Woman of the Week: The Choreographic Genius of Deborah Hay Highlighted at MoMA

Woman of the Week: The Choreographic Genius of Deborah Hay Highlighted at MoMA

This week’s selection: Deborah Hay (b. 1941), an American choreographer, dancer and founding member of the highly influential Judson Dance Theater.

Why we picked her: Hay’s choreographic work in the late 1960s challenged distinctions between the trained and untrained dancer with movement that privileged the beauty of casual bodily gestures and repetition — a change in the dominating artistic approach that would help alter dance for generations to come. Much of Hay’s work features large groups of dancers arranged in pieces that juxtapose intricate staging with stripped down movement, though her work in the 1990s focused mostly on solo dances. Before joining Judson, Hay danced with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, where she worked with both Cunningham and John Cage.

Hay’s contribution to the postmodern movement is being examined anew in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art titled “Judson Dance Theater: The Work is Never Done.” As part of the exhibition, which celebrates Judson’s history and lasting impact, Hay’s piece “TEN” will be staged in the museum’s Marron Atrium Oct. 4-6, with a post-performance discussion with Hay and Ana Janevski on Oct. 5. Featuring dancers Michelle Boulé, Wally Cardona, Miguel Gutierrez, Miguel Ángel Guzmán, Malcolm Low, Shelley Senter, David Thomson, Adrienne Truscott, Arturo Vidich and Marýa Wethers, “TEN” (1968) exemplifies Hay’s experimentation with group configuration as dancers move around a vertical and horizontal pole.

Peter Moore’s photograph of Alex Hay, Deborah Hay, and Yvonne Rainer performing Hay’s “Would They or Wouldn’t They?,” 1963. Performed at Concert of Dance #13, Judson Memorial Church, New York, November 20, 1963. © Barbara Moore/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Deborah Hay. Still from “Group I,” 1968. Filmed by Robert Rauschenberg. © Deborah Hay

Top Image: Deborah Hay. Still from "Group II," 1969. Filmed by Hollis Frampton. © Deborah Hay