"Dreamcatchers" is the name of the specially commissioned dance just created by choreographer Kei Takei for Improvisations Unlimited, a University of Maryland-based troupe led by Meriam Rosen. In its premiere performances this past weekend, in the wake of a 10-day Takei residency, the 40-minute composition proved to be a mysterious and evocative gem. It has the same air of primoridal myth common to most of Takei's work, plus some colorful specifics of its own.

"Dreamcatchers" shares the mythical aura and also a rough-hewn earthy-movement quality with "Light," Takei's remarkable mulit-part dance cycle. But this newest opus doesn't seem part of any epochal saga -- rather, it's a self-contained fantasia, almost playful in tone.

Indeed, the work's five segments alternate between game and ritual. In the opening sequence, the 11 dancers cup their flitting hands as if guarding trapped butterflies, and then fling them up and open -- it's as if to say, to enjoy a captured dream, you have to set it free to fly. The three central sections might be thought of as dreams, in turn, of an idealized mating ritual, an athletic contest and a mother-daughter relationship, each goes with its own color motif in costuming. In the end, as one dancer whistles a nursery tune, five couples melt into a circular community that winds and unwinds to its exit in a repetitive rhythmic formula. It's pure Takei -- at once childlike and profound.

The ensemble's somewhat overly self-conscious performance had, nevertheless, much of the right spirit. In the program's improvisatory first half, the dancers showed themselves to be both adept and resourceful in the tricky art of impromptu performance.