Questions and Answers

Q: Where do you get the question?

DH: The question arises from my dancing in the studio. Trying to articulate exactly what I'm experiencing. So – it's no longer 100% true, it's 98% true – every question arises from my dancing. It doesn't come from the outside in, it comes from trying to articulate what my experience of dancing was.

Q: For a non-dancer, could you give an example?

DH: What if where I am, and who I am, is every cell of my body? What if where I am is what I need in the laboratory in which I am dancing as time passes in relationship to my body.

So that's a description, certainly I felt that in the studio. I don't know what it was I was feeling, but it felt juicy enough so I could really spend a little time while trying to configure a question that came close to the experience I was feeling.

CA: I want to ask one more thing, then we'll have more questions. We're seeing a lot of people who don't stop dancing when they're 30 or 40 or 50 or even 60, which is wonderful. I wonder if you have thoughts about that, because your relationship with the body is so completely unusual; what do you believe might bring acceptance or perception to this notion of older dancers, because it's a new thing. There have been older dancers but not many – and when we look at someone who is 20 on the stage we see a completely different kind of meaning and presence.

DH: I did a piece a couple of years ago called Beauty – I did the lecture on the performance of Beauty here, too, at TDT – and the only costume that was appropriate for that piece was my being nude. So I performed it nude and I think I was in my 60s. I performed it in London and it was videotaped and I also performed the piece in costume earlier, but the costume really felt wrong. It felt like it had too much influence over me as a performer so I performed it nude and it was such an exquisite performance for me, that I decided I never needed to perform the piece again. I didn't even want to perform the piece again. I didn't want to go around the world performing nude. I thought, “I don't have to do this again.” It took me months to look at the video of Beauty and when I saw it I really liked it. I mean I was terrified to see it, and I really liked it, and so I made this lecture on the performance of Beauty. So that's the good side of the story.

The other side of the story is I look at videos of myself performing and I think I look like an older woman dancing. I call myself that. I'm looking at myself and I'm seeing an older woman dancing and I still have to go (inhale) I'm not sure about that. What I see is so limited just by the three-dimensional body. I can't get past that. So, I need some growing to do yet. This is really honest. I need to evolve a little bit, or I need to stop performing, or I need to jump into performance with the audience more. I don't know what the answer is. There's the good side, the Beauty side, and then there's the other one where all I see is an old woman, and I can see perfectly why audiences are so interested in the work that I'm doing for young dancer/choreographers who are so clear and articulate with that visual information.

CA: Christopher did you have comments about the work you're doing with Deborah?

CH: It's exciting; I'm not able to be in the studio as much as I'd like, but I think by the end of their first week I walked in and the performance of the piece had begun. I walked past some dancers down in the corridor, and the level of attention – I won't use the word concentration, because that somehow seems inward – the level of attention was so extreme that I felt carried by it as I walked by. For those of you who know me, I tend to not get carried by people's energy when I walk through it. I'm deeply moved by how the dancers are responding to working with Deborah, in their willingness to dive into something that is extremely challenging. Also, I'm moved by the aspects of the dancers that are being revealed through this experience. There are always three aspects. There's the audience who are always so excited about seeing this work; then there's our organization, and really it feels like a huge investment, a really successful investment in seeing how far people can go with this; but then for me personally it's inspiring in all kinds of different ways.

CA: And we can see the work here starting next Thursday through the 8 of February.

CH: Which is interesting because Deborah talks about the process sounding esoteric and talks about the score, and these questions that are complicated, challenging things to carry. But Deborah's a kick-ass choreographer in traditional ways too, and that's been really interesting. To watch her sense of space, her sense of dynamics, her sense of timing, her clarity in terms of exactly what it is she wants to see and the risks that she takes without tiptoeing. She steps up so confidently, that it's quite a lovely lesson to watch her.


CA: We have a few minutes for questions.

