It’s my guess few grown-ups have ever harbored a wish to see O. Henry’s brief, sentimental Christmas tale “The Gift of the Magi” dramatized. But dancing has a way of making simple things fresh and immediate again, and so it is with Gordon Peirce Schmidt’s version of this tale for Ballet Chicago. His choreography for these touchingly young characters–the husband who sells his watch to buy his wife hair ornaments, the wife who sells her hair to buy him a fob–makes us see the healthy, almost animal self-regard that underlies love, the tenderness that pushes self-regard aside, and the fact that even the youngest love changes at every instant. Essentially Schmidt’s dance is an extended, expanded pas de deux–the cast of 12 includes 10 who appear as shop assistants, customers, and other lovers–and with its lovely, sweeping lifts it’s a vital, thoroughly convincing one. Meredith Benson and William Baierbach, who play the couple, are marvelous dancers (and Benson is a compelling actor), and Kimberly Schmidt’s score has an appropriate fin-de-siecle sadness and sweetness. My seven-year-old daughter, who watched this 35-minute dance without benefit of costumes, set, or props, was enthralled. I think most grown-ups will be too. Also on this holiday program are Schmidt’s In a Nutshell, his version of The Nutcracker to music of Duke Ellington, and the Snow and Sugar Plum Fairy pas de deux from Balanchine’s version. At Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted, Friday at 7:30; Saturday at 2 and 8; Sunday at 2 and 7; Tuesday and Wednesday at 8; Thursday at 2 and 8; next Friday, November 19, at 8; next Saturday, November 20, at 2 and 8; and next Sunday, November 21, at 2; $29.50-$35. Call 335-1650 for tickets.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photoDan Rest.