Beginnings- A Jumping Off Point

by Sonia Plumb

1. For you, what role/s does the beginning play in a piece? More specifically, how have you employed beginnings in relation the rest of your work? (i.e. to frame, to present, to juxtapose, contextualize, clarify, foreshadow, etc)

I have found lately that my beginnings are from very specific images and/or ideas. For example, the current piece I am working on is about our relationship to water and the many issues surrounding water on both a local and global level. For one section I was thinking about the people being displaced from their home due to drought or flooding. I saw a woman with a suitcase holding her husband’s hand. The dance started there. I find the clearer the beginning image is, the easier it is to dive into the material. I tend to think of my beginnings as a jumping off point. I feel inspired when the idea is clear. Other times, I just have to start moving and putting choreography on the dancers. When the intention becomes clear I can then go back to the beginning to clarify and simplify.

2. Author Nancy Kress addresses the reality of having rich and interesting material, and yet, lacking a sense of direction or context for the material. In these instances, how have you found the beginning of your piece? How did you arrive at an idea to begin your piece? What did you confront, clarify to discover the beginning?

I like beginnings. They can have an honesty about them that is sometimes lost later in the dance. I find it helpful to go back to the beginning and ask “What am I trying to say here?” The beginning of a dance is important – it sets up the whole piece. In another section of this same “Water Wars” dance I began with a phrase that started with the dancers running downstage, circling their arms frantically. At first I had them do it more or less in cannon, but it wasn’t reading strong enough. When I had them then run together in a line straight down stage the impact was much more forceful. However, straight lines don’t happen often in life, so breaking from the line was important to the integrity of the dance. Sometimes you just have to throw movement out there and then do and redo and redo…

3. At what points in the creating process have you attended to the beginning section of your works? Has dealing with the beginning at different points in the creating process presented unique challenges or discoveries? Please describe.

It is easy to get caught up in just making movement. As a dancer it feels good. However, there in lies the problem. How do you continually make phrases that stem from the beginning. The beginning is probably the most honest of all the movement….

4. Have you ever had to go back and change your beginning? What occurred or revealed itself that led you to this decision?

Have I every had to go back and change a beginning? Probably, but that just means the dance took another direction.