, that exist as immersive XR screendance films using 360-degree videography. These films are accessible via a mobile website that publicly launched in April 2021. Visitors to the colonnade grounds access the website to view these dances as augmented reality (AR) works and are encouraged to select which layer(s) of the palimpsest they wish to view and in which order, allowing past and present identities of the colonnade’s palimpsest of self to commingle in current time. Remote access to these five screendance films is additionally available for a virtual reality (VR) experience.
The Time Traveler's Lens
THE TIME TRAVELER'S LENS is an extended reality (XR) immersive performance illuminating the history of the colonnade at Princeton Battlefield State Park, Princeton NJ. It is also the culminating creative presentation of Guerra's MFA in Dance scholarly thesis research.
Available as augmented reality (AR) on the grounds or as virtual reality (VR) when viewed remotely, the production's five interdisciplinary choreographic films are accessible via a mobile website designed by Guerra that publicly launched on April 19, 2021.
Choreographer & Filmmaker: Merli V. Guerra
Performers: Gabriella Ann Boes, Dane Burch, Sean Connolly, Anna Fredeen, Merli V. Guerra, Jeff Horenstein, Victoria Kreutzer, Lovisa Lane, Elizabeth Malone, Kurt Mendelson, Nikola Palivoda
Composer: Trevor J. Walker
Orator: Jeff Friedman
Lighting Designer: Stephanette Schwartz-Smith
Artistic Advisors: Jeff Friedman, Pam Tanowitz
Both the course as well as Professor Guerra have helped me tremendously in my confidence. This course encouraged creativity as well as set a strong base in order to continue on with dance. Having to share my dancing and speak in front of my classmates, I have found my confidence to have grown both as a dancer and in myself.
–STUDENT, MODERN DANCE 1
Merli introduced a new style of dance to us with excitement and positivity creating a happy environment to learn!
–STUDENT, CLASSICAL ODISSI INDIAN DANCE
Guerra comes to dance education as a life-long interdisciplinary practitioner and educator, dedicated to guiding students at all levels towards self-achievement. To learn more about her work in pedagogy, please download the following: