Funding the arts is a constant challenge, which is why we launched our Kickstarter Spotlight series to shine a light on worthy projects looking for help. This week, we turn to a similar crowd funding site, "Go Fund Me," which caught our eye thanks to a shout out from a Tweeter extraordinaire.
We knew Questlove, drummer for the Roots, is a fan of many musical genres, mastering everything from jazz to trance to rock and roll. We did not know, however, that his love of the performing arts includes an affinity for ballet. Then we got this intriguing tweet.
The student in question is Nicole Zadra, a New York-based ballerina who was recently offered a traineeship at Russia's famed Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Zadra told the Huffington Post in an email that she recently completed a six-week summer intensive program run by the Academy and the U.S. Department of State, during which she traveled to Moscow to study Russian culture, language and ballet. After completing the program and returning stateside, she learned that the Academy had extended her an invitation to enroll full-time, where she would continue to be taught under the strict pedagogy of Russian dancers such as Maya Plisetskaya and Vladimir Malakhov.
The catch: the full-time Academy doesn't provide scholarships for international students. Facing tuition payments of 1,300 Euro per month (roughly $1630), plus the cost of airfare and equipment, Zadra turned to every avenue of funding she could think of: from the traditional routes of corporate and private sponsors, to that increasingly canonical source, the crowd. She opened an account on Go Fund Me, a Kickstarter-esque site where Zadra told her story under the title "Bolshoi Ballet Academy Dreams."
To publicize the story further, Zadra posted a link to her Go Fund Me profile on the Facebook page of one of her professional heroes, the American dancer Misty Copeland. When Copeland re-shared the link with her followers, at least one did more than just scroll past it. That follower was Questlove, who, during his own lean years, declined admission to Julliard because he didn't have the money to attend.
Questlove retweeted the link several times under his Twitter handle, broadcasting Zadra's dreams of dancing in Russia to his 2 million followers. The best twist to this social media fairy tale? Zadra initially had no idea who Questlove was. She stated in her email, "I was so grateful that this random person was sharing my story. Then I did my research and I was totally shocked. I was like, 'Wait. How did he find out?'"
Last we checked, Zadra has accrued more than $4,000, largely aided by one donation of $3,500 delivered last night. (Quest? Is that you?) If Zadra reaches her $15,000 goal, she will be the latest in a a string of Americans who have participated in the US-based Academy training and later continued their studies in Russia. It's a trend that has shown that the flight of artistic talent can run West to East, exemplified by the achievements of South Dakota-raised David Hallberg, who became the first principal dancer at the Bolshoi in 2011.
Writing on her Go Fund Me page, Zadra describes the possibility of her attending the Academy as no less than the start of "changing the thought process regarding minority females like myself in ballet."
If you're interested in helping Zadra reach Moscow, head to her profile for more information.