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DC dance school opens new black box theater despite COVID-19 impact on arts community | For The Culture

The black box theater is a unique space specifically designed for more intimate and smaller audiences.

WASHINGTON — Despite the struggles of the pandemic and the impact it has had on local arts organizations, the Dance Institute of Washington (DIW) was able to open a brand-new black box theater.

Students from DIW held the space’s first performance during Black History Month -- using dance to take viewers on a journey through Black history, culture, and experiences.

The recorded emotional presentation served as an example of the types of productions community members might see at the theater.

“It was really, really exciting to be able to be able to come out and share something positive,” Kahina Haynes, who is DIW’s executive director, said.

She described the black box theater as a unique space specifically designed for more intimate and smaller audiences.

These types of theaters lend themselves to creativity and accessibility, and this particular theater can hold an audience of up to 85 people.

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The theater, which sits at 14th and Monroe Streets in NW DC, is named after the dance institute’s late founder – Fabian Barnes.

It will be fully owned and operated by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) with a mission to provide more access to creators of diverse backgrounds.

“Particularly with this being D.C. – with us having some many types of performance groups with all kinds of background with varying sizes and budgets – what a shame that there aren’t enough creative spaces,” Haynes told WUSA9.

The theater is not currently open to the public for performances because of COVID-19 restrictions.

However, Haynes hopes the space can be used in the fall as more people get vaccinated and case numbers go down.

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“I hope it serves as a light,” Haynes said. “I hope it serves as an example that there are entities that truly care about all members of our community.”

She hopes the space can serve as a catalyst to show the District’s rich cultural history is still alive.