Mercyhurst University Associate Professor of Dance C. Noelle Partusch knows a lot about classical ballet, but when it comes to fundraising, she can’t quite make the barre.
Intelligence Studies Associate Professor Kristan Wheaton knows little about dance, but he’s successfully funded two of his own projects and helped finance dozens more through Kickstarter, the world’s largest crowdfunding platform.
Put these two Mercyhurst profs together, add students from intelligence studies, communication, graphic design, public health and sports medicine, and you’ve got a dynamic multidisciplinary team collaborating on a Kickstarter campaign set to launch Feb. 18. The group is looking to raise money for three members of the Mercyhurst Liturgical Dance Ensemble – Ellen Duddy, Emily Jarrett and Maggie Doherty – to travel with Partusch to Jerusalem, where they will perform with Project Dance, a volunteer organization whose mission is to bring hope and healing throughout the world through the universal language of dance.
The team’s goal is $2,000 in 30 days. According to Kickstarter rules, if that amount isn’t raised in the allotted time, the deal is off and all funds are returned to contributors. If more is raised, however, the group gets to keep them. Since $2,000 only covers housing and meals for the March 25-April 2 trip, they hope to exceed their goal.
“My trip is covered by a Mercyhurst Faculty Presentation Grant, so we are raising money for the dancers’ living arrangements in Jerusalem,” Partusch said. “It would be wonderful to have their airfare covered, but since Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing proposition, we decided to start small.”
Partusch has taken dancers to other Project Dance venues, from New York City to Sydney, Australia, but performing in Jerusalem is a wondrous opportunity for Mercyhurst’s liturgical dancers, whose performances are designed to enrich spiritual life.
“To perform in the center of Jerusalem where it all began will give so much meaning to what we do and, hopefully, to those we share it with,” Partusch said.
Emily Francis, a dual major in intelligence studies and public health, is lead student consultant on the dance department’s Kickstarter campaign. She’s been tutored on the nuances of Kickstarter by Wheaton, who successfully funded two games of his own creation: Widget and Cthulhu vs. The Vikings, and financially supported nearly 100 other projects competing on the Kickstarter platform.
While Francis has focused on analyzing what makes a successful Kickstarter campaign, she’s got her team of Alison Hosko, a communication major, and Amanda Marley, a sports medicine major with an expertise in social media, working with the dance department on other aspects of the campaign. Marley created and maintains the project’s Facebook page, titled Mercyhurst U: Journey to Jerusalem. Hosko created the Kickstarter page, which will launch online Feb. 18. It will feature a video made by dance professor Mark Santillano. And AdPro, the Student Advertising Club, created the project logo. The students have also worked collaboratively on outreach efforts and rewards and incentives to be offered project contributors.
The Facebook page features mini-interviews with the dancers, including Ellen Duddy, who tells visitors, “I am very grateful for having this opportunity to travel overseas for this once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am grateful to share it with other dancers from Mercyhurst.”
Maggie Doherty adds, “I look forward to spending a whole week in a new place, learning about its culture while also performing and participating in workshops. I feel that because of this trip I will grow as a person and dancer.”
Emily Jarrett says, "I want to thank everyone who has helped us in any way – without you, we would not be able to go. Your donations and prayers are greatly appreciated, and we are so blessed to have such a wonderful support system."
Meanwhile, Wheaton formed a second team, this one of intelligence studies students, whose assignment is to analyze conditions in Jerusalem that could pose security risks to international travelers. It is headed by MK Daley and includes Calvin Eichhorn and Katelyn Bailey.
Daley said the group has been meeting monthly since October and will continue in shorter intervals as the dancers’ departure date draws nearer.
“We’re looking at anything that could interrupt the Project Dance initiative or pose a threat to the Mercyhurst dancers,” Daley said. “We are looking at any travel risks out of Tel Aviv, where they are flying in to, and Jerusalem … we’re also looking at the different places tourists go.”
Despite ongoing public demonstrations surrounding the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, there is nothing specific at this point that should adversely affect the dance team, she said.
“It’s been such a help to have this aspect of our trip under the watchful eye of intelligence studies,” Partusch said. “The entire collaboration has been really rewarding and reflects the talents of so many faculty and students on this campus.”
To support the Kickstarter project, please visit Mercyhurst U: Journey to Jerusalem for more information and instructions.
PHOTO: Ellen, Emily & Maggie