Deborah Hay presents her 2002 lecture-performance A Lecture on the Performance of Beauty. A reflection on dance and politics, this lecture focuses on her solo work O Beautiful, which was also choreographed in 2002.
Deborah Hay (American, b. 1941) was active in the Judson Dance Theater group as both a dancer and choreographer. Like many of her peers, she explored the increasingly blurred line between choreography and everyday movement, organizing her pieces around tasks, games, repetition, and the reduction of movement. In particular, she explored group configurations in a selection of works shown at the Anderson Theater in 1968, including Group I (1968), Group II (1969), and ten (1968). Jill Johnston, reviewing that concert in the Village Voice, remarked that the three dances “leave me searching for superlatives. I’m tempted with platitudes like ‘breakthrough’ and ‘come a long way.’” The movements in all three dances consist almost entirely of casual steps ordered into strict geometric configurations, and use the same basic materials: musicians, movers, and poles. ten requires ten performers to divide into groups of different sizes and play a version of follow the leader around a vertical and a horizontal pole. In the original 1968 performance, the rock band The Third Eye provided live accompaniment. However, when the piece was performed in 1982 at Danspace Project, ten contemporary New York–based dancers and the band Max Fraction were invited. Hay’s work illustrates her belief in the potential playfulness of dance and the responsiveness of the dancing body to its surroundings.