James Kelly Choreography Project

James Kelly is a dancer’s choreographer: someone who understands music and the nuances of movement, how much can be expressed in slight shifts of the head, in details like flexed or pointed feet. He’s especially good at fitting two bodies together in new, often beautiful ways, generating a sense of warmth and intimacy between the dancers–which is of course the result of fine dancing, too. Kelly’s 1993 Untitled Duet was the first I saw of the strong connection he could create between dancers; the new From Night Till Morning, set to traditional boleros sung and played by slightly cheesy-sounding musicians, creates that connection over and over again for its three couples. Very romantic, it’s a bit like a miniature Mexican Nine Sinatra Songs, though it’s softer and more genuine in feeling than Twyla Tharp’s often brittle dance (set, of course, to our very own cheesy pop music). The backward runs and quick, quizzical turns of the head in Kelly’s 1996 Strings/4/Glass/Dance look like Tharp too, but the work’s occasional restraint and courtly intimacy give it its own character. These pieces plus Crossing the Line (1993) and the new, piquant Blues and Greens, set to string music, constitute a fine program of mostly abstract choreography–a far cry from the socially aware jazz dance Kelly was emphasizing seven years ago when he began his choreography project, though that was good work too. The final performances of this program are Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 3 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport; $18 (company benefit reception following the show on Saturday is $50-$1,000). Call 312-902-1500 for tickets, 312-409-1222 for benefit information. –Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): performanc photo.