Though only four years old, the Dance Institute of Washington's "Spirit of Kwanzaa" holiday pageant has matured into a major annual event. Founder and Artistic Director Fabian Barnes has again produced an evening bursting at the seams with variety and positive energy. Tuesday night's program at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall was sold out.
There were lots of highlights. Step Afrika! contributed several of its precision-drill dance routines. Dance Theatre of Harlem's Kellye Gordon-Saunders and Donald Williams danced a difficult and beautiful pas des deux excerpted from Alonzo King's "Signs and Wonders." Local diva Esther Williams sang her popular "People Get Ready." Dionne Figgins moved like a righteous angel while reprising her role as the spirit of Rosa Parks in the solo "Rosa." The Dance Institute, often accompanied by the KanKouran West African Drummers, charmed the audience with several numbers featuring very young dance students. The Soweto Dance Theatre made its American debut with two striking works that showed catlike athleticism and a fresh, almost reverent appreciation for Western dance sensibilities. Two fine choirs, one local and one from Texas, completed the mix.
All the acts were loosely ordered to celebrate and teach the meanings of Kwanzaa. Film and slide projections of Afrocentric images and artwork accompanied most of the performances. Poetry by significant black writers was read. The traditional candles were lit, and the seven principles of Kwanzaa were explained in depth. Many of the contributing companies maintain this spirit throughout the year through their community outreach programs.