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I don’t know a whole lot about dance, but I do know that Luminarium’s Sleeprunner is a drop-everything-and-run-for-tickets show. When my coworker Merli Guerra, one half of the Luminarium team, invited me to come to the costume fittings for her dance troupe, I wasn’t sure what I would find. With limited experience in the dance field I was anticipating spandex, tutus, and a complicated storyline. What I found was incredible craftsmanship and a group of truly gifted storytellers.

sleeprunnerreview4The costumes were made by designer Sueann Leung, perhaps one of the most creative fashion minds I’ve yet to encounter. (I mean can we just talk about her Western shirt meets tailored pants combo?) She put together the Sleeprunner costumes with a variety of different colors and textures, staying within a dreamy pastel palette. Many of the costumes also included a hand-dyed design by Sueann herself.

sleeprunnerreview5At the fitting Sueann was attentive to the dancer’s needs in ways I never knew were necessary. She had thought of everything from keeping the garments in place during jumps and spins to adding easily-removable accessories. Most of the costumes are two piece ensembles with shorts made to look like dresses for easy movement and maximum style.

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If the costumes are a fashion fantasy the show is another kind of dream altogether. The one-hour performance is told in six scenes, each with a different storyline. Unlike the tutu reverie I had expected, Sleeprunner is a witty, funny, and at times darkly fascinating portrayal of what goes on while we sleep. The scenes play with a range of emotions, making me feel at once amused, intrigued, and anxious.

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Melenie Diarbekirian performs Luminarium Dance Company’s The Sleeprunner. Photo: Ryan Carollo.

I love a good happy ending, but it was the ominous undertones of the piece that really kept my attention. From a fight over innocence to a desperate search for light, the hour flew by faster than a much-needed afternoon nap.

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Merli V. Guerra and the cast perform Luminarium Dance Company’s The Sleeprunner. Photo: Ryan Carollo.

It was fascinating to see the dancers backstage one minute, painting each other’s nails and joking around, and the next transformed into characters in an elaborate drama, orchestrated by an unseen (and sometimes seen) puppeteer. I never realized how much acting goes into a dance performance. It’s not enough to be strong and graceful, you have to be fully transformed and these dancers were just that.

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l. to r. Nikki Girroir, Gabriella Pacheco, and Melenie Diarbekirian perform Luminarium Dance Company’s The Sleeprunner. Photo: Ryan Carollo.

There are shows in Boston every night, ranging an overwhelming number of genres and themes. But Sleeprunner is something different than your usual dance performance. It’s a journey through our unconscious, through our imaginations, to the dream world that we always experience but rarely remember. This is a dream you won’t forget.

Tickets for the final performances next weekend can be purchased here.

Big thanks to Merli V. Guerra, Kimberleigh A. Holman, and Sueann Leung for having me at the costume fitting and the show!

Photos by Ryan Carollo and myself.

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