Communitysourcing & the Art of Dance

Posted on 11/06/13

It’s rehearsal.  My collaborator and I are in the studio, surrounded by cover letters, calculators and laptops.  Are we dancing?  No, we have a grant due and are scrambling to collate application piles, six copies of this here, six copies of that there.  This application asks for staples and hole punches; that one will not be viewed if it is stapled.  We jokingly daydream of sugar daddies and trust funds that would allow us to focus solely on our art making.  Like most dance artists, we spend just as much time writing grants, applications, doing arts administration, as we do in rehearsal.  Just as much time attempting to articulate in words what is best expressed through movement, only to discover that we’re 200 words over the grant application’s word count.  So we trim, trim, trim down our proposal to fit in the box, when really we’re trying to show how creative and out-of-the-box-thinking we are as choreographers.

 

I get it.  Funders want to know that they’re investing in a legitimate project, in artists who will follow through.  Often the only evidence they have of that is a stack of paper – budgets, bios, artistic statements, proposals.  But what if the choreography spoke for itself?  I mean, isn’t that what dance is supposed to do?  What if funders could see and feel the art in action – even just the seeds of a piece – and then choose how to invest?  Wouldn’t this be more authentic?  And what would artists do with that “extra” time – the hours they spent grant writing?  I’m willing to bet they’d be in the studio, making the best damn dance piece they could.  A pretty sound investment.

 

Online crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an alternative for artists.  Through video and short paragraphs choreographers create webpages that present their work with language and an aesthetic in line with their vision – rather than laboring over the grant application checklist of multiple budgets and bios.  As they share the link over email and social media, they promote their upcoming project all in one.  One heartwarming thing that has emerged from crowdsourcing and social networking is the infrastructure of reciprocity amongst dance artists.  Sheena contributed to my campaign, so I will certainly donate to hers.  Colin encouraged his facebook friends to check out my link, I will do the same for him.   We seem to be handing that same (virtual) $5, $10 and $20 bills back and forth as we support each other’s work.  And it feels good to be backed by fellow artists, like we’re all in this thing together.  The beauty of this model is that anyone, even if they are not art makers, can help make art happen by giving a little something.

 

I’ve had success with crowdsourcing, although for me it’s been more like communitysourcing.  I am so grateful to all who have contributed to my projects (thank you thank you thank you!!), but all of my donors, like my audience members, have been my family and friends and dance colleagues.  How can I widen my donor and audience base so that more people are interested and invested in my work, so that show nights are not just “Friends & Family Nights?”

 

With CHOREOFUND, Luna Dance Institute proposes an answer to this, and to my query regarding choreography speaking for itself.  With hints of microfinancing and So You Think You Can Dance, CHOREOFUND presents six choreographers to an audience of thirty, each of whom drops two twenty-dollar bills in the kitty.  Dance artists have an eight minute time limit to show their work and explain their project, and after seeing them all, the audience votes on which choreographer should be awarded the pool of $1200.  It’s minimal paperwork and a direct give to the artist, based on her dance.  It combines the fun and immediacy of a dance-off contest with the significance of making relevant art.  Viewers become dance patrons, and get a peek at the very intimate, unpolished seeds of a dance piece.  Choreographers meet potential new supporters and fans – people who want and actually do go to see more of their work.   Luna provides the venue and the viewers, artists just have to show up and do what they do best.

 

While open to anyone and everyone, Luna particularly invites audience members who might not necessarily find themselves at countless dance concerts, or consider themselves philanthropists.  They get to see how a small contribution can have a huge impact, and they are given a voice to be involved in the art scene, perhaps made more accessible.  The goal is to cultivate more dance audience, more dance lovers – to bring all people to dance and dance to all people.  And it is to keep raising the bar for choreography by allowing artists more time to actually make the dance, instead of writing about it.  Come see for yourself on December 5th at Luna Dance Institute!  Contact Patricia to be part of the audience, preedy@lunadanceinstitute.org, or me, Jochelle to be part of the presenting artists, jperena@lunadanceinstitute.org.

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