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iLuminate hopes to lift spirits, spread joy in light-up dance show at Genesee Theatre

Miral Kotb was working as a software engineer around 15 years ago when she decided to marry her two passions: technology and dance.

She created iLuminate, a dance company that combines glow-in-the-dark LED suits with music, dance and comedy. The show has performed with stars like Christina Aguilera, and it won third place in the 2011 season of “America’s Got Talent.”

iLuminate, which Kotb, the founder and creative director, described as “a show about joy,” will perform at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan on Oct. 13 as part of a national tour.

The hour-long show follows a cast of characters on a journey through “different worlds and eras,” said Téah Bell, a jazz dancer performing with iLuminate. The show “combines technology and art and dance and storytelling,” Bell said.

The show features a variety of musical genres that pair with lighting elements and choreography. The show’s track list includes artists like Imagine Dragons, Bruno Mars, Doja Cat and James Brown.

The team of choreographers behind the show includes Josh Smith, who has worked with Chris Brown and Ray Leeper, who has created routines for the hit TV reality shows “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing with the Stars.” Choreographers that have worked with pop stars like Gwen Stefani and Janet Jackson have also contributed to iLuminate’s dance catalog.

A scene from an iLuminate performance in Vegas is inspired by the music and dance of Michael Jackson.

The troupe’s latest tour, which recently kicked off in Midland, Texas, features an entirely new cast, Kotb said. The nine dancers featured have been rehearsing since mid-September, she added.

In the nearly 15 years since Kotb founded iLuminate, she said the show has undergone changes she likened to new generations of technology. At this point, she said, iLuminate and its light-up suits are in their sixth generation. As the technology advances, so does the show and the capabilities of its light suits, Kotb said.

Learning to dance in these illuminated suits can be a challenge, though. Bell said the suits are heavy and took some getting used to.

“That’s been our biggest practice — working with basically weighted suits,” Bell said. “We’re going to become super-jacked after this.”

The light-up suits are the signature element of iLuminate’s performances, which take place in the dark. Kotb said these suits can create captivating illusions and allow dancers to disappear or to illuminate only some parts of their bodies.

The suits, designed by Kotb (who also designs the lighting), also reference iconic artists. In a scene from their Vegas residency, for example, iLuminate danced to the music of Michael Jackson while its performers were illuminated with Jackson’s signature fedora and suit. The light suits have also created the ruffled can-can skirts in a Moulin Rouge-inspired scene.

The music and dance of the Moulin Rouge inspires this scene from iLuminate.

The music and dance of the Moulin Rouge inspires this scene from iLuminate.

Bell is one of two main jazz dancers in the show, which includes a variety of other dance styles. She said when she and her jazz counterpart dance together, the lighting makes them look like they are floating in air.

“We can really create magic,” Bell said.

Kotb said she is glad to be able to share her love of dance with iLuminate’s audience members. Seeing audiences’ joy after the show is one of the most rewarding parts of her job, Kotb said. She added that the show resonates with children and adults alike. She recommends anyone planning to see the show comes ready to tap into their “youthful joy.”

For Kotb, a cancer survivor, that joy is especially meaningful.

“Art is a way to really navigate emotions that are so hard to understand and also a way to … bring joy to people,” Kotb said. “I know what it’s like to need that joy.”

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