Hi, I'm Andrew - I started Blues and Lindy in the Panhandle (BLIP) a little over two years ago simply because I wanted a place to dance Lindy Hop and blues in Panama City, and I never could have imagined or hoped what it has become. Not only are people dancing, but we've become a tight-knit group of friends invested in each other's lives. We travel to exchanges together, celebrate birthdays and holidays together, and help each other out when we get in a jam. Most inspiring to me has been watching one of the first dancers to join us go from a wheelchair to dancing on her own feet. That is a gift that I never anticipated, and I want to share it with as many people as I can. We've held our first exchange (the 30A Lindy Throwdown!), which was a lot of fun and is one of few free dance exchanges. We put together our first performance routine, which was a ton of fun, and I can't say enough good things about the people who participated.
We're starting to look forward to growing our scene, and we're finding ourselves growing out of the space that we're currently in. It's a small dance studio in an artist cooperative that we share with three other groups, and both the size and the schedule have become restrictive. We've identified some possibilities for new venues, but they represent a much larger expense, and we need some help to cover what we don't make in admission until we grow to fill it. That's the primary goal of this Kickstarter - to get us into a new space with a wood floor and a wide-open schedule to allow us to teach more classes and host more events. Even better, we'd like to do this in one of the vacant buildings in downtown Panama City, and be part of revitalizing this city.
Beyond that goal, we'd like to develop a curriculum to teach people with disabilities to dance. I will never forget watching this young lady roll into one of my first lessons in a wheelchair, and watching her slowly move from getting pulled around the floor to dancing on her own feet has been a blessing beyond words. I didn't do much other than support her efforts, but we believe that by involving professionals in the dance community and the medical community we can teach others to do what she has figured out herself. The plan is to generate a series of lessons, then release it for free to the entire dance world as videos, written instruction, information on the limitations and abilities of various conditions, and everything else needed to implement such a program in any scene around the world. But we need to pay these professionals for their time in helping us develop this, and we estimate that will require about $50,000 to do well. We need the flexibility of the new space to make this happen, so we have to reach that goal first, but fundraising beyond that first $20k goal will go toward making this idea into a reality.
It would boggle my wildest dreams if we fully fund both our move and the curriculum development, but I've seen incredible things happen in the past two years. So if we do go beyond $70k, every dime will go toward this plan: taking an abandoned 1935 department store and turning it into a community center supported by dancing but offering space to all sorts of great things. We're hoping to pinch our pennies and get there in the long term, but you can help make it happen a lot faster!
To help us keep BLIP's costs low and support our crazy plans, we've also started spinning up two side businesses making dance t-shirts and hosting events, and that's where most of our rewards come from! You'll find our shirt designs below, and the events that we are hosting described as well. Thanks to the generosity of Ben and Sheri Yau of geekswing.com, we are authorized to make the dance XML tag shirts, too, so get them while you can! We're planning to release more designs as the project progresses, so watch for updates, and feel free to contribute ideas if you want to see them made.To be clear, starting these businesses is not a goal of the Kickstarter - we're already doing that - we just wanted to let you know how the rewards are related.
So to summarize: this Kickstarter won't succeed if we don't reach $20k, which is what we need to get a new space. Everything beyond that up to $70k will be used to develop our open curriculum to teach people with disabilities to dance. Anything beyond that will go to support our long-term plans, and if we get there I will not only give you guys details, but I will post an instructional video for whatever ridiculous celebratory dance occurs as a result.
With this Kickstarter ending on February 15, we couldn't resist the opportunity to end this effort with a semi-formal dance where we have a great time, show off our stuff to the community, and formally announce the results come closing time. Men and women in vintage getups, suits, and dresses, heavy hors d'oeuvres, classic and modern music, and a dance floor. We're even trying to secure the old department store for the event, so stay tuned for more details as they arise. Because this event will occur before the Kickstarter is complete, if you attend and we're not successfully funded we'll ask you to pay for your ticket separately to cover the costs of putting it on.
Sponsor's Lindy Weekend
Panama City knows hospitality, and for those that support us at this level we really wanted to offer something special. So this will be your own private exchange vacation - relaxing on the beach, dancing in some fun small venues, home-cooked meals, and the organizers at your beck and call. We'll customize the details based on who is coming and what they want to do.
Risks and challenges
Our biggest risk is the Valentine's Ball - offering one of our rewards before the project is complete is a problem if we're not successfully funded. We're mitigating this risk by asking attendees to come prepared to pay the ticket price another way in case we are not successfully funded, and allowing people to back out if it looks like that will be the case. We're hoping that it should be clear well before the event whether we will meet our $20k goal, and we will keep all our backers updated on the plans for the ball as it develops.
