The Film

I Can Dance! is a feature documentary film about the power of dance to transform children’s lives in American public schools. It is the story of 4 tough-talking elementary school kids who have never danced before. In this deeply inspiring film, the children who are at first shy, resistant, apprehensive, and even hostile, open up to the discipline, grace, and joyful power of dance. They learn to speak the universal language of rhythm and soul, transcending and expressing their unique life circumstances.

Audiences see that the dance lessons are also life lessons, nurturing self-reliance, teamwork, trust, and a standard of excellence that transforms the way children think about themselves, and shows them that anything is possible. At this critical moment when arts funding is being cut, I Can Dance! shows the importance of the arts in children’s lives.

In its unscripted glory, the film conveys the infectious energy of kids dancing that makes audiences proud to be human; their astonishing authenticity and exuberance will sweep audiences out of their seats and onto their feet. Everyone will leave the theater dancing, and wearing a great big smile.

Partner Organization

Since it was founded in 1976 by New York City Ballet principal dancer Jacques d’Amboise, NDI has impacted the lives of over 2 million children. Not one child has paid a penny for these programs. NDI’s model program exposes school children to the power and discipline of dance, motivating them toward excellence, and transcending barriers of language, culture, and physical challenges. The children’s performances are now legendary: as many as 1,000 dancers onstage at one time; 4,000 each year in New York City alone; and 9 affiliate programs nationwide. Dance legend and NDI Founder Jacques d’Amboise has been recognized with numerous awards, including the National Medal of Arts (1998), the Kennedy Center Honor (1995) and the MacArthur Genius Fellowship (1990).

The Team

Benjamin Ryan Nathan
Producer, Writer, Director

Benjamin Ryan Nathan is an Award-Winning filmmaker based in New York City. He has worked in television, film and advertising/marketing in the New York, Los Angeles, and Santa Fe markets, filling many different roles. Most notably, Ben has Produced, Directed, & Edited many commercials, viral video spots, & branding/marketing projects, and worked with clients including PepsiMax, Ford, AstraZeneca, and Scholastic. He has served as Editor on a series of short films created in conjunction with Ken Burns & Florentine Films, and Assistant Directed “Moment of Luxury,” a PBS lifestyle series.

Previously Ben worked as the head of video production for a leading medical video site. He has Written & Directed award-winning short-form films, and has worked with top on-camera and off-camera talent, including Bill Murray, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Lewis Black, David Sacks (Producer, The Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle), Jason Venokur (Writer, 3rd Rock from the Sun), and Michael Borkow (Executive Producer, Friends). One of Ben’s short films, Sole Soul Sol, screened at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner, and earned the Audience Choice Award at the 2008 Santa Fe Reporter’s 3 Minute Film Festival.

The concept for I Can Dance! developed through Ben’s work with the children of NDI’s New Mexico program, Ben, himself a graduate of National Dance Institute’s in-school program, realized the process that had always pervaded his experience as a dancer with NDI. It was a process of self-discovery, confidence-building, dreaming and achieving, and development of discipline, commitment, and respect. He began to yearn to share this process with the world, and expose the world to the tremendous power of dance to transform children’s life.

Ben developed his passion for film through his background in dance and choreography. Under the tutelage of creative genius Jacques d’Amboise and the teachers at NDI, Ben honed his skills as a tap dancer and choreographer. It was not until he began to shoot his own choreography that he saw the potential of film – not only could the dancers be moved around on the stage, but the stage could move on the dancers.

A native of NYC, Ben studied “Philosophy & Psychology in Filmmaking” at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Ken H. Keller

Ken H. Keller has won numerous awards in the film and television industry for his work as both Producer and Cinematographer. Keller and his longtime producing partner, Caron Rudner, have recently secured financing for their upcoming feature BLACK KID. Keller and Rudner will produce with Jared Goldman (And So It Goes, Skeleton Twins, Kill Your Darlings) and Jordan Horowitz (Miss Stevens, You Are Here, The Kids Are All Right). A second feature OVER THE WALL, starring Freddy Rodriguez, Melissa Leo, Hayden Panettiere and Sebastian Stan will begin filming in the Fall of 2013.

