Echodrama Blog

Full Speed Into the Unknown

 

Hello again, Kickstarter supporters,

I've wanted to update you on Echodrama for some time now, hoping I would have concrete news to report, but it seems that any news comes with a rather significant caveat. If you've been following the headlines, you know today marks an historical moment for Greeks and Greece. The decision to default on European loans, as we have already seen, comes at a great cost to the Greek people first and foremost. 

This is not the place for that discussion, but I can't ignore the impact of the crisis on Echodrama.

Since my last post, I have received positive feedback from most agents and venues I have spoken with but no one can overlook the shadow of uncertainty that comes with bringing a company from Greece to tour in the U.S. Two producers in particular have told me that if I can get them here, they will guarantee them performances. But I can't get them here. Today Echodrama is in no position to put up the thousands of dollars, or euro (or drachma, if it comes to that) to transport a 12-14 person company internationally. Will that always be the case? Perhaps. Their future in this ongoing crisis cannot be known.

But I can tell you what I do know, and it's not all bad news.

Echodrama's production of "Rhei" was to be presented on several of the Greek islands this summer. Each municipality budgeted for cultural events for visiting tourists, but there is no knowing if these funds will still be available. In addition, the grant that Echodrama applied for through the European Union was returned to them for modifications and resubmission. If Greece leaves the EU, I can only assume that those funds, even if granted, would be withdrawn. The ambitious grant proposal is to present an International Dance Festival on the island of Skiathos, featuring Echodrama and companies from Europe, including Akram Kahn from the UK. As of now, those plans are on hold.

Earlier this month, I asked Yannis to give me an update on their new productions:

ECHODRAMA is in the process of creating not one, but two new shows! The two new shows will also combine contemporary dance with original music and video projections, as in the succesful shows "The Cave" and "Rhei".

The first show is a dance-theater performance called “Eros-Hero”, based on a Greek novel of the same title by Alexandros Papadiamandis, the same author on whose novel “The Murderess” the first performance of ECHODRAMA was based. It will be a performance combining traditional and modern elements. There will be some minimal narration (with English supertitles as an integral part of the projections) not only to help the audience follow the story, but mostly to enable the audience to be exposed to Papadiamandis’ particular language. The dramaturgy and the music have been completed and the choreographies are in the process of being created.

The second show is a dance-theater performance with the temporary title “Freedom’s Shadow”. Through contemporary dance, original music, some minimal narration and projections, it will address the issue of freedom and the consequences of its absence or misuse, like the mass psychology of fascism that led to WWII and the Holocaust (2015 is the 70th Anniversary of the end of WWII.) The dramaturgy and the music are in the process of being created, in close cooperation with the choreographers.

It is unknown what the impact of the crisis will be on these shows and on the individuals within the company. Lack of employment may force dancers to look abroad for work. Yannis' daughter, Phaedra, has been dancing professionally in Germany for an opera company and a contemporary dance company for several years now. It's not impossible to imagine other Echodrama members making that transition as well as the situation worsens. I ask that you keep them and their families in your thoughts in the coming weeks.

But I did promise you good news.

Last month, Daniela, Yannis' eldest daughter and the lead choreographer of the company, married her long-time boyfriend, Renos, in a beautiful outdoor ceremony. The father of the bride, on a borrowed guitar, surprised her with a  song he wrote about the passage of time and how quickly she grew up. I wish I had the translation for you, but it's adorable and touching and even made the groom tear up... so, on this last hopeful note for the future, I thought I'd share it with you.

VIDEO

I'll keep you updated as time progresses. I have to admit that the chance of seeing an Echodrama performance here in the States this year or the next is unlikely, but it will happen. Until then we wish you a wonderful summer and thank you again for your support.

Dena Paponis Dahilig
dena@denadahilig.com

 

September was an incredible month!

Note: Please keep the names and companies in the following post confidential. I want you to know details about our progress because of your faith in us and your support on Kickstarter, and I also want to respect the privacy of those we networked with.


So much to tell you! But first:

Backer names have gone up on my homepage and I've sent them over to Echodrama's webmaster to be added to their site. For those of you selecting postcards as a Kickstarter reward, with no other physical items (e.g. T-shirt, CD, etc), your postcards went in the mail the last week of September.  All other rewards will go in the mail by October 17, 2014.

