Don't miss the chance to chat with Deborah at her Q&A session on Sat 8 March. Book here.

Conceived and presented by Deborah Hay

For 43 years, Deborah Hay's research has been based on the observation and realisation that all of us are both consciously and unconsciously choreographed, by culture, gender, politics, job, history, art, etc. Her interest as a choreographer is not to maintain or refine a choreography but rather to destabilise learned movement that keeps us on a treadmill of replication.

The material for her research is the cellular body that she is the first to admit it impossible to grasp. Yet the translation of this material is the basis of her teaching, her practice, performance, and the subject matter of a continuity of discontinuity.

A member of the Judson Church movement and now mentor of the next generations of dance innovators and coach to renowned dance companies such as Rosas, Deborah Hay's artistic career is filled with seeming contradictions that, however, form a continuous development when taking a closer look. In her performative lecture, A Continuity of Discontinuity, Deborah examines how her understanding of her own creativity has changed through passing on her solo works to professional dancers. At the heart of her works and teachings is the dialogue with the dancing body.


Deborah Hay was trained as a dancer by and Mia Slavenska and Merce Cunningham and later joined his company. She was also a member of the Judson Dance Theater Company. 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 Ten 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. 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, performing them around the world and passing them on to noted performers in the US, Europe, and Australia. Also, My Body, The Buddhist , her third book was published by Wesleyan University Press, 2000. It is an introspective series of reflections on the major lessons of life that she has learned from her body while dancing.

In 2002, Hay made a decision to apply what she had learned from 30 years of working with mostly untrained dancers to choreographing dances for experienced dancer/choreographers.

In April 2012, Deborah Hay became one of the 21 American performing artists to receive the inaugural and groundbreaking 2012 Doris Duke Artist Award.



Date: 7 March
Space: Sylvia Staehli Theatre (wheelchair access)
Time: 8pm
Cost: $25 - $20 Dancehouse Members
Bookings: SOLD OUT

With support from the VCA Master Teachers fund
With the very generous support of Jane Refshauge

Watch Ellen Bromsberg's documentary on Deborah Hay here

Image credit: Rino Pizzi