Sara Baras
Ballet Flamenco’s Sara Baras performs Alma at the Kennedy Center March 29 and 30; Credit: Sofia Wittert

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Thursday through Saturday: DC History Conference at MLK Library

For 49 years, the DC History Conference has provided a platform for those looking to explore and better understand the complexities of Washington and its past, present, and future; a key step to furthering the District’s self-rule. In 1973, when D.C. scholars found themselves facing a lack of opportunity to present their academic work, they created their own. Speaking with City Paper, Laura Hagood Executive Director of the DC History Center and Maren Orchard, its program manager, note that the event was not always as open as it now strives to be. Presenting speakers previously only came from the academic sector. But today, the conference features a more diverse lineup of presentations from other spaces: community organizers, educators, and local creatives. Hagood says the conference has wandered a bit in past years, but witnessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the messages behind the Black Lives Matter movement forced them to reset. This year, she says, they aimed to make the conference a community-focused event. And by moving the event to the MLK Jr. Library downtown, organizers hope to facilitate this shift. The newly renovated library—including its impressive, historical People’s Archive and its exhibit, Up from the People: Protest and Change in D.C—presented the perfect opportunity for DCHC to collaborate with the library, along with Humanities DC. The event hopes to shed light on D.C.’s over-200-year fight for self-governance, and communicate Washingtonian’s frustrations that they remain disenfranchised. By looking at the history of the struggle, Hagood says, we can begin to understand the current moment and how to grow from here. The three-day event opens on March 23, with the Letitia Woods Brown Lecture from Dr. Tamika Nunley, author of At the Threshold of Liberty: Women, Slavery, and Shifting Identities in Washington, D.C. and associate professor of history at Cornell University. (Walk-ins welcome.) Hagood says the keynote is a powerful work on Black women’s freedom and liberty in D.C., highlighting the activists who helped achieve Home Rule, while spotlighting the lack of progress gained since its enactment. The sessions that follow will feature conversations, encounters, and passion projects from “a community that does great work year round for the city they love.” Next year, to celebrate DCHC’s 50th anniversary, organizers will work to “supersize” the event. But for now, the more than 100 presentations across 25 sessions will suffice. The DC History Conference runs March 23 through 25 at the MLK Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW. Free. (Online registration has closed, but attendees can register in person when they arrive.) —Camila Bailey

Fresh Convos Breathe; Credit: Shedrick Pelt, DC History Center

Friday and Saturday: SheROCKS at Capital Turnaround

After almost a decade of successfully sold-out events, SheROCKS is coming back to celebrate its 10-year anniversary. On Friday and Saturday, the event—which focuses on supporting emerging women artists and entrepreneurs, and helping women thrive in the entertainment and business industries—celebrates its own achievement with a weekend packed with a series of inspiring talks, business workshops, brunches, and mixers. This year, the organization is also honoring Global STEM Ambassador Rhonda Vetere as Woman of the Year along with other women who’ve made significant strides within their own, mostly male-dominated industries, such as photography, film, and fashion. The two-day event is a great occasion to gather new tips and tricks to help further your career. But it doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. A weekend at SheROCKS also promises a lot of fun. Attendees of the event (hosted by Raro Lae, co-host of 93.9 WKYS’ The Breakdown) are guaranteed swag bags, participation in giveaways, gourmet baked treats, food from celebrity Chef Jaye and SOFull Catering, a chance to watch a screening of Ma’s Kitchen by filmmaker Debbie Vu (the 2023 recipient of SheROCKS’ Filmmaker of the Year award), and music performances, too. If you are the type of person who loves to mix their business with pleasure, this event is perfect! SheROCKS’ runs March 24 and 25. at Capital Turnaround, 700 M St. SE. $35–$65. —Nahawi Hoop 

Sunday: Extended Play at Mess Hall

Nothing says winter’s over like an afternoon dance party. But that’s not the only reason why I’m excited about the inaugural Extended Play, hosted and promoted by DJs Samantha Francesca and Martín Miguel along with Bass Support. “Samantha and I had a desire to do mindful dance music programming in a new space, and we ultimately decided that we wanted a venue that wasn’t a D.C. club,” Miguel tells City Paper. “The reality is that dance clubs in D.C. are not always an enjoyable experience for people, particularly women, so throwing an event for which we’d have full control of the environment and experience was appealing.” Extended Play, which takes over a loading dock on Sunday afternoon with headliner Kai Alcé—a pioneer of Atlanta’s house music scene—has a simple code of conduct: Be respectful, meaning no song requests (you’re paying to see these DJs do what they do best, so trust them), no nonconsensual touching, and no hate speech or bigotry. Simple, really. But aside from making it a safe space for all, the promoters want the party to help the city’s dance music scene return to its pre-COVID height. If all goes well, Extended Play will be extended into a monthly party with a new guest DJ every time. “We want to pull from the deep pool of Black, Latino, AAPI, and LGBTQ talent here in the U.S. and have a healthy mix of OGs and exciting new names,” says Miguel, who will open along with Francesca before Alcé takes over. Miguel, known for DJing house, disco, and Afro-Latin jazz/funk, has hosted numerous parties over the past nine years and was one of Eighteenth Street Lounge’s resident DJs from 2014 to 2020, among other accolades. Miguel calls Francesca “one of the best house music DJs in D.C.” The party will be covered from the elements but open air for lingering COVID concerns. Expect food truck vendors Kam and 46 to be on-site serving up Hawaiian and Filipino food. Extended Play runs from 2 to 8 p.m. on March 26 at Mess Hall, 703 Edgewood St. NE. $22.85–$45.70. —Sarah Marloff 

