If you asked why he dances, he’ll respond quite honestly, “ I fell in love with it from the jump. Making up dances in the basement. Making up dances at cookouts with cousins and then slowly getting into my community centers from the street.” He continues, “Everytime the music comes, I innately want to move.”
If the job of dancers is to make movement look easy and effortless, then Kelly is a bonafide pro. But that isn’t why he dances. It’s much deeper than that. “Everyone’s story can touch someone in some type of way. Your story doesn’t have to be heart-wrenching or overly inspiring, it can just be relatable.
The older I get and the more mature I get as an artists, I see you can reach your goals through hard work and resilience, and that that journey can be inspiring and help others. I [dance] to express myself, my background, what I’ve experienced, and how it isn’t how everyone said it was going to be.”
A member of the prolific, world-renowned Complexions Contemporary Ballet founded in 1994 by the Choreographer and Dance greats, Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, Kelly knows what it means to use his artistry to not only move but redefine traditions, especially when it comes to masculinity.
A dance company known for its impeccable ability to transcend, critique, and reimagine the realms of possibility through movement, Kelly uses that specialty to rethink what it means to be a male dancer, starting with masculinity.
As he explains, “There’s not one way to be masculine. There are different ways of being masculine, from how you were brought up to what you are being told of is being masculine and your perception of it.” And in no way does Kelly allow himself to be enslaved or restricted by societal limitations of what is and isn’t considered manly.
“For me, dance is liberation,” Kelly reveals. And as you watch him move, it becomes clear that what you’re witnessing isn’t just a dancer–if there is such a thing–but an artivist. Someone dedicated to using his artistry to invoke change in the hearts, minds, and spirits of all he encounters on the necessary path to change.
And as he confidently quotes Nina Simone, saying, “How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?” he shows us that in that choice to reflect we must also demonstrate what is possible in our bold ability to be the change we need in the world.