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The People's Troupe



Christina Fitch and Jessica Fulbright were having drinks at the Border Chophouse a little less than a year ago, when Fitch began describing her desire to choreograph dances free from the restrictions that come from creating recital pieces for a professional dance academy.

Fulbright suggested Fitch start her own company, and then suggested herself as manager. In three days, with nary a dancer hired nor a step of choreography planned, Fulbright had booked XF Company of Dance -- "dance entertainment for the masses" — for a show 10 months later at the Firehouse Theatre.

Fitch, a professional dance instructor at Regency Dance Academy, wanted XF to be nontraditional for both its dancers and its audience. And she was thrilled to be able to apply her mantra, "Dance should be fun," to the choreography and concept of XF's first show, "RED."

The dancers who joined the company were not necessarily professionally trained. Fitch was confident she could pull together a dynamite show using her talent for teaching, ideas for choreography and energy from her dancers. She wanted to include people who just wanted to dance.

"The type of people who needed to be involved with the project just sort of gravitated towards the project," Fulbright says. That included Chris Trickett, an Iraq War veteran who felt a need to be a part of something completely different from the Army — and the war.

"I wanted to do something creative," Trickett says — "something on the opposite side of the war. [Dancing] was a challenge for me, but everybody was really supportive and receptive. I learned that it is not how good you are but what you can do with who you are." He says he ended up thinking, "Yeah, I can do this."

"My goal was to engage the audience," Fitch says. "[The show] was not too serious and took the audience everywhere for an hour." It was a far cry from the formal stereotype many people have of dance performances.

Fitch also wanted to reach an audience that traditionally would not spend entertainment dollars on dance. Her emphasis is on playfulness as much as choreography, making the performance more accessible to audiences.

The program consisted of six dances inspired by shades of red, the color that Fitch associates with her love for her husband. The costumes reflected the progression of red from white to pink, to blood red, to burgundy.

The dancers enthusiastically executed steps from ballet, hip-hop, jazz and modern dance styles as well as playful moves (one dance included skipping). Although the dances may have been a bit rough compared with those of other professional companies, they were both lively and emotional, which was Fitch's intention for the show. The audience for the sellout June shows responded enthusiastically to the mix of genres and talents, laughing, shouting and cheering throughout the performances.

"This project is special because it is two young women in Richmond who felt like they had something artistic to share, and they just did it," Fulbright says. "It started with zero budget or any idea how people would react. We hope the success of XF and 'RED' will inspire other local artists to just make it happen and not get bogged down with the details and worry of whether something will be successful."

Fulbright and Fitch carry their childlike exuberance into the preparations for XF's next show, "The Disconnect," in early December at the Firehouse. S

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