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Karen Reedy Dance

'Path of Attraction,' 'Descending' and 'Sleepwalking'

by Carmel Morgan

September 4, 2008 -- The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Millennium Stage, Washington, DC

Since 2001, the Kennedy Center has fostered DC dance through its Local Dance Commissioning Project.  Three awardees per year receive funds to choreograph a new piece, a venue to show the work, plus rehearsal space and technical assistance.  One of this year’s recipients, Karen Reedy, a BFA graduate of George Mason University and a member of the dance faculty there, premiered her new work “Sleepwalking” at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage on September 4, 2008.

“Sleepwalking” featured eight dancers exploring various facets of sleep – from sweet dreams to insomnia to nightmares.  Native Washingtonian Judy Hansen, a three-time winner of the Metro DC Dance Award for Excellence in Costume Design, created the costumes.  The dancers wore lightly layered pajama-like tunics and pants, in soothing shades of turquoise, as well as contrasting rust-colored sashes.  Original compositions and traditional lullabies, one sung in Japanese, accompanied the sleepwalkers.

Audience members sat on both sides of the Kennedy Center’s elongated lobby, facing each other, with several rows also facing the stage.  While according to the program notes “Sleepwalking” aimed to incorporate the audience into a “dreamscape,” the integration of the audience proved unsuccessful.  Some sleepwalkers moved up and down the relatively narrow space between facing rows, while other sleepwalkers danced on the actual stage.  The arrangement was disorienting.  Having to look in so many different directions required the audience to continually adjust in their seats and turn their heads.  In addition, the dancers on the carpeted floor below the stage crept and leapt uncomfortably close to the audience, at some points nearly striking the feet of the viewers.

The slow movement of “Sleepwalking” lulled the audience.  In a nightmare section, the somnambulists looked as if they had emerged from a horror film.  They unfurled their fingers and opened their mouths in voiceless screams to almost comic effect.  The most exciting moments involved groups on the elevated stage.  Dancers rolled back and forth, came up to a sitting position, then went onto their knees in an enjoyable portrayal of restless sleep.  The choreography, overall, suffered from sluggishness.  One wanted to awaken from “Sleepwalking” sooner than its twenty minute duration.

Reedy also presented “Path of Attraction” a duet danced by Delphina Parenti and Prentice Whitlow, and “Descending,” a solo danced by Kathryn Pilkington.  In “Path of Attraction,” Parenti and Whitlow started out at opposite ends of the lengthy middle aisle between the patrons.  Then they magnetically pulled toward one another.  Wearing simple wine-colored tops and bottoms, the pair at times nearly disappeared into the deep red carpeting of the Kennedy Center.  The piece had pleasant lines.  The couple stepped forward and back in the passageway, sometimes joining in the space, even grasping hands and embracing.  In one pretty sequence, with their feet firmly planted close to each other, the dancers’ upper bodies revolved in unison.  The work ended much as it began, with the dancers separated but reaching in opposite directions.

Pilkington, dancing on the stage, aptly performed the solo, “Descending.”  She wore a muted mushroom-colored top covered in ribbons of the same shade, with one ribbon extending over her shoulder, together with coordinated pants.  The music consisted largely of spiritually-driven chants and drums.  Pilkington repeatedly unfolded her arms above her head, her hands painting the air.  She moved almost exclusively on a diagonal, which became rather dizzying – turning, falling to the floor, rolling, and crawling, all back and forth in the same line.  She pursued some unknown thing with a mix of lightness and strength, passion and composure.  “Descending” conveyed an intriguing atmosphere and rhythm, yet the emotion behind it remained a mystery.

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