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Kendra Kimbrough Dance turns 20 with two premieres

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Kendra Kimbrough Dance Ensemble performers include, from left, Shawn Hawkins, Cria Merchant and Alexander Zander Brown. (Courtesy Alan Kimara Dixon)

As she has for two decades, Kendra Kimbrough Barnes isn’t shying away from taking on pertinent and timely social issues in her dance.

Her troupe, Kendra Kimbrough Dance Ensemble, is marking its 20th anniversary season this weekend in Oakland with two premieres: a personal piece by Barnes called “Angst: 3AM,” and “Reflections,” a reunion of former and current company dancers paying tribute to founding member Roquisha Townsend.

In part inspired by her teen son, Barnes says, “‘Angst: 3 AM’ intimately looks at anxiety in and among African American boys, during their self-identity formation, and how it affects the relationships within their families and the community.”

She says her son has struggled with his standing, confidence and power in a world that appears to be afraid of him. She adds, “This is a critical time in society and African-American culture to talk about the challenges of black boys and how their internal and external experiences with anxiety play out in relationships with families, schools and the larger communities.”

The dance, which incorporates interviews and research, is the result of extensive collaboration with script director Delina Patrice Brooks and original sound by Alexander Zander Brown and Gina Breedlove.

“Reflections” reunites KKDE members performing in a compilation of past repertory as an homage to Townsend, who lost her battle to kidney cancer in October 2015.

Known for its performers of varied ages, body types and ethnicities, the group proudly fuses modern dance with movement from African, Brazilian and North Indian cultures.

The 20th Anniversary program is onstage at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22 and 4:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at Odell Johnson Theater, Laney College, 900 Fallon St., Oakland. Tickets, $20-$40, may be purchased at kkde20.brownpapertickets.com.

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