It is Never Too Late to Start Dancing: Arthur speaks with dancer Bill James

Public Energy’s artist-in-residence, Bill James, is teaching two classes at the Athletic Complex, which are free for Trent students. His dance  technique classes take place on Monday at 4pm, and will encompass technique from modern dance, ballet, and a variety of other genres that have influenced him. Classes can be attended on a drop-in basis, but for students looking to get the most out of these classes, it is best to take classes continuously, since James will be teaching combos that will later be developed into a 15 minute choreography.

James is also teaching dance conditioning classes on Thursdays at 11am. These classes will teach balance, efficiency, muscle groups, isolations, imagery, breath, and strength. Conditioning will be connected to practices like yoga and pilates, and are good classes for people who are looking to tone their muscles and fine-tune their muscle control. Another little treat will be live conga music during class by percussionist Bill Lang. Both dance technique and conditioning classes will be taught barefoot, and students are advised to wear comfortable clothing, such as yoga pants.

During a dance career that spans  more than 30 years, James has collaborated with an array of artists, worked on projects such as Atlas Moves Watching, Seven Mountains, and Old Men Dancing, and has instructed hundreds of students. In 2006 he was the recipient of the Jacqueline Lemieux Prize, which is awarded by the Canada Council for the Arts.

James is an innovative and creative dancer who sometimes adds a level of quirkiness to his pieces that make them stand out from other types of dance performances. For example, he is well-known for presenting pieces in unusual spaces. His Seven Mountains piece took place on large ramps in an abandoned warehouse and in 2005, he created an event in Peterborough entitled Dancing in the Streets, which featured 400 dancers.

During his artist-in-residence at Public Energy, he will be collaborating with dancers from Toronto on part three of his Chasing Darkness piece. Another bonus for Peterborough residents will be open-rehearsals for this piece at the Market Hall Theatre, in which the audience will get a sneak-peek of the performance.

Since moving to the area in 2002, James has seen the Peterborough dance community change and grow in several ways. There has been an influx of beginner dancers taking an initiative to create dance spaces when they found opportunities for training and performing lacking. This means that there are a variety of dance studios available in Peterborough which offer everything from hip hop to ballet. As well, some people have been real movers and shakers by elevating the art form to professional heights. For instance, the staff at Public Energy showcase contemporary dance, theatre, and performance and also provide dance classes taught by degree-holding instructors. By hosting workshops, collaborations, and shows, such as one in March that will feature local dance soloists and companies, Public Energy helps foster a local dance community in Peterborough. Another way to get involved with Public Energy is to volunteer, which will gain you free access to performances.

For students looking to be involved with dance without having to drop a bunch of money on classes, Trent University offers a variety of dance clubs. These feature dance genres such as swing, Latin dancing, and  Scottish country dancing. Information about the dance clubs can be found on the Athletic Complex website. As well, the Trent Dance Team will be holding auditions for its competitive and recreational teams.

For those looking to combine dance and fitness, the Athletic Complex has zumba classes on its fall fitness schedule. Student-run Sadlier House is another avenue to explore. You can get your groove on with their GROOVE dance classes, which will be multidisciplinary and guaranteed loads of fun. Towards the end of September, Sadlier House will also be offering belly dance classes with Haizna Bellydance. All classes are free and will be a great way to connect with other students.

Dance  is a great way to get in shape, take care of your body, and express yourself in a creative manner. If you are new to dance, don’t be intimidated. James didn’t begin dancing until the age of nineteen, which is testament to his advice that, “it is never too late to start Dancing.”

About Jasmine Cabanaw 32 Articles
When Jasmine was a child, she could almost always been found with a notebook and pen in hand, writing away. As an adult, she has written for a variety of magazines and websites, including the art magazine Juxtapoz. She was the 2010 winner of a blogging contest put on by the publishing house JournalStone. JournalStone also published two of her short fiction stories in their horror anthologies in 2010 and 2011. When she's not writing, Jasmine spends a good chunk of her time completing her history degree and working as a professional dance performer and instructor.