James Kirby Rogers joined Kansas City Ballet in 2016. Since that time, he’s not only been a remarkable dancer, but has choreographed his own work on the company more than once for the annual New Moves program. This year, James’s work Songs Without Words was filmed at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. The piece premiered on Feb. 25 as Episode 2 of New Moves: the broadcast series which airs a new episode every Thursday at 7 p.m. CDT through April 1, 2021. All episodes will be available to watch until April 9 here.
Q: HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN BALLET?
A: I started ballet at 9. I was doing a mix of activities as a kid but primarily I was studying martial arts and doing musical theatre. My musical theatre teacher was a former dancer and saw that I really enjoyed movement and expressing myself. She recommended a ballet school that had professional training which I am very thankful for. I started to seriously pursue dance at around 14. Being in the studio everyday, focusing on my training and rehearsing pieces for the stage became the favorite part of my day. I fell in love with the world of dance and the rest is history.
Q: WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT DANCING?
A: There is something magical about embodying a character, or an idea. To be the physical manifestation of something other than yourself is liberating in the most beautiful way.
Q: IS THERE SOMEONE WHO INSPIRED YOU?
A: I always like to say that inspiration is all around you, you just have to look for it. Of course there are people who are my heroes, but they don’t carry me through my day to day. The little things I find, the tiny moments that I seek out, those are the true inspirations.
Q: WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE LEADING ROLE?
A: Armand in Val Caniparoli’s was so special. The music and the story and the choreography all flow together so beautifully. It was an honor to perform the role.
Q: HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN CHOREOGRAPHING?
A: I am fascinated by all facets of dance. Choreographing seemed to be another side of the coin. Anything can spark inspiration: the news, my life, a book.
Q: HOW DO YOU CREATE YOUR PIECES?
A: It is different every time. I try to always come back to making the piece for the dancers I have. I feel that it is integral to a creative process to be in dialogue with those you are collaborating with. Choreography is inherently a dialogue so I try to maintain open channels of communication.
Q: WHAT DO YOU FIND CHALLENGING ABOUT BEING A DANCER/CHOREOGRAPHER?
A: It is a very physically demanding profession. You go home and you are exhausted. The challenge is to accept the fatigue and continue on.
Q: HOW DO YOU CONNECT WITH AUDIENCES?
A: I try to listen to what people have to say. Not just cursory, polite hearing, but deep intentional listening. I find that in order to have anything valuable to say I need to listen first.
Header photograph by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.