Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Courageous, Outrageous Way of Operating

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Courageous, Outrageous Way of Operating

Article excerpt

Imagine a dance company that has rehearsals only one day a week, creates a new work just once a year and underwrites its production budget entirely via social media and a crowdsourcing campaign. Sound implausible? Not so, says Leah Verier-Dunn, co-artistic director of Moving Ethos Dance Company.

"Actually, I do think it's possible and also sustainable," says Dunn. "It can be hard to convince supporters, but I think it's up to us as artists to tell people what is do-able and what isn't. I wanted to really respect the process and honor making more in-depth work."

Three years ago, the company Verier-Dunn and Courtney Smith Inzalaco founded in 2007 canceled a performance scheduled for the spring of 2013 and went underground for almost two years. The period was devoted to exploring the group's creative process and producing a work driven by their internal values rather a strict timeline. "As We Fall," which debuted in St. Petersburg last April and had a short run of sold-out shows at Sarasota's Urbanite Theatre last July, was subsequently almost entirely funded by a month-long

social media blast and Kickstarter campaign.

So rewarding was the lengthy evolutionary process of creating "As We Fall" that when the Urbanite asked Moving Ethos to return this March, Verier-Dunn's only concern was whether that would allow sufficient gestation for her next piece, "To Have and Uphold," which she began work on last February.

Ultimately, she decided that it was a feasible time frame, and also that the company would again raise its production budget via crowdsourcing.

Last year, a month-long campaign in April kicked off with a fundraising party at the Starlite Room (which brought in something under $2,000), followed by the Kickstarter campaign, which eventually exceeded a $10,000 goal by $5,000. That confirmed for Verier-Dunn that crowdsourcing was a great alternative to vying for the limited grants available to local dance groups and could reach "younger people and those with less money." (The average online donation was under $70.)

"For a long time, we did go after grants, but it was difficult," she says. "We were either too young an organization or our project didn't fit the description of the grant. We could end up shifting what we really wanted to do in order to get money, and you never knew what you'd end up with. We liked the idea that the wider you reach, the less anyone has to give."

However, because Kickstarter only allows pledged funds to be kept if the stated goal is met or exceeded, there were some tense moments.

"That was a little terrifying," Verier-Dunn admits, "but the one thing I liked about it was that it created a sense of the importance of donating now. Luckily, we made it."

This year's kickoff party, at Wild Ginger Lifestyle in Gulf Gate on Friday, is intended to be a boon not only to the company's coffers, but to the other participating businesses, which include Out and About Coffee, Able + Willing Supply Co. …

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