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iLuminate Lights Up Philadelphia

By Debra Danese for the Dance Journal

Dance enthusiasts looking for something unique found it at the Merriam Theater last night when iLuminate took the stage for its Philadelphia debut. Best known for their run on America’s Got Talent 2011, the group combines storytelling with music and dance. However, it is the use technology that makes this company so distinctive.

The brainchild of Director/Producer, Miral Kotb, iLuminate merges her passion for dance and software engineering. Her patented technology allows performers, choreographers, engineers and artistic directors to create customised shows using wireless lighting programs. The dancers perform on a fully darken stage wearing glow in the dark suits. The dances and light designs are choreographed together to give the audience a heightened visual experience.

iLuminate is being presented as part of the Kimmel Family Discovery Series. Based on Friday night’s audience, the show appealed to patrons of all ages. The story follows the journey of a young artist named Jacob. Jacob has a magical paintbrush that allows him to turn imaginary characters into living creatures. The paintbrush is stolen by Darius, a jealous and villainous towns person who turns the creatures into monsters. Jacob fights against these dangers to save the town and his friends. Admittedly, I struggled to follow the story onstage despite having read the synopsis prior to the performance. However, I was too engrossed in the lighting and illusions to mind much.

Ballet, jazz, contemporary, and hip hop were intermixed by a team of choreographers that included John “Jrock” Nelson, Dario Mejia, Trevow “Cleva Trev” Harrison, Robert Vail, Marcus Allan Cobb, Lisa “L-Boogie” Bauford and Miral Kotb. A short, but fun Michael Jackson medley incorporated his most iconic moves. The blend of dance styles gave a nice pace and variety to the performance. Yet it is the lighting effects that make this show so spectacular. Group numbers became solos and duets simply by turning the dancer’s suits on and off. This made for fast, eye-catching transitions. At other times, only certain body parts such as heads or legs were seen. Limbs were extended and objects seemed to fly across the stage. At one point, Jacob fought off a large serpent that appeared to wind across stage. This all took place to pulsing pop music by artists such as Bruno Mars, Chris Brown, Janet Jackson and Sam Smith. The sound seemed louder than at a typical performance at the Merriam Theater lending to a high-energy, party atmosphere.

As much as I was enjoying the performance, my sight was starting to strain and my eyes were ready for a break by intermission. Act II included an audience participation segment that halted the pace of the show and seemed unnecessary to the storyline. By the end, Jacob defeated evil and the performers were back to an upbeat, lively finish to The Wanted’s, Glad You Came.

The Kimmel Center presents iLuminate February 10-11, 2017 the Merriam Theater

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