ISU student work, Fall 2017

A Good Night For Ghosts was created on the Iowa State University Orchesis I Dance Company in the Fall of 2017 and performed in February 2018.

I want to say that it was a pleasure working with these dancers. They put a lot of hard work, creativity and themselves into this piece. The video is lovely, but does not do them justice in the level of performance, skill and professionalism of these performances.


New Excerpts Video

If you ever get super busy and start forgetting where you put things, you know how I feel when I just found this excerpt video I had a made a few years ago.

I made this video to try to cover more accurately the range of work I have been making – from stage work to what I call body installations. This also includes video from a shoot in the wrecked power stations in the Owens River Gorge in California.

Ken James dance excerpts from ken james on Vimeo.

Body Installations are an idea I had while on a residency at the Djerassi Artists Residency Program. I have always been interested in work, as in labor, and the dancer as a laborer. I could go on and on about this, and maybe I will at a future time, but I started doing a series of physical tasks (pulling trees, holding salt bricks out for deer, hanging off of buildings with bird whistles… you get the idea.

Enjoy the video!

Nurture the Dancers

Connecting with donors and giving value for support

I have spent a lifetime creating dance works, performing, educating, raising money, doing tedious office work – basically working to be an artist. Over the years I have seen some interesting ways to connect audience to the performers, embed them into the work, give the audience some tangible connection to the art they are seeing.

I have seen choreographers develop incredible powers empathy to listen to and solicit  with donors, interactive performances, and special performance/talks to give the donors a special treat.

Donor are key to the lifeblood of a dance company, especially as our work does not generate  so called ‘passive income’ from book sales, prints, or music rights (not that most artists can live on these, but it can sometimes help).

So when I find a new and quite lovely way of inviting donors in, I want to share it.

Batsheva is an amazing company in Israel now as well known for “gaga” (a movement and body awareness method) as their work (both of which are wonderful). Their website has the ubiquitous “Support Us” tab, but under that is one thought that intrigues:

Nurture the Dancers.

Yes. Yes. Yes. As a donor, what if you could connect your donation to a specific, like a month of physical therapy for a dancer? First off, do most people know how much work it takes to be a dancer? This brings awareness as well as empathy.

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This idea of tagging a donation as supporting a specific thing is not new, but neither is it used enough. Bring your donors to a human place. Make them part of the nuts and bolts. If someone donates a large sum of money, let them know what that pays for so when they see your next masterpiece, they know – Ah, I paid for this lighting, these costumes, that chair, three dancers to get their physical therapy- now the piece is personal to them.

Value comes in different forms in art: the work creates a context for thought, a physical connection, visual stimulation, emotional connections, and a human touch. Many people who do not create artworks want to be a part of that process, that incredible journey that you, as an artist, find stimulating, frustrating, work and scary. To other people it is amazing.

Bring your donors to a more human, personal space by offering opportunities for them to see the messier, but interesting part of creating dance.