10 June 2013

Too "ethnic" to be modern dance and too "modern" to be ethnic dance.

2011: We had found the perfect theater for Devotion: the Julia Morgan Theater in Berkeley, CA.
Location: check, Date: check, Performers: check. Light and sound tech: check. Looking good.
Our theme was The Home.

For the past three years I had tried to stay on a tight budget. This included all of the artists and staff offering to work at reduced rates and staying with me or with friends. Sound and light equipment at the previous two theaters had been under par, and that meant rewiring and redoing all sorts of things to get it anywhere near right.

This time I decided to go wild; whatever you want was my motto. I wanted to see how much this show was really going to cost, if we were going to continue with it in the future. A bit of a risky escapade for a Capricorn, but there's another side to me that likes to roll the dice and see if I can double my money. After all was said and done I was $14,000.00 in the hole, a big black hole. The show was amazing, the artists were top notch, the back stage crew hit every nail on the head. The tickets soldout...and we still came in $14,000.00 in debt. And that's with the $5000.00 or so that the tickets brought in. So, my experiment yielded that we needed a budget of $19,000.00 per year to float this boat

So, do you see this equation?
$19,000needed to produce a show in the Bay Area
-$5000 possible in ticket sales
=$14,000 has to come from some other non-revenue source

This makes my brain hurt. As a business person, it makes no sense. Any self-respecting business would flag and tank with this sort of scenario, but it is de rigueur for the Bay Area.  I wracked my brain trying to figure out how to get the money. First, I took a year off from production; after talking with Colleena and Megha we decided that we'd have to take a year to plan the next show. The art of the show we can plan in a few months, but this sort of budget fiasco needed some serious thinking. Plus we all had very full travel schedules, we needed a break. I let the other cast members know that we were looking at 2013, and we secured the date and location for the next Devotion.

Then I dipped my toe into the murky waters of grants...and pulled it out again quickly. Grants for the arts are a mystery to me. We are too "ethnic" to be modern dance and too "modern" to be ethnic dance. We don't exist as far as the granting establishment is concerned. All of the dance support organizations that I spoke to said that the fact that I had established a profit-making business of DVDs and dance supplies was preferable to non-profit status. But that money is my livelihood. I don't have a spare $14,000 to throw down a black hole every year. Weird.

Enter Jennifer Nolan of Tamarind Tribal in Milwaukee. We have been friends and business associates for many years. She has hosted both General Skills/Teacher Training for ATS® and brought the whole FatChanceBellyDance® troupe out for shows, twice. She's smart and sweet and easy to work with. Jennifer mentioned KickStarter as a funding option. At first I thought it sounded shady, but as she encouraged me to look into it I saw that it is indeed and very savvy idea: crowd-funding.

So we set to work on the campaign. Deanna Freeman from Devyani hopped on board and we took off into the world of self-sufficiency. And, if you have been following the Devotion KickStarter from the beginning you know that we proposed $20,000 and received just over $30,000 in 30 days. Wow. That's all of you showing your support with donations from $10 to $2500. I can't begin to describe how grateful I am for that. We had to pay around $6000 in fees, but that still left us with $24,000 to work with. We've already ear-marked all of the $24,000 but hopefully the ticket and merchandise sales will kick us back up to break even. Break even, not show a profit. Amazing, no?

Well, as I have learned to chant, "It is what it is." We are four days from show time, the guest artists begin arriving tomorrow at 2pm. We'll get to the theater tomorrow at 2pm so start hanging the lights and calibrating the sound; full-cast rehearsal starts at 4pm. On Wed we'll all rehearse our separate pieces and convene at the theater for another all cast run through 4-8pm. And then...dress rehearsal at 1pm on the day of the show...and then...SHOW TIME.

Check out this page for all things Devotion, including DVDs from past years and some limited edition merchandise that continues to fuel this year's endeavor. I thank you all again.


Vicky said...

A beautiful journey! Thank you so much for sharing, Carolena! Some day, I hope to join you in SF & experience this lfantastic show for myself. Enjoy the fruits of your labor, & see nothing but the love!

Johanna, Elixirdanza said...

Congrats! Your a brave woman and deserve all that success! :)

Foodycat said...

Saying "break a leg" sounds like a bad idea for a dance show... so I hope Devotion is everything you want it to be and I can't wait to see the videos!