Beginnings- Experimenting with Organization

by Nasrene Haj

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 don’t have a concrete answer for the role of beginnings in a piece but I tend to develop material before organizing it in any specific order. This being said, I am in the process of making my first work in three years and I have approached the dance making process much differently than with any previous works. Many past pieces have begun with a sort of prologue – either a frozen shape or phrase followed by lights out and then the beginning of the piece. This being said, these “prologues” were not necessarily meant to set up or foreshadow the piece in any specific way but acted as a way of organizing my thoughts for myself and then hopefully providing some consistency for the viewers. This time around, I already have an opening image in mind. This doesn’t mean that I won’t end up with a “prologue,” but the opening image is concrete so I am finding myself starting from a different place than with past works.

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 sort of mention this in my response to the last question, but I have previously built material before organizing it into a beginning, middle and end or adding any transitions. I find this useful in coming up with complex phrases that can be ordered in multiple ways. This being said, before the piece I am working on now, my process consisted of creating and manipulating movement without any back story or relationship to the lyrics of the music. The music rather acted solely as a melodic accompaniment to the piece where the lyrics were less important than the voice and its tonalities. When referring to the beginning of the dance making process as oppose to the beginning of the piece itself, until this point, I have begun to work on a piece at the same time each year with a performance date set a few months later. This added an element of consistency to my process including forcing myself to begin a piece even if I might not have been ready.

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.

Generally, I have consistently thought about the beginning of a piece without making any final decisions until close to the end of the process. Giving myself this freedom is what has led to my being able to experiment with the organization of the piece including the final decision to add a “prologue” to the work.

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

Normally, I try out many different beginnings throughout the process and it is usually a matter of simplicity that has led to making the final choice. I tend to begin the process creating simpler phrases which I then develop into more complex phrase work and it is generally one of the simpler phrases or part of one of these phrases that becomes the beginning of the piece.