It's time to cast your vote, and help out local restaurants and dancers. 

Of Moving Colors and Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre have teamed up to create a fundraising video, "Leap Appetit," that comes out Oct. 7 at ofmovingcolors.org.

In it, dancers from both companies perform original choreography in front of different restaurants around town to a soundtrack by the Michael Foster Project.

With donations, viewers vote for their favorites until Oct. 28. Half of the money will go to the restaurant, and the other half to the dancer's dance company. The restaurant winning the most support will get a free advertisement in a local publication.

It's an idea that began with the state's coronavirus lockdown in March, leading to the subsequent cancellation of the dance companies' galas.

That's when Of Moving Colors Artistic Director Garland Goodwin Wilson turned to Emelie Alton, CEO of the Byronz Restaurant Family, who was overseeing the food for the company's spring gala, that had been set for March 26.

"Then corona happened," Wilson said. "So Emelie reached out to see how I was doing, and we just began brainstorming on what we could do that might be uplifting and good for the community."

The idea for "Leap Appetit" emerged, but not as a fundraiser.

"It just started out as a collaboration between the restaurants and dancers to celebrate the arts and the food that we have that were closed at the time, and it was fun," Goodwin said. "It was like, everything's shut down, so what can we do?"

The more Wilson worked on it, the more she believed the project could be something bigger. 

"I was watching one of the online artist talks that the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge sponsors every week, and I heard some things about other organizations that were collaborating," she said. "And I thought it would be a great time to reach out to the ballet and see if they would be interested."

Christine Perkins, the ballet's marketing and communications director, immediately came on board.

"The dancers of Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre were so excited to be a part of 'Leap Appetit' and be able to support the restaurants of Baton Rouge, so many of whom have assisted us in our fundraising efforts throughout the years," she said. "It's time for all of us to help each other right now and as artists, we are happy to use our talents to do our part."

The collaboration grew from a fun video to a fundraiser as Wilson and Perkins talked. The ballet videoed its dancers in front of the restaurants that normally would have donated food to the its canceled March 20 spring fundraiser, "Dancin' at the Mansion."

"They wanted to say thank you to the restaurants that helped them," Wilson said. "We turned to Emelie."

Alton was ready with a list.

"When the restaurants shut down, the Bistro Restaurant Family and some other restaurants came together to promote each other," Wilson said. "And one day, Heather Kleinpeter, a community volunteer, called Emelie. She needed to order loads of sandwiches for the hospitals."

Alton contacted the group of restaurants with which she'd been collaborating, all of which came together to provide food for area hospitals and organizations during the lockdown.

"So, Emelie sent an email out to this group, and we went to the places that responded to make our videos," Wilson said. "She really got the wheels going."

"We can’t let COVID stop us," Alton added. "That has been something that has driven me in all aspects of life through this pandemic. When COVID hit and forced the postponement of Of Moving Colors' Bloom Gala, Garland and I brainstormed about ways to keep the arts and the restaurant industry moving forward. We are so thankful to have these beautiful dancers at our establishments welcoming our guests back as we continue to encourage the public to join us safely in our restaurants."

The video features 30 dancers performing 12-second routines in front of 30 restaurants. All of the videos were filmed using smartphones with dancers getting instructions on how to start and finish their choreography.

"That allowed one dance to flow into the next," Wilson said. "We didn't use music for the recording. Each dancer choreographed their own movement. I wanted the dancers to be individuals because during these times in COVID, they feel like a little part of their identity had been taken. The dancers move so differently, and this is a way they could share a little of their own movement and identity."

There's also shots of a few other restaurants with no dancers. You can vote for them too. 

"Leap Appetit" also includes commentary from Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and chef John Folse. 

The dance companies planned to release "Leap Appetit" during the state's Phase 2 reopening but held it when some local restaurants began temporarily closing.

"So, we waited until Phase 3, because we wanted to release it when it was a good time to celebrate again," Wilson said.    

Now Wilson is thinking about a sequel. Interested restaurants can contact her about being included by emailing tellus@ofmovingcolors.org.

"I think the deeper thing that happened when we started this project is we thought that the goal was to get the dance companies together and support the restaurants," she said. "But what's happened is that it's really been a project of unity, bringing so many people together. It's been refreshingly surprising to see how something as simple as a video can inspire community to come closer together."


Email Robin Miller at romiller@theadvocate.com