There is a new building going up on 14th Street in Columbia Heights, and instead of studio apartments there will be dance studios -- four of them. The structure will be the home of the Washington Reflections Dance Company, the professional troupe of the Dance Institute of Washington. While the institute has been providing dance training to underserved communities for 18 years, the company is brand-new -- established a little over 21/2 years ago.
Based on the company's performance Saturday night at the Lincoln Theatre, things look hopeful. The ballet-based troupe presented six works by various choreographers including the premieres of "Crossed" by Whitney Hunter and "Dance Forever," a work commissioned by the Washington Performing Arts Society.
Hunter, who studied with the Martha Graham Dance Company, presented his own take on the story of Medea, the Greek tale of jealousy and revenge that also inspired Graham. Medea, performed by the able Amber Mayberry, wears a black costume with one arm covered and the other bare, hinting at her unbalanced state of mind after discovering that her lover Jason (Derrick Spear) has found another. Mayberry is convincing -- she melts in Jason's arms one moment, and the next moves with exactness and control, darting around Jason to wrap a cloth around the neck of the innocent Other (Kutia Jawara).
Artistic Directors Fabian Barnes and Dean Anderson collaborated with Spear to choreograph "Dance Forever." The piece has an element of call and response taken from club dance and voguing; two women and two men have a friendly dance competition, trying to one-up each other, while the disco ball spins and a strobe flashes around them. The company is at its most interesting when the dancers can blend their accomplished technical ballet training with other forms, including hip-hop and African dance. The fusion looked smoothest at the end of the work, as well as in "Suite Franklin," another piece by Spear.
"Rosa," choreographed by Billy Wilson, is a timely tribute to Rosa Parks. Pascha Barnwell as Parks danced a solo after being rebuffed when trying to sit in a chair next to a white woman. The choreography showcased Barnwell's incredible flexibility, but seemed like it was all about whipping legs around. In the end she returned to the chair, triumphant.
While the evening was plagued by awkward musical transitions and distracting lighting changes, the performance level of the dancers was high. It will be fun to watch this company add its voice to D.C.'s growing dance scene.