Q: Can you speak about how you define the role of your audience. It seems like a question of you in the space …

DH: Well earlier I said that it was primary that the dancer sees the other dancers in the same experiment having different experiences. That's one thing. Another element of it is I am fifty trillion something cells inviting. If I am here in relationship to you, doing this absolutely, all of this perceptual activity, I'd better invite being seen, practising it because it's so subtle. I am in a rigorous relationship to the audience in which I am – and again every time I say “I am” please reconfigure it into the billions of cells – inviting being seen in the practice of this material. So my audience is like my guests who I'm inviting into my home for dinner, and you'll either come or you won't.

Q: But why are you wanting them to come in?

DH: Why? Because if I'm in this relationship to you, I'm not showing you anything. I'm not out to dazzle you, I'm not out to tell you anything. I'm not here to do anything more than to invite you into this activity that is here and gone and here and gone and here and gone and here and gone and here and gone – so I'd better invite being seen because I'm here and gone and here and gone and here and gone and here and gone and here and gone (repeats). It's pretty delicate stuff. Does that answer you? If you're not here, and I'm alone in the studio, I imagine there's an audience 360 degrees. And I think it's not even so much about you. It's about me. Because to invite being seen feels so good. If I'm in this relationship, I'm inviting being seen by you whether or not you see me, whether or not you're sleeping in your chair, whether or not you could be more or less interested. That doesn't matter. My inviting being seen feels so great. To feel that experience, to have that experience feels so great. Thank you for that question because it has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with me. It feels good.

CH: I couldn't disagree more.


CH: I would suggest that the rigour of the practice of those experiments, the amount of time, the amount of effort that goes into it, the generosity that she's conveying in that rigour is inescapable in its effect, if you're in any way available to that. She may not be setting out to dazzle anyone, but the performance I saw in New York from those five phenomenal dancers, five very experienced dancer/choreographers who are stars of the downtown dance scene, was authentic virtuosity. I believed every moment. Nothing was prepared, nothing was set up, but it unfolded and I was dazzled. I was also dazzled by the dynamic range that kept me on the edge of my seat, because I never was able to sit back and think, “I know what they're doing.” I was always thinking, “What is going on?” As a result, I found it interesting and often really deeply moving because I think their relationship with each other, with themselves and with the audience, very strongly was entering my body.

Q: Just you saying “here and gone and here and gone and here and gone” provokes, because I am all these things like gender and my beliefs and infiltrating them. And you mentioned playing tricks to realize where you are. I'm wondering – what are these tricks?

DH: Well the tricks are the questions. Like, “What if, every cell in my body at once …” All my questions start like this, “What if, every cell in my body at once has the potential …” so I'm off the hook here two times. What if every cell in my body at once has the potential … so it's not a big deal, I'm freeing myself up from any kind of searching. What if every cell in my body at once has the potential to choose to surrender the pattern of facing a single direction in this lab dancing with you as time passes? It took me a year with that question to realize that I'm not facing a single direction, I just behave that way. Then it took me another year to realize the pattern of choosing to surrender the pattern of facing a single direction had to do with all the ways I choreographed. Direction was just step one. Step two was how I see, step three was how I feel, step four was how I think, step five was all of a single direction in all of these aspects of my life. I've been on this question for about four years now because I just keep learning from it. And the other trick is to recognize that in order to choose to surrender I have to be here. So it's not about just appearing. I have to be here to choose to surrender where I am. I have to see where I am in order to surrender where I am. It isn't about disappearing, it's about noticing all that we see, and choosing to surrender. So it's a kind of paradox. It isn't about LaLa Land. It's about being here in order to choose to be time passing, to be here to notice this moment is passing and to be here to notice this moment passing and the next one and the next one multiplied by 183 million, trillion cells. It's fantastic. It's absolutely impossible, but there's so much material there to notice that you don't get bored.

CA: I think this would be a wonderful place to stop. Thank you so much.




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Christopher House & Deborah Hay
Winchester Street Theatre, January 19,
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