Beginnings- First Impressions

by Becky Bearse

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)

This question comes at the perfect time. For the past few weeks, I have been reworking the beginning of a solo work to better frame and contextualize not only the movement, but the character and her movement as well. The beginning is critical to me as it provides the first impression of your work to the audience members, who may or may not be familiar with your work. As a choreographer, I want the beginning of my works to grab the audience’s attention, to force them to put down their programs because they are so enthralled with the movement and the story unfolding before them on stage. Thus, choreographing the beginning of a piece is a daunting, but also electrifying part of the creative process for me as a dance maker.

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?

In these instances, I have found the beginning of my piece after the work has been fully developed. Sometimes, this development comes in the form of showcases, as many ideas and mental notes come to me after I have been able to distance myself from the work. In fact, I often wait to choreograph the beginning of my works; in order to find the essence of the movement to open my pieces, I first must see how the characters, story and movement has developed over the course of the dance.

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.

As stated above, I usually choreograph the beginning of my works once they are almost finished. I find that when I approach the beginning at this point in the process, they make more sense, logically, and are much stronger. When working on a trio in which I myself also danced, I rushed to pull together the opening in the middle of my process, and found the end result not as strong, meaningful and true to the work as when I have approached the beginning at a later point in my process, as I am doing now, almost four months after I originally showcased 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?

As stated above, yes, I have had to go back and change the beginning of a piece. After watching the piece evolve on stage through various performances, including some venues that included feedback and dialogue as part of the show, I came to the conclusion that the main character, and her movement, needed to be introduced better. I had never received this feedback from any viewers. However, I had this feeling in my gut that something was missing from this piece. As my dancer and I revisited the piece, we discussed the fact that she found it difficult to get into character so quickly. I knew then that I needed a real beginning, a way in which both she and the audience could get to know the character and her movement style outside of the frenzied pace of the piece.