COLUMBIA — The Missouri Contemporary Ballet has turned to Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative projects, to raise $25,000 to represent America this summer at a festival in South Korea.
As of Friday, the company had raised $13,156 with 16 days left before the funding deadline. The money will enable them to travel to Asia, with all expenses covered after they arrive. Backers have made pledges ranging from $5 to $1,500.
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The ballet company was invited last year to perform in Suncheon, South Korea, as part of the 2013 Suncheon Bay International Garden Exposition. On its Kickstarter web page, the project statement indicates that it is the only U.S. performing arts group invited to the festival.
The six month expo, the first of its kind in South Korea, is intended to support and showcase sustainable energy practices in major industries.
It will be held from April 20 to Oct. 20, and a 12-member group from the company (nine dancers plus three company administrators) will be in South Korea from July 3 to 11. The group's performances are July 6 and 7.
Suncheon is one of Columbia's sister cities, a partnership that began under President Dwight Eisenhower's administration in the 1950s to create a cultural connection between cities across the world. In 2011, a Columbia Parks and Recreation design team was tapped to design an American garden for the exposition.
Chris Stevens, City of Columbia cultural affairs manager, said the ballet company came to his mind immediately when he was approached about sending a Columbia performing arts group to Suncheon.
He said he had several performing arts options to choose from — and he gave all of them consideration — but the ballet company was a fit because it is modern and creative, meets the 20-person travel limit, and travels "light" with little extra cargo beyond the dancers themselves.
The ballet company currently has two successful yearly fundraising events — a competition called "Dance with Missouri Stars" and a cocktail fundraiser. But Joanne Sandorfi, director of operations/ballet mistress, and the ballet company wanted to reach out to a wider audience for the South Korea trip.
After seeing Ragtag Cinema used Kickstarter to acquire new film equipment, and watching other successful Kickstarter projects, Sandorfi and the rest of the ballet company agreed it was an ideal way to raise the $25,000.
The company set up its Kickstarter page on March 1. The last day for the project is April 15.
With Kickstarter projects, 100 percent of the goal amount must be met or the project will not be funded. As a backup plan, Sandorfi said the ballet company is applying for a grant through USArtists International.
"This is a special project for us," Sandorfi said. "It's a chance to reach out to the people in Columbia who support us, but also to people who aren't as involved. We want to ask for a favor to Columbians just this once."