Going Global

Merli Guerra '09

Merli V. Guerra and Joe Gonzalez perform with Deborah Abel Dance Company at the Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai, India, 2012. Photo: R. Prasana Photography.

Merli V. Guerra '09, Artistic Director, Co-Founder

Major: Dance

Concentration: Choreography and Performance

Employer: Luminarium Dance Company

One of the facets I most appreciate about Mount Holyoke’s dance department is the wide variety of classes it offers in techniques and styles I never thought I’d have the opportunity to learn as a shiny new first year.

My second semester at Mount Holyoke, I came across a course description that sparked my interest outside my regular studies in ballet and modern. I remember sitting in the old studio theatre as Professor Ranjanaa Devi selected the top eight names from her waitlist, and—just as I began to lose hope—I heard my name called as the final student admitted into Beginning Classical Indian Dance.

The result was outstanding. I dove headfirst into a dance style rich with cultural heritage and significance, while discovering that this art form—a style I had no prior knowledge of—felt surprisingly innate in my fingertips, face, and limbs.

That single class led to me joining Devi’s professional company Nataraj Dancers; it led to me touring the world, first with Devi’s company, next as a lead performer with Deborah Abel Dance Company (whose work requires a mixture of classical Indian dance and modern technique).

I’ve performed in many of the finest theaters of Japan and India. I’ve seen my body dancing across huge billboards in the streets of New Delhi. I’ve taught master classes at colleges and venues across New England. And most importantly, I’ve created an award-winning dance company of my own in Boston, showcasing choreography that merges all three disciplines (ballet, modern, and Odissi) into a technique uniquely ‘me.’

About Merli V. Guerra: Guerra was a 2015 Gold Star recipient from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.