Hi, I’m Will Rawls, and I'm seeking your support to premiere my new dance work The Planet-Eaters at The Chocolate Factory Theater in New York this November. We need to raise $8,500 to balance our of full budget of $21,000. Help us turn five years of work, research and travel in the Balkans into an incredible multi-disciplinary performance.
In 2008, I went to the Balkans for the first time and, in some ways, never came back. It was also the summer that Obama was running for president. National narratives of triumph and strife mingled with new and old dances and the impossibility of retelling. The Planet-Eaters is a choreographic investigation of folklore to encounter myself as a different kind of dancer who is neither here nor there, neither expert nor amateur, both singular and plural, both ancient and new.
For the last five years, I have been thinking about how folkloric dance can be a tool to instigate the encounter between notions of traditional and contemporary performance. Many historic attempts have been made to reconcile the precarious persistence of traditional arts in relation to the dynamic developments of contemporary culture. Often one form is defined against the other in terms of the “past” or “progress”, or they are fused recklessly together. The Planet-Eaters is an interdisciplinary exploration of this borderline, an attempt to discover what holds these forms apart, how they can be brought into conversation, and how this process can be personalized through my physical experience. In a recent research visit to Kikinda, Serbia, I worked with the Gusle Folk Ensemble, learning traditional ethnic dance and sharing my contemporary dance practice. This exchange also confronted me with the rewards and pitfalls of “the ethnographic endeavor.” As I have continued to practice Serbian dances and develop my own choreography from the steps, I realize that as the dance evolves, so too must my initial position as an outsider, as an interpreter, and a potentially faulty representative, of my own, or another’s cultural material. However, no matter what position I have taken, the stakes of stepping into another person’s physical experience always run high.
Along with musician/composer, Chris Kuklis, I have been exploring the complex rhythmic language of Balkan music and dance and am further expanding these into investigations of speech patterns and costume work. I have often compared the making of this piece to listening to a long-distance radio broadcast in which much of the story gets lost in static requiring a certain amount of guesswork in reconstructing the traditional dances and raising questions about authenticity and context. Chris and I are working with digital media and the thematics of the radio as a way to interface with the acoustic, analog and pagan technologies of folklore. We hover between embracing the cues that the folklore gives us and channeling them through our individual art practices and instruments. Balkan folklore requires a dynamic relationship between dancer and musician. By reducing the traditional group dances to a performance for just two people, we aim to discover the intimacy of this exchange, a kernel at the heart of something larger, and not entirely accessible. If the world of The Planet-Eaters exists somewhere between the U.S.A, Serbia and a radio wave, then Chris and I are citizens of this unstable, triangulated sphere.
We’re asking for your help in raising $8,500 to support the premiere of this piece. This work is very dear to me—having played a central role in the last 5 years of my creative life—and I want to make sure that the premiere is as full and well-constructed as it can possibly be. The $8,500 we’re trying to raise will go towards paying my amazing team of collaborators: fashion designer (and former folk dancer), Sasa Kovacevic’s costumes, lighting by Bessie-Award Winning Designer, Madeline Best, and composer/musician Chris Kuklis. The funds raised by this campaign will also go towards building a floor to cover the concrete foundation of the theater (to save my knees). We have already raised $12,500 this year towards the work’s total budget of $21,000 and are counting on you, our fabulous community of old friends and new supporters, to help us raise remainder!
We have a bunch of prizes to express gratitude for your donations. A group of incredibly talented artists have each donated prizes in the spirit of folkloric arts. So everything is either handmade or inspired by traditional or pagan themes – we have high-end jewelry from designer Anna Sheffield/BING BANG, digital textile prints and a custom-made dress by designer Saša Kovacevic, a beautiful watercolor by Abbie Zuidema personalized treasure boxes by Amy Chin, and more. There's also a track from composer, Chris Kuklis (take a listen to some of his stuff here), and a fantastic recipe for rakija, a traditional drink from the Balkans!
In addition to these handmade prizes, we hope you’ll join us for our Folk You! Salon on October 30th (tickets featured in prizes starting at the $100 level). Hosted by Doug and Jessica Warren, the Salon will be a chance to see a sneak preview from the show, eat and drink traditional food and wine from the Balkans and enjoy a presentation on the modern political and cultural history of the Balkans by Professor Tanya Domi, professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, Harriman Institute and and former Spokesperson of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1996-2000. You can read more on this incredible event here. And of course, we hope that you’ll join us for the premiere of The Planet-Eaters at The Chocolate Factory, November 13th through 16th at 8pm. Get your tickets here!
*** Kickstarter video created by Laura Vitale ***
Risks and challenges
Like any performance project, this piece has many challenges to face in its journey form inception to stage, but we are excited to address them. Once this project receives funding, we will go into tech week at the Chocolate Factory, in Long Island City, NYC. During this week we will need to figure out how to construct a raised stage for the performance (so that I am not dancing on the concrete floor). We’ll also be focusing on marketing the show, reaching out to new audiences, and then performing during the show’s run from November 13th through 16th. We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us, but if you can get us past this first stage, we’re excited to handle the rest!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (26 days)