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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Crowdfunding and Sweet Sorrow: Bringing Zombie Ballet to Life!

Design by Jennifer Logan/NEDT
It's nerve-wracking to put your personal stuff - your thoughts, your dreams, your hopes - in front of other people and await their response.

As a writer, I spend many hours in front of my computer and living in my head that when I finally send a book or short story out to others for feedback, I want to crawl into a hole and eat Fritos.

As a teacher, I create dance on a regular basis and see nearly immediately whether something works or not, if a student can't handle the material or the combination is too awkward.

But as a choreographer (and I'm a newbie to the modern/contemporary ballet world), you have to wait until the show, when lighting and music and costumes all come together to support your choreography. You watch the audience for their response: do they laugh when they should or shouldn't? do they think your choreography is interesting or pedestrian? do they understand the story or are they confused by what's happening? All dance is a work in progress, so when the audience gives you feedback, you can makes changes for next time.

So how does crowdfunding fit in? Well...it's somewhere in between. It's not a performance so your audience can only see bits and pieces of what you're doing. In this case, it's costume sketches, a written description of the project, and some cool photos from a previous performance. You tell people what you need, what you hope to do, what you want to provide and then you wait.

It's nerve-wracking. Did I mention that?

A little history:

Me with the Zombies of 2013
"Sweet Sorrow" began quite humbly, when I "zombified" an adagio to use with Prokofiev's "Dance of the Knights" from "Romeo & Juliet." It looked really cool and was fun to do so I gave it to some teen students at a summer ballet intensive. That looked cool too so I made it a bit bigger and then got a great group of students to perform it at ARC in Pasadena for ArtNight Pasadena. We got a huge audience response so we did it again the following year with more people. And then I added on to it. And on again.

I realized there was a much bigger story to this. I came up with the backstory to the piece and then fleshed it out (so to speak) until it was a full-length ballet. Then I wrote a novel.

Courtesy Cortney Armitage
About a year later I approached Nancy Evans Dance Theatre about collaboration. They are a really creative and exciting company, small and young and eager to try just about anything. We seemed to be a good fit for each other. After a few months of working together, we showed a couple of pieces in late January. Encouraged by the response and eager to get more of the story out there, we kept working. Very very hard. We expanded the story and the cast. We re-worked some things that were awkward or confusing last time around. We clarified the story and the characters, the motivation for movement, the connection to the music and the development from one scene to the next.

Courtesy Karina Jones
On May 29-31, we will present the first act. From a few phrases to a full act! I can't believe it! It's scary and amazing but I don't feel alone in doing this. I feel supported and encouraged. I love how the dancers have taken ownership of the characters and made adjustments because they know their roles inside and out. I love how Nancy Evans Doede has helped me direct the performance, how she sees the big picture and has encouraged me to try different things, to trust the dancers, to give them the tools and let them see what they come up with. It's been a tremendous growth opportunity for me - one I am extremely blessed to have. Not everyone gets a chance to spread their wings.

The ultimate goal is a full-length ballet, which we hope to put on next Spring. Whaaaaat? That's crazy! And super exciting.

To support the May performance, NEDT has launched an IndieGoGo campaign. We're trying to raise $10K to fund the production of the show, including costumes, marketing, dancer pay, and so on. If you can donate, fantastic! If you can share the link with others, awesome! If you can attend the show in May, wonderful!  Any contribution of any kind will be immensely helpful.

So please help get the word out and bring Zombie Ballet to life!  Thank you thank you thank you from the bottom of my Undead Heart.

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