The latter half of June was quite the indulgent time for dancers.
For 15 days straight we were greeted on YouTube and social media with a new concept video from Keone & Mari Madrid.
Jaws dropped, thumbs darting to the “Share” button, eyes/ears/minds blown, we’d barely find our pulses again before another video swept us away.
‘Twas a 2-week marathon of inspiration, a hurricane of creativity, a 2-week binge on aesthetic brilliance that left us simultaneously overwhelmed yet wanting more.
Lucky that was just the beginning.
“Preface,” the name of the dancing duo’s 15-video-series, wasn’t born from a random decision to crank out a bunch of pieces and leave it at that.
It is actually a “Preface” in the literal sense of the word – an introduction to a book. An eBook. An Enhanced eBook, to be eXact.
If you’re into things that are meta, this is the story about that story.
I got to chat with Keone & Mari about the who’s, what’s, when’s, why’s, and how’s of this eBook, as well as their larger mission of elevating our dance community through the collaboration between multiple art forms.
Enough of the foreword – let’s keep reading.
“We were coming back from a 3-month long job in Amsterdam. It was a crazy amazing experience! ...But when you’re choreographing for a project that’s not yours, your own creative juices build up in the back of your head, itching to get out – but you have to focus on the work at hand.”
I call these “cocoon phases,” when your inspiration, motivation, and passion are bursting at the seams – but for one reason or another, you’re forced to keep ‘em on the backburner.
So when you finally do get the chance to release that energy, it presents itself not in the form of a beautiful butterfly, but as –
“Vomit. Just... creative vomit.”
But the job of an artist is to organize that chaos. To transform ideas into visions, concepts into movement, vomit into 15 different dance videos.
Keone & Mari are such artists slash alchemists – and wanderers who used the process as a path back to their true North.
“We were going through a tough time. Both personally and professionally. Both individually and together. In a way, we needed to make these videos. To go back to creating what we love and remembering who we are. It was a necessary project for where we were in our lives and careers.”
But of course, “Preface” was not a standalone project.
The last video announced and launched the start of their Kickstarter campaign for an “Enhanced eBook” – a digital book that utilizes not just text, but “video, music, audio narration, animation, photography, and more” to tell a story.
Think: Kindle on crack. A virtual reality novel.
If you think about it, it’s a quite an appropriate project. All art is ultimately a way of storytelling – just through different mediums.
We all have core thoughts and feelings and ideas, and become better able to express them by training in our weapon of choice.
For singers, it’s their voice/lyrics. For a pianist, his piano. For writers, words.
For dancers, it’s our bodies. And music.
“Every art has its struggle. When you create something, you should have ownership of that product. Except our product – movement – is something that is so freely given and received. This has been a challenge for anyone trying to make a living out of dancing: to preserve intellectual rights to your work as it’s being distributed to an audience.”
– Keone & Mari
Keone & Mari are deeply passionate about the eBook because of the implications it carries for dancers and the dance community as a whole.
“Because dancers are reliant on music, we’ve been stuck in the idea of dancing behind a singer being the pinnacle of your career. But backup dancing on tour or choreographing for a show is all geared towards making that artist look better, as dancers are literally in the “back” of the scene.”
So dancers utilize videos of their work on YouTube as a way of being independent artists. But that method is not often able to be monetized.
See Related Article: What Is Music Copyright? And How Does It Affect Dancers?
A cover of a popular song or a funny clip on YouTube that goes “viral” will provide residual income for the creator (or a spot on the Ellen show) – yet choreographers who are making high-quality dance videos barely get around music copyright laws.
We understand the legal reasonings behind this, but the desire to create valuable content without being reprimanded (and possibly generating income) further incentivizes us to find a way around the system.
“While dance videos online have become a norm in the millennial age, we hope to give dance a new home within this enhanced ebook.”
The eBook is a big step for the dance community. It challenges the space dancers have been confined to in the past – as “backup,” as perpetrators of music copyright, as whatever stigma assigned to us.
“It’s up to us to do and be better. To make our own opportunities by finding new ways of creating and sharing.”
This eBook will venture into a new realm of creation by fusing dance with writing, photography, videography, music to make a completely self-produced product that those around the world can access and enjoy.
“The hope for this creative and visual novel is to have it available on your devices to download or stream.”
See Related Article: Chris Martin & Larkin Poynton’s “Project Home”
Of course, a project of this large a scale requires a whole team of dedicated professionals.
Their aim is for the eBook’s team to receive due compensation for their time and work. The Kickstarter page breaks down the budget of the project, a total of $45,000.
It is, first and foremost, a product made by dancers. Cinematographer/dancer Jeremy Fabunan will be filming the video components, and Mari will be writing most of the story herself.
“I’m a little nervous... but way more excited.”
Keone & Mari have a “there’s room for everyone” attitude that keeps them open to different ideas and faces.
Their humility and willingness to learn is perhaps the quality that’s allowed them to accomplish so much.
“We ask for help. A lot of things we’re doing now is a first, and we understand that it’s near impossible to figure out alone. Teaching abroad, starting Building Block, and other projects have all been collaborative efforts, and this eBook is no different. We appreciate every bit of help or support that we receive as we continue to learn and grow.”
– Keone & Mari
Psst. Hey you. Yeah you.
Guess what? You’re a part of this story, too.
“Dancers make such a close knit community. Keone and I have been blessed with the support of those who believe in us. We take our work very seriously and constantly strive to serve the community that gives us so much.”
Donating to this Kickstarter campaign is an investment in your community. It’s not just an eBook, but a piece in the movement to push dance forward.
So, what can you do?
Make a donation – any pledge of $10 or more comes with Perks outlined on the Kickstarter page.
You can also help spread the word by sharing this article, posting about it on social media, or even via word of mouth.
Talk to your friends about the fact that dance is breaking boundaries – and how Keone & Mari are doing their best to give our story the right words.. + photos + music + videos in this enhanced eBook.
Keone & Mari are our inspirations, supporters, and dear friends.
We are 1000% in agreement about wanting to propel our community forward by creating quality content that adapts to current digital trends.
STEEZY is proud to sponsor one of the eBook's Kickstarter incentives:
With a pledge of $20 or more, you will receive 1 month of STEEZY Studio.
This means unlimited online classes from choreographers like Bam Martin, Sorah Yang, Scott Forsyth, and Chris Martin until the end of August.
We're so excited for the infinite possibilities ahead both for this project and for the direction of dancers as a whole!
Ready to see what this new chapter holds? Let us know what you're doing to support by commenting below!