Weber State University dancers have been learning about the business end of art. In addition to dance classes and rehearsals, the students are discovering what it takes to produce a professional dance concert in a major city San Francisco.
When Amanda Sowerby, associate professor of dance, decided on the project, San Francisco was a natural place to turn. She had danced professionally in the Bay Area for 10 years, after receiving her master's degree in modern dance from the University of Utah and her bachelor's degree from the California Institute of the Arts.
"I really wanted to give the kids this opportunity," Sowerby said. "And I felt comfortable taking the students to a city I knew and had strong professional connections in."
To self-produce their concert at the Dance Mission Theater, they'll need to raise $4,000 in the next 30 days. They're relying on Kickstarter.com, the fundraising website that's become increasingly popular for small arts organizations and musicians.
On its website, Kickstarter describes itself as "46 people based in a tenement building in New York City's Lower East Side" who fund creative projects. It works on the same principal as blogs, Twitter and Facebook, by aiming to turn social-media traffic into financial pledges and donations.
Since Kickstarter campaigns are based on an "all or nothing" funding model, all funds are returned to donors if the WSU project doesn't reach its 30-day goal by March 14, Sowerby said.
WSU doesn't offer classes in grant writing, arts budgeting or nonprofit management for dancers, so Sowerby is teaching students about those subjects on their own time.
"I got a BFA and MFA in dance and never learned anything about the business aspect," she said. "I don't want my students to be in the position I was when I got out of school and suddenly realized I needed certain information to survive."
Before their trip to the Bay Area, dancers will perform in the Rocky Mountain Choreography Festival, the American College Dance Festival and the school's spring dance concert on April 4-6.
"I wanted to give our kids an opportunity to perform in a more professional venue," Sowerby said. "I wanted to give them the chance to learn about producing, touring and performing in a professional venue."
So if the 24 dancers, and one theater production student, can raise enough money, they'll have one tech week and three performances in San Francisco a concert that will help them better understand the business of art.
The Kickstarter experience
Donations • To follow the Utah dance students project or to make a donation, visit kickstarter.com and search for "Weber State University."
Performance • To find out more about the Dance Mission Theater performance in San Francisco on May 24-26, visit www.dancemission.com.
Local concert • See the Weber State Dance Company's spring performance at 7:30 p.m. on April 4-6, at the Browning Center's Allred Theatre, 1901 University Circle, WSU campus, Ogden. Tickets, $9-$12, at 801-626-7000 or at weberstatetickets.com.