Dance Magazine, October 2009, says of Kelly Ann: “Her petite figure is at once zaftig and muscular. The earthy blend of power and sensitivity in her movement makes her utterly captivating—you can’t take your eyes off of her”. A lovely description and very accurate. When I mention her strength as a dancer, she says she was always athletic, playing basketball and soccer as a kid, then hints at another kind of potency by adding, “It’s all very real to me. It comes from a very interior place.”
Starting dance lessons at 5 in Portland, Oregon, Kelly Ann soon became “a studio kid,” taking part in dance competitions. She attended Jefferson High, the Portland school for the performing arts and became part of the Jefferson Dancers. For four consecutive summers she danced with Northwest Dance Project, also in Portland, where she worked with several noted choreographers, including Donald Byrd, Director of Seattle’s Spectrum Dance Theater. NWPD’s Director, Sarah Slipper, a principal dancer at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (where she danced with Olivier before he came to PNB), later turned to more contemporary work and in 2004 started NWPD, “as both a creative workshop for guest choreographers and an intensive training tool for promising young performers.” Alumni have gone on “to work with well-established dance companies around the world. “Alumni have gone on “to work with well-established dance companies around the world”. Among these is Kelly Ann.
2006 was a crowded summer for her. Accepted at SUNY Purchase, she meant to start classes there in the fall, but had a chance to audition for Donald Byrd. Offered a place in the company, she put off college and is still at Spectrum, teaching as well as dancing. She is now also enrolled in the BFA program at Cornish College of the Arts in the Professional Dance Division. Working with Donald “is a challenge in ways you’d never expect,” she says. “His pieces are intelligent and emotionally and physically intense.” She continues, “He pushes you until you are in the vulnerable place where you grow.”
The piece has had an interesting evolution. When Vincent Lopez, also a Spectrum dancer, was put into the second role, Kelly Ann says (perhaps a little wistfully?), “It became somewhat of different story for me. Some may see it as an exploration of gender roles.”