"That Fabian Barnes has got himself a dance company!" one satisfied ticket buyer proclaimed loudly at intermission.
Indeed. Barnes, a former Dance Theatre of Harlem soloist who founded an inner-city dance training program more than 15 years ago, last fall formed Washington Reflections Dance Company. With a dozen sleek and steely dancers, this fledgling company had no trouble winning approval from the spare but vocal Lincoln Theatre audience Friday night.
The program's seven works showcased Barnes's aggressively physical choreographic preferences.
In Donald Byrd's "Drastic Cuts," to Mio Morales's metallic percussion, seven dancers pushed themselves through drill-team precision formations and far-flung lifts, balances and carries. With street-tough demeanors, the dancers parceled out tantalizingly difficult phrases with aplomb. Thaddeus Davis's five-movement "A Moment of Reality" let the dancers revel in their proclivity to use their legs in slicing diagonals, lopsided balances, deep lunges and slashing flicks.
Barnes has a penchant for audience-pleasing inspirational works. Billy Wilson's "Rosa" (the program should have noted it was in tribute to Rosa Parks) featured Pascha Barnwell tackling the demanding balances and extensions fearlessly. In Alfred Gallman's "A Mother's Prayer," Romnee Hayes's virtuosity matched note for note Mahalia Jackson's vocal pyrotechnics. Broadway veteran Hinton Battle's "Brilliant O'Mercy" saturated four dancers in prayerful reaches and an unfortunate inconsequential final samba.
While Ray Tadio's "pij'in," filled with tropical colors and undulating torsos, closed the program on a bright note, the work with its overstretched dancers -- those high legs, fearless catches, superhuman lifts and a high-strung score -- felt repetitious at the end of an evening overflowing with knee-to-nose kicks and deep dives. "Ne," Tadio's solo danced by Rashan Jackson on Friday, with its insectlike posturing and Steve Reich score, astutely relished a sense of minimalism. Barnes might consider that sometimes less is more.
-- Lisa Traiger