Postcard design for Kickstarter backers and supporters.

Diving in
Our goals for the two and a half weeks that Yannis was in Los Angeles were to follow up on leads, connect with the Greek community, explore artist residencies, and, if there was enough time, screen the video of The Cave. 

It was also my intention to finish up all of our Kickstarter obligations before Yannis left, but we saw early on that we should focus only on activities he needed to physically be here for; writing postcards to backers, signing CDs and DVD, approving T-shirt styles and design, etc. As you'll read, there were many, many other goals to be accomplished!

So... How Did We Do
at the Conference?

We set several challenging targets for ourselves. Our goals at the Western Arts Alliance (WAA) conference were achieved and exceeded.

For details, please read, if you haven't already, my previous blog post.

In a nutshell, over six days in Seattle:  

NETWORKING SESSIONS.  We attended and learned from every session available to us, and made lasting contacts for the future.

PRESENTERS/VENUES. We spoke with and arranged meetings with presenters who have been very encouraging.

MANAGERS/AGENTS. We spent a great deal of time with agents and managers to understand how best to present Echodrama and where to focus our energies. These meetings changed much of our agenda for the following weeks in Los Angeles. 

ARTISTS. Meeting other artists who are in similar positions, both with and without representation, helped us to better understand the challenges ahead. Watching more than two dozen showcases gave us valuable insight on how to showcase ourselves... and how not to showcase. Oh, yes.  

LEADS. We returned to L.A. with the full participant list from the conference, and ready to dive in.

Laying the Groundwork

One.gif

FESTIVAL PERFORMANCES IN APRIL 2015.  At one of the WAA showcases, I happened to sit next to Deborah Brockus, a choreographer and festival producer based out of Los Angeles. Over the course of our first fifteen minutes together, Deborah had brainstormed a dozen ideas for promoting Echodrama and encouraged us to continue the conversation in California. After meeting with her back in L.A., she invited Echodrama to be part of an evening of contemporary dance this coming April, featuring two Los Angeles-based companies, an ensemble from India, and... Echodrama. Each group will have approximately 20 minutes to perform. She has five separate venues in mind, all of which will be familiar to Southern Californians, but since she's making those contacts directly, I can't share those with you until I get confirmation from her.

Since April, in booking terms, is soon and Echodrama doesn't have funds to send the entire company, we're discussing how many dancers can come, how to handle visas for them and whether they should perform sections from The Cave and/or Rhei, or create a separate piece specifically for this festival. More to come.

Yannis outside Disney Hall, downtown Los Angeles, the home of the Music Center's World City series.

WORLD CITY at the MUSIC CENTER. While in Seattle, Yannis and I had breakfast with a dear friend of mine, Michael Solomon. Michael was my stage management mentor when we were in college at USC and he has since gone on to become the Associate Vice President of Programming for the Music Center of Los Angeles County. He encouraged us to talk to Barbara Leonard, the Senior Director of Programming, about submitting a proposal for the Music Center's World City series. 

Ironically, it was Barbara who, many months ago, had encouraged me to bring Yannis to the WAA conference in the first place! One of the wonderful things about World City is, of course, the opportunity to perform at the amazing Disney Hall. The challenge for Echodrama will be preparing an hour of traditional Greek dancing. World City's focus is on performances from cultures represented in Los Angeles, and, although Echodrama is a contemporary ensemble, they also have created many traditional programs of Greek dance over the years, which makes them a very good fit for World City... and, of course, it would be an opportunity of a lifetime for this young company.

Walking through Our Lady of Angels Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles after our meeting at the Music Center.

Meeting with Barbara at the Music Center was inspiring. Not only is the venue beautiful, but Barbara's passion for what she does is infectious. Based on that meeting, Echodrama needs to prepare a 50-minute program with traditional costumes and live musicians - not recorded music - and submit a video along with their proposal by November to be considered for the 2015-2016 season. 

If the proposal is accepted, we will need to move quickly to confirm other performances at the same time whose fees can help offset the travel expenses associated with bringing a company of fourteen to the U.S.

Executive Director of the American Hellenic Council and Kickstarter backer Kathy Konst with Yannis and Dena at a recent AHC event at USC.

