Development- A Constant Negotiation

by Becky Bearse

1. How would you define development, in terms of its role and application in your process?

For me, I define development as continual growth in my craft. Development comes in many forms, from the honing of my technical skills in dance class to the creation of new work to working with my mentor.

2. What elements and conditions do you find necessary for development to be successful?

Unstructured time, in which I can be in the studio to play around with movement, is key in my successful development. Time and financial resources, to rent space, take class and conduct rehearsals, is also very important.

3. How do you approach development (tasks, choreographic device, dance elements, etc)?

I approach all of my development opportunities with an open mind and with goals in mind. For example, I am currently working on a new solo that is challenging me to take new risks. Up until this point, most of my work has been rhythm and bass driven. The music for this new work is all strings and has beautiful melodies, but no bass.

4. What tools/approaches do you employ to find new possibilities for development?

I keep my eye out in the local dancer’s digest for classes, performances and workshops, and take on new challenges as a choreographer, so as to constantly develop and hone my skills. This results in risk taking and no two pieces ever looking or feeling exactly the same, which keeps my audience engaged.

5. How do you determine what material gets further development?

It depends. I have shown works in progress at venues that bring in audience members to dialogue about your work. I have found these dialogues useful in finding parts of my work that need to be further developed and gauging audience reaction. I also video tape all of my rehearsals and take time out of rehearsal with my dancers to review and evaluate what pieces need further development.

6. What has the development process brought to your work? How has your work evolved as you’ve matured in developing material?

As an artist, you must constantly be developing yourself, as growth translates into better and more engaging work for my audiences. With reflection and self critique, my work has greatly evolved as I am always willing to take risks. I also always approach my pieces in terms of what will help me grow. My newest work is helping me to develop more organic material based on the theme and my dancer’s strengths. My last work was a trio that incorporated African, modern and partnering, a departure from my former solo work that was purely rhythm based.

7. What struggles/frustrations have you encountered when developing material? How did you overcome/work-through these hiccups?

I often encounter creative blocks much like that of “writer’s block.” When I become stymied, I back off of the material and reflect on the real purpose of the movement and how it fits into the theme. I then often go play with the material in the studio and bring ideas back to my dancers. We then play with the material all together and usually come to a really great medium in which my choreography connects well with their movement styles, the theme and the momentum of the work.

8. For you, how do creating phrases and generating material intersect? Are they synonymous, interdependent, parallel, symbiotic, etc? Why?

When I choreograph, I usually go into rehearsals with a shell of movement phrases with which to work. As I have developed, I hardly ever choreograph every movement of the piece from beginning to end as all dancers move differently, and my movement style may not resonate or look good on my dancers. So, we come to a happy medium through playing with phrases that are then rounded out by their own movements. What aids in this process is having a clear vision of the piece in terms of staging and movement patterns, so I can then direct the dancers. I also always have a story or theme in mind that helps me to provide structure and vision to my dancers. As such, I would say that my creation process is a collaborative process with my dancers, who are the paint brushes for my movement phrases and vision.

9. How are choreographically different when generating material vs. when you’re developing it (in terms of process, mindset, approach, permission, etc)?