Beginnings :: Jennifer Kayle
Dear readers, it’s an honor and a privilege to write to you in this first installment of The Architects blog, a long overdue move in the dance of…
Wait – that’s terrible. Sorry.
Hey everybody! Thanks for tuning in! I’m kicking-off this exciting new blog from your friends, The Architects!!! Woot! It’s gonna be Architec-tastic!!!!!!
Woah. What’s with the gratuitous exclamation points, JK. Please, get it together.
Dearly everyone, my apologies in advance for offending your eyeballs with this post in a post-modern, post-truth, post-America edition of strangely resonant and possibly significant thoughtfulness that, despite any sense-making support it brings, will soon be obliterated in the overwhelming typhoon of information that is your life-with-devices…. Ohhh shit. That is a dark, miserably un-clever, bullcrap way to begin anything.
It would be normal to root around for the proper note, the best step at the start. Because we know that beginnings are important. They set a tone, they set you up, set you ahead, or set you back, make things more likely to proceed effectively or undercut your efforts in a way that only a “bad beginning” could. In a performance, a great beginning endears you to those gathered and might even win you forgiveness later when the work falters. Similarly, a beginning that is confused, flat, off-putting or cliché could make it impossible to keep attention or win the trust of those gathered, or in extreme cases, keep people in the room. (I recently heard a story about a mass exodus at a performance of a famous dance company…)
In an improvisation, the sheer pressure of how to begin has the potential to pull you out, out of the work, out of your body, out of the moment, blinding you to the events and happenings before your very eyes. You can get into real trouble if you’re standing on the edge of the beginning, and you’re too busy imagining your own first step while the beginning that’s already beginning has begun and you didn’t give it your full attention. You missed it! Because you made yourself absent with anxiety, positive or negative fantasies about what you could do and what might happen, or because you let fear and uncertainty lock you into a paralyzing mental loop.
Maybe one way out of this trap is to put some faith in the possibility that any first move, any singular fragment, ripped (by you) from the seamless unity of the universal everything, and then held out to be regarded by all, is a fine enough place to start – as long as you, and the whole ensemble actually notice what it is that you plucked-out, refuse to ignore it or pretend it didn’t happen, and instead, step by step, build a whole life around it. For about 20 minutes. Or 40, or however long it is you plan to perform together. (What that building, that “development” could look like is a topic for a different essay, and a matter of aesthetic debate.)
To begin a work is to make something exist that didn’t before. The Latin root of exist (existere) means “to step out, stand forth, emerge, appear.” The “ist” part of exist, is “one who,” or “that which,” and the “ex” part of exist, is the picking-out of a form amidst the formless everything. In other words, to begin is to give passage for a thing to be, to be here with us; it is the moment when some-one, some-thing, steps out. (That’s you, ok? Don’t miss it.)