STRUT, Dancehouse and Critical Path commissioned world renowned USA dancer and choreographer Deborah Hay, with Ros Warby acting as mentor, to work with ten Australian dance artists. Felicity Bott and Bianca Martin from WA will perform their solo adaptation of her work.
WHAT DOES A BODY LOOK LIKE WHEN IT’S DANCING TO THE TUNE OF DEBORAH HAY? NOTHING IN PARTICULAR OR, AS HAY WOULD PUT IT, “THERE IS NO WAY IT SHOULD LOOK.” THIS MEANS THAT THERE ARE NO PREDETERMINED MOVES OR GESTURES WITHIN HAY’S WORK; THE USUAL CHOREOGRAPHIC LURE FOR COMPOSING THE BODY TO ACCOMPLISH PARTICULAR MOVEMENTS IS ABSENT.
This lack of predictability concerns performer and audience alike, which is not to say that the dancing is arbitrary. To watch a person engage with Hay’s choreography is to access a precise mode of experience. When we see the work ‘working’, we see a dancer on the edge of an abyss, oriented towards an obscure future. This isn’t merely the opacity of not having experienced what is yet to happen, for that is something every dancer faces. Rather, Hay’s work offers the dancer a heightened sense of not knowing.
Hay’s choreography intensifies the abyss of the future through turning the present into a void. Like Wile E Coyote in the Roadrunner cartoon suddenly poised over that dang canyon, there are no supports. Now what? To my mind, this is a key element of Hay’s work: to intensify the performative present by taking away what is usually there. The title of this piece, In the Dark, indicates the sense in which the performer retains an open attitude towards an imminent future. The choreography could be seen as the means by which this is achieved. Over the years, Hay has developed numerous choreographies, complex combinations of left-field instructions, inscrutable, paradoxical, yet oddly concrete. They are, after all, the dancer’s only companion.