Bill James is widely known for his vision of dance in unconventional spaces; his multi-disciplinary collaborations with artists and scientists; and his work in community arts. Based in Toronto for much of his 30-year career, James moved to a farm just outside Peterborough, Ontario (pop 75,000) in 2002. From this base he continues pursue all facets of his artistic vision with collaborators in both Toronto and Peterborough, while pursuing a second career raising a variety of farm animals.
A native of North Dakota, James moved to Winnipeg to train with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, then spent 10 years as a dancer in Ottawa and almost 20 years in Toronto, where he acquired a national reputation for his engagement of unusual sites and civic spaces, as both a creator of his own work and an animator of other artists’ work. Bill has collaborated with many composers, visual artists and filmmakers in performance, installation, film and media art projects throughout his career, in North America, Europe and Asia.
His 1986 work, Atlas Moves Watching, put the audience in a storefront watching dancers getting out of limos and dancing on streetcars, while his Seven Mountains was performed on seven large-scale ramps in an abandoned warehouse. From 1995 to 1999 he co-produced the series Art in Open Spaces, which commissioned dance and music creations in and around public sculptures and fountains, and in 2000 and 2003 he co-directed the Shared Habitat Festival of Art and the Environment, a symposium and festival focused on biology and dance.
Bill James’ work was first seen in Peterborough in 1989 with a full-length piece co-commissioned by Peterborough’s Artspace and Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. In 2001 he came to the city to collaborate with Peterborough visual artist Shelagh Young on the creation of Panopticon, presented by Peterborough New Dance at the Market Hall and subsequently at the Winchester Street Theatre in Toronto.
In 2002 he and his partner moved from downtown Toronto to a farm on the Indian River just outside Peterborough. Since then he has continued to make dance, including: two more collaborations with Young; a commission for the Peterborough Dance Collective; a number of community youth art projects; Dancing In The Streets, a community project involving 400+ performers aged 2 to 80; Domestic Science, a solo for himself that he presented at the Older and Reckless series in Toronto; and two new short works for Old Men Dancing, as well as commissioning a full evening of works for Old Men Dancing from 4 choreographers.