“The spirit who bideth by himself In the land of mist and snow, He loved the bird that loved the man Who shot him with his bow.” The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Supporting the Arts
Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday and the culmination of Mordance’s 15 Days to 15K Campaign. I am in a unique position, because I have watched my cousin Morgan McEwen build her ballet company which is a non profit, from the ground up. And as one of only a handful of female choreographers and even fewer female artistic directors, is no easy feat to do that. In a world that is predominantly female, with almost all its dancers female, you would think that it would also be female led but alas, only 12 percent of pieces created last year were choreographed by women. Add to that, the complexities of a pandemic that saw many companies shuttering their doors from Broadway shows to ballet companies, persevering in the arts takes as much grit as it does passion. And my cousin has that in spades.
Mordance was one of only a handful of ballet companies who were able to persevere against strict restrictions that were still in place from the pandemic and debut a 2022 spring season. This at a time when funding was not only cut, but non existent, and artists were moving out of the city in droves unable to pay rent or even find a way to continue their careers. While to be an artist in all aspects of the arts is a struggle, companies like New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre are more apt to survive over smaller companies, and yet it is the testament to my cousin’s love for ballet and the company that she has built from scratch that she has, her dancers keep coming back, and that she has only gotten better!
Furthermore as a former ballerina, Morgan knows the intricate, sometimes messy, and albite VERY political ballet world, including how little dancers are actually paid, and that they will be asked to move their bodies in ways that are near impossible and at times damaging and career ending. She understands that in a female dominated industry it is NOT female led and that equality and representation are sorely lacking, especially in leadership positions. This knowledge is what makes Mordance stand out as a trailblazing ballet company working to evoke change and create a more empowering community with in the ballet world.
A couple months ago, Morgan asked if I would go to Martha’s Vineyard and do social media for her ballet company. Mordance had received a residency with Vineyard Arts Project on the Vineyard where for a week, she and her dancers would work to create a brand new piece, to showcase for her Work’s in Progress and ultimately to debut this coming spring 2023. I was both honored and excited that she asked me to go, not just because I would get to spend time with her, but because as an artist albite in a completely different format, the creative process is one I have huge respect for and love to witness. I love to watch the muse take shape and while I have been with her from Mordance’s inception, the residency at Vineyard Arts Project took it to a whole other level. It was a much more immersive and interactive process, as I shot pictures and interacted not just with my cousin, but her dancers, who are incredible humans and insanely talented dancers in their own right as well.
Morgan doesn’t just create ballets, but she uses the actual art of ballet to tell a story, many times addressing social issues which are prevalent to our time. She weaves the elegant movement of classical ballet, with music, often times composed just for her choreography, and along with simplistic yet creative lighting and costumes, she takes us on a journey, not only makes us feel, but also think long after the curtain has come down.
It was only fitting that the piece Morgan was creating on the Vineyard was drawing inspiration from both Chris Jordan’s Documentary, “Albatross” (which I highly recommend you watch) and the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The documentary itself is a message of both somber warning of the mass consumption and pollution which reaches far and wide, in this instance to the Midway Islands in the Pacific, and is killing these birds, but also a lyrical, almost spiritual journey of the albatross as a whole.
It sounds so simplistic, but it really was incredible watching Morgan and the dancers work. Taking an idea she had, and bringing that to life to the machinations of movement and music. One of the traits that makes Morgan and Mordance so unique, is that she is constantly checking in with her dancers, making sure the movement feels alright to them and if they have any suggestions. It truly is a collaborative effort, where everyone has a voice unlike many other ballet companies out there. By the end of the week, I was so excited to see what she had created and I truly can not wait for the piece to debut in the spring. It just might be my favorite to date.
Supporting the Arts
Morgan’s vision for Mordance gets bigger every year. Both in the choreography and all aspects of the performances they debut each season, but also the outreach that they do. Some might think with the pandemic giving artists two years off, it would make them rusty, (and for some it did) and there is an even bigger misnomer that having children is career ending, my cousin has proven that not only has she honed her craft, but being a mother has only made her a better artistic director, and choreographer and her pieces that much more meaningful and it comes across in every movement.
As a Non-profit, Mordance relies heavily on donations and grants and everything it makes goes back into the company as well as the outreach they do to bring ballet to schools. As I mentioned above, Mordance is doing a campaign, 15 Days to 15K coinciding with giving Tuesday. If you wish to see more female choreographers, or just more females in leadership positions in the ballet world in general; if you wish to see a company that has diversity on all fronts from ethnicity, to body type, to gender; if you want to see the arts especially ballet brought back to schools and made more accessible; if you want to see more meaningful work choreographed; if you want to support a company that pays dancers a live-able wage, then please, I implore you, to please donate Mordance. PLEASE support this company that is doing so much to change the narrative and create a better, kinder, world in and out of ballet. It is so incredibly important to not just support the arts, but to support small ballet companies. And if you are in the city please come to the spring premiere and see the beautiful work that they are doing which includes this Albatross piece. Thank you friends. <3
You can donate here
And if you are interested in watching the Albatross documentary by Chris Jordan, you can watch it here.