In the beginning of any career, we often make sacrifices. Sometimes this means late, unpaid nights in the office or putting in extra work at home, but what happens when these sacrifices become the norm? For many dancers in any stage of their career, the extra hours in the studio and unpaid rehearsals and performances come as no surprise. The justifications for putting up with these circumstances range from “I need to prove myself” to “This is the best opportunity I have.” While those things may be true in the beginning, many dancers will continue to tell themselves these lines hundreds of times over without every developing a sense of what their artistry, time, and talent is actually worth.
So how can a dance artist begin to build this sense of self-worth in a sea of thankless work? By seeking out companies like Moonwater Dance Project. While this company is in its infancy (founded early 2018), Founder and Artistic Director Mackenzie King has made it the Moonwater mission to provide “ethical treatment of dancers through collaborative creation, showcasing the duality of the strength and softness all individuals have.” Mackenzie and her team have put in the extra time and effort on the administrative side to ensure that the dancers and choreographers that collaborate with Moonwater Dance Project receive financial compensation for all rehearsals and performances, and hope to set the example for those looking to establish their own companies.
DancerMusic’s Dance Editor Kristi Licera caught up with Mackenzie to learn more about Moonwater’s inaugural performance. Here’s what Mackenzie told us:
Kristi: This is the debut performance of Moonwater Dance Project. Can you tell us more about the concept for the show and the choreographers contributed to your program?
Several choreographers contributed to the show, making shorter pieces that can stand alone, or can be strung together to create an evening-length work.
Mackenzie: We wanted our first show to explore the duality of water in relation to femininity, especially since we are an all female company. We love that water is a life giving resource but also unyielding in its strength, just as women are. Rehearsal Director Kelsey Reiter and I started a duet last spring that enabled us to explore what it means to be feminine and decided to carry that theme into Moonwater.
Several choreographers contributed to the show, making shorter pieces that can stand alone, or can be strung together to create an evening-length work. Dana Alsamsam, who is now pursuing her masters in poetry, gifted the company with a solo she made for me last year for our first piece of repertoire. Mario Gonzalez took time out of his incredibly busy schedule with Visceral Dance Chicago to work with Moonwater dancer KC Bevis and myself to create the duet “Moon/Water,” which plays with the push and pull in a relationship.
In addition, to our evening of water, we will also be previewing Noelle Kayser’s work in progress, “The Linemen Wright III” that we will continue to develop over the coming months. Noelle commented that in many commissions, she feels that she does not have enough time to fully flush out her ideas and concepts, so we are proud to give her the opportunity to create a full-length work in which she can truly develop and create.
Kristi: Tell us more about Moonwater Dance Project. What sparked its founding, and what do you hope to accomplish for your dancers, dance makers, and the community at large?
Moonwater Dance Project hopes to change the stigma of the dance community by bringing awareness to the treatment of artists and by setting the example that dance isn’t only a passion but also a career in which dancers need to be emotionally, physically and financially fulfilled.
Mackenzie: Our mission is built on the idea that dance and humanity go hand in hand. It is of the utmost importance that we focus on the ethical treatment of dancers through collaborative creation and showcase the duality of strength and softness in all people. We are striving to focus on what should really matter: artistry, individuality and the ability to be vulnerable. Artists love what they do, so oftentimes they are taken advantage of and will do their art for free or for less than what they deserve. Moonwater Dance Project hopes to change the stigma of the dance community by bringing awareness to the treatment of artists and by setting the example that dance isn’t only a passion but also a career in which dancers need to be emotionally, physically and financially fulfilled.
Though we are incredibly “artist friendly” we also want to make concert dance more accessible to the community at large, so we can continue to spread the love of dance!
Some ways in which we hope to spread this message are through performances, such as MOONWATER I, collaborating with other artists, and offering master classes to students — encouraging them to find their own artistic voice and self worth. We have already worked with Peter Hinsdale on several photo shoots and have more in the works. We are also continuing to work with Collin Rogers for dance on film projects. In addition, we are excited to work with several visual artists and musicians in the upcoming season. Though we are incredibly “artist friendly” we also want to make concert dance more accessible to the community at large, so we can continue to spread the love of dance!
Moonwater Dance Project presents MOONWATER I June 22 & 23 at 8pm at the Fasseas Whitebox at the Menomonee Club Drucker Center, 1535 N. Dayton St, Chicago. A reception will follow each performance. Tickets are available online via Brown Paper Tickets. Learn more about Moonwater Dance Project by visiting www.moonwaterdanceproject.com.