AMERICAN HELLENIC COUNCIL. One of our biggest champions in this process was Kathy Konst, the Executive Director of the American Hellenic Council. Kathy was the first in the Greek community to offer to help us spread the word by sending out several email blasts to her organization's large mailing list and offering to hold a screening for backers.

Kathy not only supported us with her networking but also with her terrific ideas AND by becoming a Kickstarter backer! I love this woman!

Kathy and I will continue to work together to look at opportunities for Echodrama, and I'm so excited by her enthusiasm and her initiative when taking on large projects and challenging events. She really inspires me and I'm looking forward to our collaboration immensely.

Four.gif

THE GREEK COMMUNITY. One of our missions was to involve the Greek community, and that proved to be our biggest challenge.  We contacted several Greek organizations across the country as well as people we knew locally and, in general, received an incredible amount of skepticism, which, I have to say, really took us by surprise. I think ethnic communities in general are "hit up" for so many fundraising activities by their own that they become circumspect, to say the least. So it's really up to us to do a better job with our marketing to that community over the coming months.

I want to thank Zafiris Gourgouliatos of the Hellenic University Club for emailing his members, to Demetrios Liappas of the Modern Greek Studies program at Loyola Marymount University for meeting with us and offering to send an email to his mailing list should we perform on the LMU campus, and to Gonda Van Steen of the University of Florida, Department of Classics and Center for Greek Studies for sending our Kickstarter info to their list.

The Greeks in Seattle are amazing! They have pledged to bring us to Seattle to perform once we have reached the U.S. and seem as excited as we are about Echodrama coming to the States. Their support has meant the world to us.

AND we have some amazing Greek Kickstarter backers! Five of them (of you!) had never even heard of us before and took it on faith that our project was worthy, and that we would do what we promised. Thank you for that faith!

To put it in perspective, though, less than 6% of our Kickstarter funding came from the Greek community. Again, I don't think this is a commentary on the Greek community as much as it is a clear indication and directive for us to be more effective in our communications and marketing.

READY FOR AGENT REPRESENTATION. Our first project once we returned to L.A. was to assemble the necessary materials for agents and presenters to review. We compiled a full press kit including technical specifications for the tour, company bios, a history of the company, a synopsis of each production and press photos... available in both hard copy and .pdf. One of the best pieces of advice we received at WAA was from Katherine Miller of Kamstar who reminded us that our demo video should ONLY include the two productions we were going to be touring with. The videos we used for the Kickstarter campaign contained too much back story and needed tightening, so we spent several hours re-editing the demo video. 

Once these were completed, using the list provided at the WAA conference, Yannis and I sent out many, many personalized emails to agents who represent dance companies both in the U.S. and abroad. We had already spoken with several of them at the conference and knew which were the most likely to be interested in Echodrama. We have received many positive responses, though most acknowledge that they won't be taking on new artists until the spring. We will continue to follow up over the next many months.

ARTIST RESIDENCIES.  Residencies, as we learned from a variety of sources mean different things to different people... long-term, short-term, in-school, master classes, etc. With this information, the Echodrama team will need to evaluate the best types of residencies for us to look for, then start researching from there. With two full-length contemporary dance productions and a traditional Greek dance show available for touring, a variety of residency opportunities is open for them.

Presentation to the Arts Council of California State University, Northridge.

AND EVEN MORE... Just to give you an idea of some of the other things we were able to accomplish, here's a quick list: 1) Recreated the opening and closing credits for the full-length video of The Cave in both Greek and English, since agents and presenters will want to see a complete production before committing to performances. 2) Created cost projections for travel, accommodations, visas, and other touring-related expenses to better set fees. 3) Discussed changes to Echodrama website (much more work to be done on this). 4) Uploaded music for Rhei to CDbaby.com, got Yannis on Facebook (finally!) and set up a musician page for him. 5) Researched the rosters of every agent from the WAA conference who represents dance companies, and reviewed videos and press materials from these ensembles. 6) Responded to several questions submitted by an independent journalist who is writing an article about Echodrama for U.S. publications. 7) Researched grants available to international companies for U.S. touring. 8) Researched festivals across the country who book international ensembles. 

