moving ideologies 4: beginnings and endings

The beginnings and the endings of movement are the fixed poles of what we might call choreography. Generally we’re concerned with what goes on in between these, in the musicality and dynamics of the body in time and the shapes and positions of the body in space. Beginnings and endings imply a caesura, a place for movement grammar to occur.

In general the beginning and ending of any gesture in dance or movement theater is easily identifiable. Most classical dance training emphasizes clarity in initiating or resolving movement, and this clarity or punctuality is also common in the choreographies of many modern, postmodern and contemporary dance artists. Here it begins, there it ends; everyone can see the decision-making. This clarity is often the result of musical timing, dance’s traditional role accompanying music in ‘getting down on the one.’ Not to begin or end clearly is usually considered muddy, unfocussed or untrained.

However beginnings and endings also reveal a underlying intention – to make or choreograph something. Seeing the beginning or ending of a movement means primarily seeing a plan at work; starting or stopping itself indicates a demonstration or display of what is essentially determination. The viewer detects intention and attempts to evaluate or interpret what is being intended. Do I like it? Do I get it?

If this plan is somehow hidden or expressly un-indicated in the beginning or ending of a gesture, the viewer is only aware of a movement after it has begun, only aware of its ending after it has stopped. The performance takes on the character of a magic show, where perception itself is foregrounded; something happening “before your very eyes.” Often this conflicts with preconceptions about reality. A gesture too can come from nowhere and vanish without a trace.

This could be more important than the choreography.

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