Workshop description I The Prepared Body
Monday 27 - Friday 31 March | 10.30am - 4.30pm
The body is capable of so much more than what it can do. For example, sound coming from the piano was more or less constant until John Cage created the prepared piano by introducing different objects into its’ body. These components altered the piano’s harmonics. Similarly, questions will be applied to our bodies to alter the harmonics of movement through the practice of performance and choreography.
Deborah Hay was born in Brooklyn. Her mother was her first dance teacher, and directed her training until she was a teenager. She moved to Manhattan in the 1960’s, where she continued her training with Merce Cunningham and Mia Slavenska. In 1964, Hay danced with the Cunningham Dance Company during a 6-month tour through Europe and Asia.
Deborah Hay was a member of a group of experimental artists that was deeply influenced by Merce Cunningham and John Cage. The group, later known as the Judson Dance Theater, became one of the most radical and explosive 20th century art movements.
By 1967, Hay had already achieved a prominent status as a young choreographer, and her unique style began to emerge as a distinct voice within the aesthetics of Judson. Sharing with her colleagues the ideas that dance engage with other art forms, and that the artificial distinction between trained and untrained performers be challenged, she focused on large-scale dance projects involving untrained dancers, fragmented and choreographed music accompaniment, and the execution of ordinary movement patterns performed under stressful conditions.
In 1970 she left New York to live in a community in northern Vermont. Soon, she distanced herself from the performing arena, producing 10 “Circle Dances,” performed on 10 consecutive nights within a single community and no audience whatsoever. Thus began a long period of reflection about how dance is transmitted and presented. Her first book, Moving Through the Universe in Bare Feet (Swallow Press, 1975), is an early example of her distinctive memory/concept mode of choreographic record, and emphasizes the narratives underlining the process of her dance-making, rather than the technical specifications or notations of their form.
In 1976 Hay left Vermont and moved to Austin, Texas. Her attention focused on a set of practices ("playing awake") that engaged the performer on several levels of consciousness at once. While developing her concepts over the course of 15 years, she instituted a yearly four-month group workshop that culminated in large group public performances and from these group pieces she distilled her solo dances. Her second book, Lamb at the Altar: The Story of a Dance (Duke University Press, 1994), documents the unique creative process that defined these works.
In the late 1990’s Deborah Hay focused almost exclusively on rarified and enigmatic solo dances based on her new experimental choreographic method, such as The Man Who Grew Common in Wisdom, Voilà, The Other Side of O, Fire, Boom Boom Boom, Music, Beauty, The North Door, The Ridge, Room, performing them around the world and passing them on to noted performers in the US, Europe, and Australia. She also choreographed a duet for herself and Mikhail Baryshnikov, Single Duet, which toured with the Past/Forward project in 2000.
Hay’s work has now reached a new stage, where she redefines the inimitable choreographic method of her solo pieces in collaboration with highly trained dancers. In 2004 she received a NYC Bessie award for her choreography of the quartet The Match, which toured in Austin, Houston, London, Nottingham, Montpellier, and Paris in 2005.