After the perpetual mechanism of Lubovitch and the stern calculations of Jones & Zane, the Dance America series at Kennedy Center ungirded its loins Thursday night with the adorable inefficiency of James Cunningham. He's half satyr, half leprechaun. He transforms speeches into dances, beasts into spirits, professors into lovers and gives not a hoot about gender. The three fables on his Terrace Theater program are easy to look at and seductive to hear, unless one is searching for philosophy and form. That's the wrong approach. Yet, if one lets one's senses be tickled, one may find a moral.

Cunningham, aptly, makes his first appearance as Mother Goose, gliding onto the stage in "Rainbow Bridge" to tell a very personnel tale of the big, bad World War in the 1940s. A wink of an eye later, the six members of his Acme Co. are in tunics, doing Greek dances. These aren't seriously in the style of Isadora Duncan. If they were, would they be as deliciously light? The character of Duncan appears in "First Family," as do people from "Swan Lake." The piece, though, isn't really about them or the art of dance. More likely, it's about wanting to be beautiful. Yet, in the brief ring dance, Cunningham, with a wrist flick or hip roll, shows more about turning and circling than most of our modern dance dervishes do in an hour.

"Attic Window," the gem of the program, glows with the discovery that everyone can fall in love. Cunningham's are extraordinary lovers -- a sadomasochistic soldier and an effete academician. Their tutors, from the balletic attic, are the Rose and the Faun. Where even Baryshnikov has failed with "Specter of the Rose," as Nureyev has with "Faun," Cunningham and Terry Creach succeed. By not performing the steps painstakingly but settling instead for mere fantasy, the two dancers let fresh air into the attic.