Daniel Mollner's definition of dance has broadened since he began his yearlong project. (KatKimDesign.com)
Leap of Faith
The idea for Project 52 spawned after a series of discussions between Mollner and his life coach, Todd Phillips. After being unable to find a job, Mollner, who holds a bachelor’s degree in video and filmmaking from the California Institute of the Arts, began to ask himself: why not stick to the two things he loves most—filmmaking and dance?
That courageous choice would not be one most people would make in the midst of a recession. But Phillips calls Mollner a more “present” person than most.
“What passes for conversation in our society is you monologue and then I monologue. [Daniel] is a more clear channel,” Phillips says. “If I have a little piece of resentment in me, Daniel will see it! For me, Daniel is an invitation to come alive.”
Mollner says he spends at least 40 hours a week on his videos—most of it editing. “I guess I would have realized that if I really thought about it, but I didn’t quite get how long the post-production would be,” Mollner says.
It may sound like too much time to spend making YouTube videos, but Mollner doesn’t see it that way. “In order to make a quality video—and I’m committed to some level of quality even if it’s a video every week—I’ve had to work 40 to 60 hours,” Mollner told his audience at Center Stage at the end of his Fringe show. “So, that means I couldn’t work as a carpenter or do other odd jobs as I had thought when I started.”
To help cover his costs, Mollner created an account on Indiegogo.com (similar to Kickstarter) to raise money for his weekly efforts. He has 109 sponsors right now, well short of his goal of 500 averaging $52 apiece.
In a way, the site is a nice match for Mollner, since his art can be enjoyed by a global audience (his Week Two video, “I Dance,” has over 7,000 views). Thanks to Indiegogo, he can gather funding from a global audience too.
That doesn’t mean asking for money is necessarily an easy thing to do. Phillips says it takes a certain kind of bravery.
“He dares to have the courage to say, ‘I deserve this. This is a worthy project because I’m sharing it and giving to others and it’s not about me. I’m going to share it and allow people to be alive,’” Phillips says.
Courage comes up often in conversations with Mollner’s friends.
“Some of his videos are about him coming out as a dancer, and he shows a real vulnerability and also courage,” says 72-year-old Tom Rucker, who met Mollner at the popular Dance Church ritual at the 418 on Sunday mornings, and who appears in Week 23, “Stick.” “He really understands the human side of dancing in addition to the discipline.”
Dance It Out
Still on Mollner’s to-do list is a video with more than 100 people walking toward the camera on the beach—a tribute to his friend, Kaya Nati, who died of leukemia seven years ago. He also wants to make a video that addresses masculinity and the importance of redefining it.
“Men’s work is really important to me,” Mollner says. “When I was in high school, if you danced, you got ridiculed.”
It’s one of many reasons Mollner is on this mission. As far as Mollner’s concerned, dance is a great way to handle a lot of issues. He’s also coming to terms with the fact that he isn’t going to live forever, a realization that first started nagging him on his most recent birthday.
“For the first time, I had this experience where I thought, ‘Wait a minute: this room doesn’t go on forever,’” Mollner says. “‘There’s a wall on the other side with an exit door. And for the first time I can feel it, almost. I can hear my voice echoing off it. I find that’s one of my biggest challenges now, finding peace with my mortality.”
For now, though, Mollner’s body is in great shape and he still knows what he wants to do when he wakes up every morning.
“I’m a dancer,” Mollner says. “I’m many things, and one of the things I am is a dancer. I love it. It’s in my blood. It’s what I like to do everyday. It doesn’t really matter whether I think I’m good at it or not. It’s just what’s true about me.”
For more info and how to donate, visit www.danielmollner.com.