SCREENINGS REEVALUATED. Our original plan as we were preparing for Yannis' trip to the U.S. was to do two screenings of The Cave video in San Francisco and in Los Angeles. I sent out several emails and made lots of phone calls but, in general, we needed more lead time to make this happen and bring in an audience... and we just didn't have it. Big thanks, again, to Kathy Konst of the American Hellenic Council who was the first to say yes! She offered the large meeting room at their offices, but, again, we didn't have enough time to build the audience.  Yannis, however, did have an opportunity to make a presentation to the Arts Council at California State University, Northridge, of which I'm a member. Five of our backers are Arts Council members, in fact, and they have been terrific supporters. 

WRAPPING UP.  On a personal level, bringing Yannis back to the U.S. was extremely rewarding. I spent time with a dear friend, not just creating professional opportunities for he, his family and his dancers, but making some music, exploring a little of L.A. and expanding our friendship.

We were both very aware of how much needed to be done and how little time we had to accomplish so much. Days started before 8am and most ended after 10pm. We worked in restaurants and coffee shops, around the dining room table and anywhere we could find wi-fi. We worked hard, laughed a lot and became a good working team. We even spent an evening making some music in my voiceover studio. And we watched the pilot episode of Firefly... so now I'll have to shut up about what a great show it is, won't I, Yannis?

THIS MONTH. I still need to go through all of our receipts and balance the budget for the Kickstarter campaign, setting aside all extra funds towards Phase Two. I'll also process the rest of the Kickstarter rewards, as I mentioned earlier.

ECHODRAMA IN GREECE.  On October 1st, Yannis and Sevi submitted a proposal to the European Union for a second grant. This one, unlike the previous which funded both The Cave and Rhei, will be used to create a contemporary dance festival this summer on the Greek island of Skiathos. Dance companies from France, Germany and England (Akram Kahn Co.) have already committed to performances on the island if the grant is funded.

PHASE TWO. THE U.S. TOUR.  Over the next many months, Yannis and I will continue to follow up on the work we started in September. We're really pleased with how much we were able to accomplish in a short amount of time and are very excited about the future. From time to time, as things develop, I'll drop you a line, and you'll be the first to know when Echodrama will be here performing.

And watch for updates on their website at www.echodrama.gr

One of many beautiful vistas from The Getty Center in Los Angeles.

On a tour of The Mission in in Riverside, CA with the CSUN Arts Council.

Writing music together in "The Sacred Clubhouse", my voiceover studio.

First time playing a Railboard Chapman Stick®. 

Thank you again for your support. I know Yannis enjoyed meeting so many of you during his visit and we both want you to know how important you were to this process. Thank you for supporting Echodrama. Thank you for supporting dance.

– Dena Dahilig, October 4, 2014

Whirlwind Week Full of Success!

 Western Arts Alliance Conference 2014 for Presenters, Artists' Agents and Managers and Artists

Western Arts Alliance Conference 2014 for Presenters, Artists' Agents and Managers and Artists

Yannis and I returned late Saturday night from the Western Arts Alliance (WAA) conference in Seattle exhausted but absolutely energized and focused from an incredible week of submersion into the world of performing arts presenting and management. We weren’t sure what to expect, how to make inroads, and how best to network with the industry representatives. By the end of the week, we had learned an incredible amount about touring in the U.S., we had made strong connections that we think will lead to lasting partnerships and good friendships, and, most importantly, we put into focus a clear vision of how to proceed.

Let me have Yannis give you an overview of our week in his own words: 

Participating in the Western Arts Alliance Conference in Seattle, WA was an amazing experience. Coming from Greece and not knowing what to expect from the conference experience, my knowledge and understanding of touring in the U.S. are now enriched. WAA’s professional and friendly approach to networking left an everlasting impression on me.

•  I received very useful advice and counseling by mentors who introduced me to the WAA organization and how to get the best out of the conference.

•  Dena and I attended informative lectures, workshops, artists’ showcases and the WAA Membership Meeting.

•  We visited many booths at the “Commons” exhibition halls and collected information on agencies and artist management companies.

The "Commons"

•  We talked formally and informally to several artists, agents, managers and presenters. During these informative discussions we described our artistic vision to promote our work.  All of the contacts with agents and managers not only gave us a better understanding of the inner workings of the industry and the demands of touring in the U.S., but also seemed to be promising in terms of the possibility of one of these companies bringing Echodrama for a tour in the U.S.