Keller’s past feature projects include, HOME (Co-Executive Producer), starring Gbenga Akinnagbe, Joe Morton, Victor Williams, Isiah Whitlock Jr., JEREMY FINK AND THE MEANING OF LIFE, starring Mira Sorvino, Ryan Simpkins, Michael Urie, and Joe Pantoliano, and THE NAKED BROTHERS BAND starring Nat and Alex Wolff, Julianne Moore, Uma Thurman and Tony Shalhoub.

Keller also produced Nickelodeon’s multi-award nominated live-action television series The Naked Brothers Band, throughout its entire three-season run (2007-2009). This highly successful series (seen in foreign markets across the globe, including Great Britain, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia) premiered in January 2007 as the highest rated live-action series in seven years for the network, bringing in huge numbers to beat out Disney by 125%.

Keller has lensed commercials for agencies such as BBDO, J.Walter Thomson, and produced, written and directed numerous sporting events, various sports programs, music videos and concerts. Keller/Rudner also own the post-production facility ON THE LOT POST with recurring clients such as NBC/Universal’s Royal Pains (USA Network) (seasons 2, 3, 4, 5) and numerous feature films. Keller is a member of the Producers Guild of America and IATSE Local 600 as Cinematographer. Keller/Rudner are the owners of Related Pictures, which often works in association with Footage Films.

Scott Nielsen, Ed. D.
Co-Producer/Creative Consultant
An Entrepreneur, Psychologist and Mentor, Scott Nielsen, Ed.D., brings strong management, writing and creative skills to I Can Dance!. Writing is both his solace and his sword. Under his “Will Write for Food” program, Scott has raised more than $200 million to finance his real estate development ventures in Florida and Massachusetts.

Focusing on “Creative Life Planning” he has mentored the brilliant and the discouraged from pre-school through college. In the scintillating ‘70s Scott was a pioneer with inner city youth, developing one of the first Teen Centers to serve mixed race, gender and income groups. Within 2 years he was able to increase the Center’s budget from $50,000 to $350,000. Later as a Psychologist, Scott worked with the highest risk urban populations as well creating a Family Therapy Training program for professionals.

In sum, Scott has specialized in creative design, business planning, targeted marketing and constant problem solving in a variety of ventures. I Can Dance! is the fourth project on which Nathan and Nielsen have collaborated and there are more in the pipeline. Scott has been fascinated by Tap Dance for 50 years because he is so totally arrhythmic.

Industry Consultants

Amy Sewell
Industry Advisor
Amy Sewell is the creator/writer/producer of Paramount’s 2005 crowd-pleasing documentary, Mad Hot Ballroom. Amy’s latest film, what’s your point, honey? is her directorial debut. Her soon-to-be published book, She’s Out There! The Next Generation of Presidential Candidates, presents a “doc in book form” to a mass audience. Amy is the founder/director of a nonprofit organization (Give It Up for the ARTS!), with the primary goal of helping kids get exposed to the arts. Amy offers her wealth of experience to the I Can Dance! team through regular correspondence and production feedback.

Dennis Murphy
Industry Advisor
Dennis Murphy is Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning feature film and television producer, with over 35 years of experience in the business. He has produced and production managed major feature films and TV series such as The Gates, Powder, ER, and Friday the 13th, Part 2, for Paramount Pictures, Tri-Star Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, and Disney. Dennis has worked with such artists as Hillary Swank, Aaron Spelling, Kevin Spacey, Madeleine Stowe, Donald Sutherland, and Kate Capshaw.

Dennis’ unique and determined methods of problem-solving have been critical in his production work, and have carried over into his creative work as well. Driven by his passion for meaningful storytelling, Dennis has directed several films created by and starring children of the Hopi Indian Tribe.