Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: DIW’s ‘The Spirit of Kwanzaa’

Howard U plays host to this year's Dance Institute of Washington show, organized around the theme "Celebrating Life and Harmony."

DIW's Spirit of Kwanzaa -- Photo: Rodney R. Rice, Jr
DIW’s Spirit of Kwanzaa — Photo: Rodney R. Rice, Jr

The late Fabian Barnes launched the Dance Institute of Washington in 1987 with a mission of improving the lives of underserved children in D.C. through the arts. More specifically, the institute provides dance and ballet training and support for aspiring Black and minority dancers in ways that ultimately might inspire more to pursue careers and find success in professional ballet and the dance industry.

Forty-five years later, and six years after Barnes’ death, the institute is touted as “the leading minority-led pre-professional dance equity organization in D.C.” It has also been heralded for its work in teaching its students beneficial life-building skills, from nutritional guidance to anger management, above and beyond the core artistic training and academic discipline.

Outside of the classroom, the Dance Institute of Washington has been a leading area purveyor of holiday programming, with its specialty a show celebrating Kwanzaa, the pan-African and African-American winter holiday.

The institute’s signature Spirit of Kwanzaa production has been an annual staple around the city for decades. That includes a high-profile, multi-year run at the Kennedy Center at the turn of the millennium.

A mix of dance, music, and spoken word celebrating the holiday while lifting up the struggles and creativity of the Black experience, the production provides an overview of the seven-day holiday, which starts the day after Christmas and runs to Jan. 1, with each day dedicated to a different one of seven core principles, including striving for Unity, Self-determination, Collective work and responsibility, Cooperative economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith.

Next weekend Howard University plays host to this year’s show, which has been organized around the theme of “Celebrating Life and Harmony.” The production stars a cast of dancers from around the region and features renowned guest choreographers Earl Mosley and Katherine Smith.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to bring the community together while celebrating everything enduring and beautiful about Black culture and creativity,” says Executive Director Kahina Hanyes in a release.

Friday, Dec. 16, and Saturday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m. at the Cramton Auditorium, Howard University, 2455 6th St. NW. Tickets are $20 to $30. Visit or call 202-371-9656.

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