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Exchange in D.C.

Despite last-minute scheduling and spring showers, a capacity crowd turned out May 24 at Dance Place, where Washington Reflections Dance Company's concert featured Ballet Clasico Nacional Dominicano in its local debut. The appearance of the Dominican artists was the result of an exchange program that began February 16 when the United States Embassy sponsored Washington Reflections for a week of classes and concerts in Santo Domingo.

"The Embassy's cultural affairs officer thought that it would be a good idea if we performed during Black History Month to show how African Americans celebrate their heritage." Washington Reflections director Fabian Barnes thus explained his company's first venture overseas. "And I felt," he continued, "it was important to expose Dominicans to members of the African diaspora who were proud of their ancestry."

A former Dance Theatre of Harlem soloist, Barnes is founder of The Dance Institute of Washington, known for its outreach to inner city youth. Its annual Spirit of Kwanzaa has become a holiday tradition at the Kennedy Center (see "Fabian Barnes Puts the Spirit in Kwanzaa," DM, December 2002). Barnes founded Washington Reflections in 2003 to give his students more of the opportunities he feels ballet gave him and to strengthen the African American presence in D.C.'s other dance stages.

The February program had featured Spoken Word, which was Reflections dancer Derrick Spears' homage to the civil rights movement, overlaid with excerpts from Martin Luther King's eloquent texts. Spears restaged the work for Ballet Clasico. "Our audience related to it as if it were their own experience," said company director Monika Despradle Garcia of its recent performance in Santo Domingo.

The quid pro quo for the Washington audience was Dominican choreographer Carlos Veitia's compelling Hispaniola, performed by Ballet Clasico's Isbell Piedra and Elvis Guzman. In 1981, Veitia's mother, Cuban-born Clara Elena Ramirez, founded the Dominican company with Magda Corbett, a European immigrant. Today, both the troupe and its feeder school are funded by the Dominican government. The partnership with Washington Reflections will extend through 2006. "We have a lot in common," said Despradle. "We are both young, multiethnic companies and we want to take our place in the dance world."
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Title Annotation:Washington, D.C.; Washington Reflections Dance Company
Author:Durbin, Paula
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Sep 1, 2005
Words:361
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