If you attended the sold-out run of Luminarium Dance Company's The Sleeprunner, which took place at the Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge and ran from Dec. 5-13, ending this past weekend, then you'll know what I'm talking about when I describe the six thematically linked dance pieces as dynamic examples of somnambulant poetry. If you weren't there... well, it's hard to describe, because the essence of the work was more about the free-floating associations and emotions they conjured and less about any sort of narrative construction.
All six pieces took aspects of sleep as their subject. In the first part, "To Sleep!," the cast's six female members -- Rose Abramoff, Melenie Diarbekirian, Nikki Girroir, Merli V. Guerra, Amy Mastrangelo, and Gabriella Pacheco -- rested, wrestled, and played under the covers; the gorgeous lighting effects included a jar full of fireflies and a flashlight smuggled into bed for post-lights-out reading. But a deeper suggestion was that these performers each played the part of a dreamed self -- like dreams, the characters emerged from their veils, and then subsided once again.
Two male dancers were also part of the show, though they didn't appear until a little later. In Part III, "Idle Reverie," Tyler Catanella and Merli V. Guerra traced gorgeous physical performances to the soundtrack of a couple talking late into the night. (Intriguingly, the voices were both female -- those of Guerra and Katie Lindquist.)
Nocturnal conversations, insomnia, the counting of sheep, sleep's gradual conquest of the waking mind, and the dreams that populate our hours of darkness are wound and strung together in these pieces like the choreography itself. Everything comes to a rousing climax as the entire company gathers for a bout of howling at a "Highest Moon," with the other male dancer, Jared Polite, conducting.
The soundtrack is key. Tracks include songs by The Antlers, Ella Fitzgerald, and others, with the music being dramatically slowed at one point and then gradually spun up to normal speed. Whether by manipulation or selection of the songs, each track has a remote, muffled quality -- music as heard through the wrappings of sleep, as well as a few layers of blankets. The overall effect is warming, tender, and nostalgic, a meditation on a time when night and sleep were mysterious and dreams seemed like a giddy fringe of reality.
The Sleeprunner has completed its first run, but there remains a chance the show might tour. If it does, and you have a chance, go and immerse yourself in its deep dark waters.