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Her bare feet tap the pedals under the massive synthesizer keyboard. Tilting her head back, she thrashes about, causing her shoulder-length, dirty-blond hair to sway. Although closed, her big eyes roll under their lids. As her hands massage the ivories, her voice fills the air. Pianist-vocalist Kelley Dolan is definitely in the zone.
"I always play barefoot," Dolan says later, while telling a story about walking into the audience after a formal gig one night, forgetting that her shoes were still under the piano. "I always wear something I can kick off real easy. It just doesn't feel right to play with shoes on. It has to do with the pedaling; I like to be able to feel the pedal."
She doesn't need to see, however. The Delray Beach resident plays most of her gigs with her eyes closed. "If I'm looking around, I lose the thread of concentration," she explains. "I try to express something with each song, and if I'm not totally into it, it loses feeling."
Seeing the keyboard isn't a priority, because Dolan is a professional pianist. After earning a bachelor's degree in music at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in 1989, she continued her classical training in both piano and clarinet at the St. Louis Conservatory of Music. Today the accomplished two-instrument virtuoso is a member of both the Miami City Ballet Orchestra and the Boca Pops.
On her own Dolan performs at coffeehouses and bookstores. She's played at Warehaus 57, Navigators Cyber C@fe, and most of the Borders bookstores in Broward and Palm Beach counties. She's also performed at LoveFest and the South Florida Music Festival. "I like the big venues if there's an element of listening," she says. "I don't like being background music. I like a concert setting, like in a bookstore-cafe type of thing."
Dolan recorded her debut cassette, Beautiful Inventions, in 1996. The seven songs on the tape offer cerebral lyrics and original classical-piano compositions. These words, from the song "Spider's Web," capture the essence of the project: "Intricate workings projected/In sinewy detail -- /Complications, deceptions/ Exposed."
Dolan will perform at Borders in Boynton Beach Saturday, at Warehaus 57 on May 15, and in Navigators Cyber C@fe on May 16. To get on her mailing list or to find out about the status of her upcoming CD, send an e-mail to email@example.com.