•  We also met with members of the Greek community of Seattle, who expressed a great interest in hosting us in Seattle for performances. 

In closing, I would like to mention that I was impressed by WAA’s emphasis not so much on the booking business as on creating a community of artists, agents and presenters.

Thanks to you, our backers, the overall experience was wonderful and the prospects of bringing Echodrama to the U.S. seem excellent.

– Yannis Pisimisis

Our hosts, Tim Wilson, WAA Executive Director and Michael Knapp, WAA Membership and Communications Manager, were unbelievably supportive of us. Both took the time to answer our questions, to encourage us and to make us feel part of the community. They both also went above and beyond by supporting us as Kickstarter backers! Thank you, Tim and Michael!

Our terrific hosts and backers: WAA's Tim Wilson and Michael Knapp.

I aslo want to acknowledge Rachel Cohen of Cadence Arts Network and Harold Norris of Pentacle who were our first on-site mentors. Rachel and Harold gave us that initial guidance we needed to understand conference protocol and get the most out of the opportunities ahead.

Two individuals stood out amongst all of the attendees for their encouragement and generosity of spirit; Michael Solomon, Associate Vice President of Programming for the Music Center for Los Angeles County and Katherine Miller, President of Kamstar Artist Management. Katherine spent an incredible amount of time with us sharing her expertise and, through Michael, we have a very promising meeting set with the Music Center this week.

We also have a meeting this week with Brockus Project's Artistic Director, Deborah Brockus whom we met at the first showcase we attended at the conference. I happened to sit next to her and before the evening was over, she already had numerous suggestions for us and was planning to continue the conversation in LA. In addition to Brockus Project, Deborah also co-produces the LA Dance Festival with L.A.-based Diavolo.

One of our many goals for the Kickstarter campaign is to connect with Greeks here in the states who are interested in promoting dance. I was contacted early on by John Nicon of Greeks in Washington and we had a wonderful meeting with he and John Soudas of the Seattle AHEPA organization, who are both very interested in presenting Echodrama in Seattle.

John Soudas and John Nicon after our first meeting.

One of the possible venues for a performance for the Greek community in Seattle is in the community hall at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church. A few days after our initial meeting, Mr. Nicon and his wife Joann took Yannis and I on a wonderful tour all over the city. While at St. Demetrios, we met facilities coordinator, Saundra Maroussis, who showed us the hall and was very accommodating and gracious, answering all of our questions.

(L to R) Saundra Maroussis, Joann Nicon, John, Nicon and Yannis.

Our conference goals were achieved... and exceeded. We made strong connections with the presenting and artist management communities. We learned how to best market Echodrama in an extremely competitive contemporary dance marketplace. We observed the dynamics between presenters and agencies, between agencies and artists and between artists and presenters... and, as a result, we now have a better understanding of the challenges of presenting a foreign company on U.S. soil.

I'll keep you posted on the Los Angeles portion of our trip in a few days. So far we've spent a LOT of time in front of our computers, writing emails, getting all of our networking information into digital formats and searching out the best combinations of dining and wifi... all with great success.

On behalf of Yannis and myself, I want to again thank you for your support for our Kickstarter campaign. I am looking forward to reporting even more success the next time we meet here!

– Dena Dahilig

Sunset over Elliott Bay

Seattle's Iconic Pike Place Market was only a few blocks from our hotel.

Beautiful evening on the waterfront.

First meal: American hamburger from the Hard Rock Cafe... off to a good start!

Planning our schedule.

WAA Registration

 Keynote speaker,  John Lanier,  composer, computer scientist, visual artist and pioneer in virtual reality opens the conference.

Keynote speaker, John Lanier, composer, computer scientist, visual artist and pioneer in virtual reality opens the conference.

 Opening plenary of conference.

Opening plenary of conference.

DakhaBrakha performing at the WAA Annual Luncheon at Seattle's Triple Door.

Independent and Juried Artist Showcases performed well past midnight each evening.

Coffee, coffee, coffee!

St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church.

Community hall at St. Demetrios.

John and Joann showed us the city from many beautiful vista a points.

WAA Closing night party at Pike Place Market included, inexplicably, a "fish throw".

Goodbye, Seattle!