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Jim Kahan began folk dancing and teaching in 1960 when he started dancing at Reed College. He ran the student group at Reed from 1961 to 1964, as well as teaching for the Women's Physical Education Department, and had an Israeli performing group. In 1963, Jim married Kathia Emery, a marriage that lasted for only two and a half years.
In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, he started the Chapel Hill International Folk Dance Club, using reel-to-reel tapes of the Reed collection.
During a postdoc in Aix-en-Provence, he taught for the Centre regionale d'education physique et sociale (CREPS), learned French dance, and performed in international, French, and Greek groups.
Back in the United States, he wound up in Los Angeles for 24 years, where he went from running the UCLA international group to performing with Westwind and his own Israeli group. He began specializing in Scandinavian dance in 1982, performing with the Southern California Skandia Folk Dancers, playing music with the Southern California Gamaldans Band, and teaching a weekly Skandia class in Culver City, California. His interests went through Israeli, Balkan, French, English, Scottish, and Scandinavian (especially Telespringar).
He developed teaching techniques and has become a master teacher (teaching how to teach folk dance).
At Reed, Jim formed a fellowship which is supported by the Kahan Performing Arts Fund, started by Jim Kahan out of a desire to give back to the college and to help students pursue their passions in the performing arts.
From 1994 to 2005, he lived in the Netherlands, where he did Dutch, Scottish, and Scandinavian dance.
In May 2005, Jim flew back from Europe, and Kathia met him at the airport (her husband of 30 years had died in November of 2004). Since 2005, he has come full circle to Portland, Oregon, where he dances up to three times a week and does some leading and teaching.
Jim's articles and publications include
- "Zen in the Art of Scandinavian dancing: six koans for teachers." Article: Folk Dance Scene, Vol. 30, No. 5, September 1994, p. 5-8