While we've made t-shirts before, we haven't done so at a very significant volume, and depending on how many we need to fulfill we may struggle to meet our April deadline. We're going to address this by making the shirts as the pledges come in so that we have as many as possible ready to ship when the Kickstarter closes. Beyond that, we will keep our backers well informed on how we're doing with fulfillment, and let you know of any delays well in advance of April.
The rest of our rewards are things that we've done before - hosting an exchange (30A Lindy Throwdown), putting together fun carpools, and teaching dance. We have complete confidence in our ability to execute these both in the amount of time and the budget we've estimated.
We have intentionally decided not to pursue any federal grants. Given the current debt situation, we believe that asking the government for a handout would make us part of the problem. Instead, we believe that this project is compelling enough and we are willing to work hard enough to make it stand on its own.
We do plan to pursue private avenues of funding, and we'll be using the Kickstarter as a platform to do so. With this project online, it makes it easier to send out a link with a video for people to go look at and see what we are trying to do.
Unfortunately, it looks like Kickstarter only allows you to select one reward at a time. The way that we are going to get around this is through the surveys at the end of the project. If you would like multiple rewards, or multiple of the same reward (e.g. three shirts), manually modify your pledge to the total value of those rewards and select one of them. If the project is successfully funded, you will get a survey asking you the information that we will need for fulfillment, and we will ensure that one of the questions allows you to confirm what rewards you wanted, and we'll confirm that your total covers them ourselves.
Yes, we will toast every last donor by name. I'll even put it on YouTube to prove it. And all those people who get the $5 reward will even get to choose their own epithet for the toast (e.g. Andrew Bouchard, long of wind and short of creativity). How do you like that?
You know what's great about having our own space? Creative control over the walls! You, illustrious friend, will not only receive a personal thank-you note from one of the leaders of BLIP, but will also have your name enshrined on our Wall of Awesome!
Do you see that gallery of t-shirt designs? Aren't they awesome? Don't they just make you want to get one and dance in it all night long? You, magnanimous donor, for every pledge at this level, will receive one of those shirts delivered right to your door. And if you're local, we'll do it in person!
Why wait for the project to be done to enjoy its rewards? We're going to celebrate the end of the project with a semi-formal Valentine's Ball on February 15 with food, fun, and of course, dancing. You, generous associate, will be on the guest list for this our swankiest vintage shindig yet!
Our group lesson package gives you the benefit of cutting the rug with other dancers while you learn. You, our fine financial friend, will receive a pass to all eight lessons of our Beginner Lindy series, usually $10 each, meaning you get two for free!
Do you live within three hours of Panama City? Do you need a ride to an exchange in the Southeast? You, o greathearted chum, shall be picked up in your city by a member of BLIP's executive board and driven to and from your destination in style. Snacks, pillow and blanket for napping, full control over music, and stimulating conversation are all included. Selection of exchange and driver depends on availability - contact us to make a reservation early!
Our private lesson package is perfect for the person who wants some individual attention to get themselves on the road to dancing. You, my delightful contributor, will receive 4 hour-long private lessons from Andrew and Sera, Panama City's premiere Lindy Hop and Blues instructors. These lessons are usually $30 each, so you are getting one for free!
Personalized Move: Have you ever wanted to really leave your mark on the world of dance? Say no more! You, my honorable comrade, shall have a Lindy Hop or blues dance move created just for you. We will get to know you if we don't already, and work with you to create a step that reflects your unique personality. Then we will make and release an instructional video for the move, ensuring that your name forever lives in the dance.
Sponsor's Lindy Weekend - Wow! You, O benevolent compatriot, shall be our guest for a private Lindy Hop Exchange. Once you arrive in Panama City, you will bear the full force of our gratitude, expressed in food, dancing, and fun activities. All transportation, housing, meals, and even towels will be provided, along with a special commemorative gift.
Want to put together a group for the Valentine's Ball? Get yourselves a table! You, our admired patron, will have a reserved table for ten, sponsorship recognition at the event, and five bottles of sparkling white grape juice with souvenir champagne glasses.
You, our beneficent benefactor, are a special partner to BLIP and our gratitude to you is frankly enormous. Not only will you have a table at the Valentine's Ball, but you will have either a personal or corporate image on our Wall of Awesome and we will plan, organize, and execute a party for up to 100 people at our venue or yours, complete with food, music, decorations, dance lesson, and anything else within our power. You are simply amazing.