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Deborah Hay

Solo (performance)

Deborah Hay, Solo (video)
Deborah Hay, Solo (video)
Deborah Hay, Solo Deborah Hay, Solo Deborah Hay, Solo
Performance (a) presented as part of 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, The 69th Regiment Armory, New York, N.Y., United States, October 13-23, 1966.

Technological design: Larry Heilos

Lucinda Childs; William Davis; Suzanne de Maria; Lette Eisenhauer; Walter Gelb; Alex Hay; Deborah Hay; Margaret Hecht; Ed Iverson; Julie Judd; Olga Klüver; Vernon Lobb; Steve Paxton; Joe Schlichter; Carol Summers

Operation of the remote-controlled devices used to drive the carts:
James Tenney (guide); Franny Breer; Jim Hardy; Michael Kirby; Larry Leitch; Fujiko Nakaya; Robert Rauschenberg; Robert Schuler; Marjorie Strider

Central control:
Larry Helios, Witt Wittnebert

Lighting design: Jennifer Tipton, Beverly Emmons (assistant)

In Solo, Deborah Hay attributed equal time and visual prominence to all the elements of the performance, from the dancers and props to the lighting and soundtrack. To accomplish this, she created a score by combining simple choreographic sequences that featured walking as a basic motif. Each performer assumed passive and active poses in turn, strolling around or rolling on carts steered by means of remote-control devices. The carts could also be presented as independent objects endowed with freedom of movement—in this respect somewhat like the performers’ bodies. A series of instructions given to the dancers and cart drivers made it possible to determine the circumstances in which specific choreographic sequences would occur, as well as the shape they would take. (1)

Hay opted for a proportional distribution of the entire troupe of dancers and cart drivers (16 of the former and 8 of the latter, for a total of 24). With additional lights brought in to supplement the Amory standard, the lighting was extremely bright. Six Mylar sheets provided a transparent wall between the stage and the space reserved for the audience.

First moment: The cart drivers emerged from the wings and sat down on folding seats that had been installed on the left side of the stage (adjacent to the antennas relaying radio waves to the carts) (b), (c). The lights were at the maximum setting. The go-ahead signal was given by James Tenney, who functioned as a mediator (or orchestra conductor) for the various performers. In this capacity, he was provided with a vantage point that enabled him to have an overview of the action for the duration of the performance. Each cart bore a conspicuous number that enabled the driver to keep track of it (d). At one point the stage was plunged into darkness and three dancers made their entrance, one travelling on a cart. Some footage shows her alone and initially moving about close to where the drivers had congregated (e). She would be joined later by her partners. The dancers adopted the (somewhat slow) pace of the carts’ movements. One of them determined the paths the others would take, in the process generating the shape of an equilateral triangle. After moving around the entire stage, the three stood still for a few seconds.

Second moment: After about four minutes, David Tudor played music by Toshi Ichianagi over the Armory speakers. The three dancers could then either remain where they were, or separate: as it turned out, they all embarked on their own paths. The stage was plunged into darkness. Two dancers (Olga Klüver and Deborah Hay) came on and performed a series of unsynchronized arm and leg exercises (f), (g). This choreographic sequence lasted approximately seven minutes.

Simultaneously: Three other dancers appeared onstage. After eight minutes had elapsed and the lights had come back on, the 16 dancers moved off to the side and remained there without moving (h). The lights went out again. At that point some of the dancers remained still while others continued to execute the choreographic sequence begun before this hiatus.

Third moment: When Klüver and Hay had completed their series of exercises, the final eight dancers came out of the wings to take up their positions on the stage once and for all.

The score provided for a random switching of distinct choreographic motifs: the dancers repeated the initial sequences (the trio and exercises); they moved about: standing (i), lying down (j), in twos (k), (l); on the carts: they walked in twos and threes, holding one another up by the shoulders (m), (n); they walked about in groups (of no more than five), moving in the same direction (o); they moved singly (p); they remained still — standing, lying on the floor or propped on the carts (q), (r), (s). The choreographic structure, on the other hand, did follow certain set rules: only a cart could approach individual performers (on foot) in order to form a trio (t). Moreover, the drivers communicated for the purpose of creating trios consisting of three carts, or of two carts and one dancer on foot — as the case might be. A dancer could, depending on the circumstances, lead the trio in the direction suggested by an approaching cart; on the other hand, or he or she could also spin around in another direction (u), (v), (w). When a dancer felt like repeating the sequence of exercise moves, he or she took up a position in front of one of the Mylar curtains and waited for a partner to join in (x). The performance wound down as the lights dimmed. The dancers moved slowly toward the Mylar sheets and greeted the audience (y), (z). Each performance lasted about 25 minutes.

[Documentary sources...]

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Vincent Bonin © 2006 FDL

(1) Paragraph based on Deborah Hay’s statement of purpose in the program. See: 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, Pontus Hultén and Frank Königsberg eds. ([New York]: Experiments in Art and Technology: The Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, [1966]). p.[7].