- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 30, 2006

Fabian Barnes is on a mission to fill a major need in this city — creating an important, home-grown black company in the mold of the Alvin Ailey company or Dance Theatre of Harlem, or maybe a bit of both.

Mr. Barnes, formerly a soloist with DTH, has been working toward that goal for two decades, and over the weekend the company he formed three years ago, Washington Reflections Dance Company, underscored the company’s quest to develop its own unique repertoire.

Two premieres were highlights of the program at Howard University’s Cramton Auditorium: “Sankofa” by Whitney V. Hunter and “Accumulation” by Christal Brown.

Mr. Hunter has a rich dance background: he has performed with such diverse groups as Kankouran West African Dance Company, Reggie Wilson, the Metropolitan Opera and Martha Graham. Miss Graham’s legacy seems to have left a special mark — Mr. Hunter even choreographed a dance on the Medea legend, the subject of one of her most startling works.

His premiere, “Sankofa,” had cross references — a simplicity of form that reflected the dances of Ghana, the compelling rhythms of its score by Philip Glass, and the choreographer’s concept of the arc of life. Mr. Hunter has a feel for interesting movement and the work had a bright energy, matched by the dancers’ performance. As he develops he will undoubtedly find ways to present his work more dramatically.

At times the emotional content was low and the floor patterns too predictable, but then the pace brightened and the stage filled with dancers soaring in Graham-like leaps.

Mr. Hunter’s engaging “South Country” opened the program and made good use of the group running in circles and diagonal crossings to paint a picture of the migration north of blacks following the Civil War.

Christal Brown proved herself a choreographer with the same feisty attitude toward life as the group she dances with, Urban Bush Women. In her “Accumulation,” five women dressed in men’s suits, complete with white shirt and tie, sashayed across the stage looking macho and sassy. As the work continued they shed first their coats, then their pants, then knotted their discarded ties around their waists.

The dance was witty and breezy and its finale, with one woman piling on all the discarded pants and jackets, was a hoot.

The rest of the program included Billy Wilson’s “Rosa (a tribute to Rosa Parks)” and two dances — an excerpt from “Tracing Backward” — and “Suite Franklin” by Derrick Spear, the company’s secret weapon. Not only is Mr. Spear an interesting choreographer; he’s a first-rate dancer — the only male on Friday’s program. He’s good but the company needs to find more men for a better balance.

Although half the dancers are new this year, the company danced at a high level throughout the performance.

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