Five performing groups and a soloist helped to celebrate the African Heritage Center's eighth anniversary last night. The center, at 2186 Georgia Ave. NW, is more than a studio and theater. For the 20-year-old African Heritage Dancers and Drummers, it represents independence from a nomadic existence -- and a shelter for fostering fledgling enterprises.
Curiously, the home troupe was not on the bill. Carol Watkins-Foster's D.C. Youth Ensemble opened the show with a song-and-dance chorus from the musical, "Battle." The ensemble's 16 high school students had the energy of Broadway down pat, as well as some of the mannerisms.
Brian Walker, a muscular modern dancer, was the one soloist. In "Awakening" he stretched and wound himself up, as if being roused from a sensual dream. The movement was as much for the torso, neck and arms as for the legs. Then came a scene from another musical, but not of the show-biz sort. "Sister Sarah Simmons" is a political piece. Written and directed by Ayubu Bakari Kamau, it is a story of class struggle within a black community in Oklahoma, circa 1880, and there are parallels, we were told, with contemporary D.C.
The program's big hit was a fashion show. Januwa Moja, founder of Infinity Fashions, proved that the stalking, strutting and bits of stripping that models do can be choreography. There's no question that her cast of seven women and two men were beautiful people. But the way she had clothed and coached them made each one seem like a god stepping down from the skies. One wonders, though, how in the world one would clean and press the brilliant patterns, supple pleats and sculpted silhouettes of the clothes she creates.
Balletic jazz dance of the gentle sort, by Jason Taylor's troupe, and the more stringent Ghanaian chanting and percusssion of Yacub Addy's musicians concluded the show. African Heritage's Melvin Deal was the narrator, and he promised more variety for tonight's program.