Samantha Francesca and Martín Miguel cohost and DJ Sunday’s Extended Play

Wednesday and Thursday: Ballet Flamenco Sara Baras: Alma

Spanish flamenco performing artist Sara Baras is finally returning to the Kennedy Center. Baras, one of the most famous Flamenco dancers in the world, is set to hit the stage this week, with Alma, her newest self-written, -directed, and -choreographed piece. With Alma (Spanish for “soul”), Baras showcases her ability to effortlessly fuse elements of the bolero and flamenco into a coherent dance, mixing well-known melodies and traditional flamenco styles while adding a modern touch. Expect to see some impressive footwork, swinging arms, and lavish costumes, accompanied by sultry lights and live music (supervised by Keko Baldomero). Eight years ago, the popular dancer performed at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater as part of the Iberian Suite Festival. Her emotional and passionate performance of a more traditional flamenco was the highlight of the event and received a complimentary review from the Washington Post. Since then, Baras has won a British Olivier Award, a Gold Medal of Merit in Fine Arts, and holds the record for most performances—more than 200!—at Paris’ Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. When the opportunity to admire an impressive dancer like this arises, it would be silly to let it go by. Sara Baras performs Alma on March 29 and 30 at 8 p.m. at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW. $25–$39. —Nahawi Hoop

Sara Baras performs Alma; Credit: Sofia Wittert

Ongoing: Elizabeth M. Webb and Baseera Khan at Georgetown University Art Galleries

Charlottesville-based artist Elizabeth M. Webb (1989- ) did not learn until she was 18 that her father had Black ancestry. After she did, she interviewed her great aunt Jane, the last surviving descendant of her great-grandmother Paradise, to find out as much as she could about that part of her heritage. Webb proceeded to turn the transcripts of these conversations into porcelain artworks. The wording is hard—indeed, usually impossible—to read, and that’s a shortcoming for viewers who would like to learn more about what Jane had to say. Still, the shape of the abstracted words offers visual intrigue, with repeated, perfectly circular voids that correlate with the interiors of certain letters. And despite being a kiln-fired porcelain artwork, Webb’s art embodies fragility, a useful metaphor given the subject matter. Webb’s works are wafer-thin, with breaks and cracks that crisscross their surfaces, leaving some fragments seeming like they could blow away with a stray sneeze. And the setting is pitch-perfect: The gallery is darkened, with the individual pieces backlit, suggesting the interior of the Dead Sea Scrolls Museum.

Elizabeth M. Webb’s Cameo Ground (Children of Paradise); Credit: Greg Staley

In the neighboring gallery are multimedia works by Brooklyn-based artist Baseera Khan (1980- ), who mines her Indian Iranian, Afghani, and East African heritage for feminist-inspired themes. The most impressive works are her textiles. One is a series of modern-themed prayer rugs with subtle circular knitted patterns on their surfaces. The other is a set of three mounted black cloaks that are designed to be worn (and have been on occasion by the artist) with holes cut for the face; though perhaps most obviously a commentary on the burqa, the circular holes and the elegant embroidery that surrounds them would make them handsome designs for flags. Elizabeth M. Webb’s Cameo Ground (Children of Paradise) runs through May 14 at Spagnuolo Gallery; Baseera Khan: Cloak and Dagger runs through April 5 at de la Cruz Art Gallery, both within Georgetown University Art Galleries, 37th and O Streets, NW. Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. delacruzgallery.georgetown. Free. —Louis Jacobson

From Baseera Khan: Cloak and Dagger; courtesy of Georgetown University

Ongoing: The Interior Life: Recent Acquisitions at NGA East

As James Baldwin wrote in 1961, “Though we do not wholly believe it yet, the interior life is a real life, and the intangible dreams of people have a tangible effect on the world.” A new exhibit, which opened on March 17 at the National Gallery of Art, crafts an elegant visual argument for the power of dreams, and interior worlds, to inspire change. The exhibit, titled The Interior Life: Recent Acquisitions, showcases 25 newly acquired modern and contemporary works, collected over the past three years, a time when our interior worlds—whether you take the phrase to mean our physical houses or our mental palaces—have become safe havens and guiding lighthouses, reprieves from the uncertainty of outside. What once was the private, the mental, the interior, is now our entirety, our exterior, our very existence, as these paintings and sculptures suggest. The collection features selections from artists all over the world and spans genres, including Dindga McCannon, Melvin Edwards, Sonia Gomes, Rashid Johnson, and Freddy Rodríguez. In one collage by María Berrío titled “A Sunburst Restrained,” two figures rest languidly, evoking a lax sunbather, springtime lover, or the oft-discussed odalisques of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres or the other controversial auguste, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Though the bursting lemons and pearlescent tiles framing this domestic scene invite us, in candy-and-nursery-hued colors, to momentarily abandon the exterior world, and all its discontents, to live within; losing ourselves, for one slow exhale, to the soft eggy yellows of the figures’ robes, or the sunrise pinks of the silky fabrics unfolding and unfurling at the touch of an elbow. The Interior Life: Recent Acquisitions runs through Sept. 10 at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building, 4th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. —Emma Francois

María Berrío, “A Sunburst Restrained,” 2019; collage with Japanese paper and watercolor on canvas; 152.4 x 182.9 cm (60 x 72 in.) National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Erika and John Toussaint; 2020.2.1