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Deborah Hay

Solo (background)

Deborah Hay, Fig, 1965
Deborah Hay studied with Merce Cunningham and was a member of her dance company. Because of its deliberate refusal to subject the music, objects, lights, dancers and costumes to a hierarchical system, Solo is consistent with the choreographer’s way of thinking.

A member of the Judson Dance Theater, Deborah Hay, like the other artists in the group, questioned conventional ideas about dance, including those stemming from the Modern Dance movement. Dance is movement, so all movement can be choreographed. In one of her experiments — Fig (May 1965) — a dancer appeared before the audience on a skateboard pulled by a cord, in the process demonstrating how an object could be made to produce motion while leaving the body at rest (1). Rauschenberg also drew frequently upon such mobile supports in his own performances, but to a different end: he used roller skates, for example, to eliminate contact with the ground in Pelican (1963), and boards as supports for living sculptures in Linoleum (1966). For Deborah Hay, 9 Evenings was an opportunity to delve more deeply into this way of thinking about movement, and her work with the event’s engineers was concentrated mainly on developing remote-controlled carts.

Hay’s original idea for the festival, however, was to work with engineer Cecil Cooker on recorded voice sounds. This project, entitled Speech Machine, would have involved distorting voices slightly and in such a way that a pre-recorded conversation would have sounded false. But the idea was dropped due to the Armory’s acoustics. It would be revived, however, for another dance piece in the context of Concert No.3, performed at the Now Festival in Washington (April 26 – May 1, 1966) (2).

Clarisse Bardiot © 2006 FDL

(1) Deborah Hay, in an interview with Clarisse Bardiot, Oct. 2005.

(2) Norma Loewen, Experiments in Art and Technology: A Descriptive History of the Organization (New York: New York University, 1975) p.54. Ph. D. dissertation delivered at the School of Education, Health, Nursing and Arts Professions, New York University, 1975.