Deborah Hay

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2012

Austin, TX

Choreographer/performer Deborah Hay began her career in the early 1960s with the Judson Dance Theatre. In her five decades at the vanguard of choreographic experimentation, she has helped re-define the field of dance with her revolutionary work and influential publications, in particular Lamb at the Altar, Duke University Press; and My Body, the Buddhist, Wesleyan University Press. Since the 1990s Hay has researched new approaches to choreography, pairing unique forms of creative scoring with her distinct modes of practice and adaptation. Her recent works include group pieces made for accomplished performers/ choreographers (The Match, “O,O”, If I Sing to You, As Holy Sites Go) as well as solo performances such as No Time to Fly. Hay has received several prestigious awards through her career. Recent recognitions include an Honorary Doctorate from the Theater Academy in Helsinki (2009), a USA Fellowship (2010), and a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant (2011).

  • Deborah Hay- No Time To Fly (2010) :
    Video Credit: Kim Hall
    No Time To Fly (2010)
  • Deborah Hay- If I Sing To You (2008):
    If I Sing To You (2008)
  • Photo credit: Sylvio Dittrich
    If I Sing To You (2008)

What fuels your impulse to make creative work?

An impulse is too short lived. I make the work I make because it is the only way I know how to live. It is not impulsive on my part. If I felt like I had a choice about the work I make, and I don’t, maybe I could then call it “creative work.”

I can mostly step out of the way of my will in making work, whereas it is nearly impossible to disallow the power of my will in daily life.

The experience of my dance practice is such that it is here I consistently and unequivocally have quantum leaps in understanding life and art. This includes when I am alone in the studio, when I am transmitting my work to others, while I am writing my dances in prose form, and when I am actually performing.

Without it consciously ever being a choice, making and performing dance is how I actively participate in the politics of life. The consequences of my accumulated experiences of making, teaching, performing, and writing my work has given me a voice I trust.