Alone, Exploring Fleeting Moments
New York Times Dance Review, Deborah Hay
Posted: March 29, 2010
By GIA KOURLAS
Published: March 26, 2010
A few years ago, Deborah Hay, one of the courageous choreographers responsible for Judson Dance Theater, the radical 1960s movement, pulled back from performing to apply her solo methodology to other dancers.
What her eclectic casts had in common were maturity, articulation and a willingness to stretch beyond their imaginative boundaries. What they gave Ms. Hay was the chance to expand her own experimental practice, which requires that a performer make an exacting effort to explore different states of consciousness.
When it works, it’s wild enough, but there’s nothing like a return to the source. As part of “Back to New York City,” a stellar series of programs organized by Juliette Mapp, Ms. Hay returns to the stage in “No Time to Fly,” her first solo in six years. On Thursday night at Danspace Project, she considered, as she says in her succinct program note, “the most unique attribute of dance, its ephemeral existence.”
Wearing a white dress shirt, cropped black pants, a beret and white socks with Mary Jane shoes, Ms. Hay curved across the stage with an oddly gossamer strut in which her shoulders and head swayed with deliberate punch. In Ms. Hay’s written dance score for “No Time to Fly,” full of drawings and instructions (it is available for purchase after the show), she includes a telling note, or a command, to herself: “While dancing I make an effort not to hesitate.”
She certainly doesn’t vacillate in this mesmerizing 50-minute work. Moving with the weird delicacy of an anime figure, Ms. Hay may shift her rhythmic approach as she advances along a swirling path, but as an explorer of ephemeral states, she takes charge of each moment.
Throughout, Ms. Hay makes sounds, humming or chanting melodies that hint at sadness and elation, and quotes Beckett with a Southern accent:
“Strictly speaking I believe I’ve never been anywhere.”
Ms. Hay has an inimitable power at her disposal in the lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, her longtime collaborator. As impossible as it sounds, Ms. Tipton’s contributions in “No Time to Fly” are nearly fragrant, framing the dancing in such a way that Ms. Hay appears at times to be lost in a Maxfield Parrish landscape — if everything were removed but the dusky light. In the final moment, when Ms. Hay turns to face the audience boldly, her face glows like an icon in a Russian church. Even after the stage turns black, the afterimage burns.
Deborah Hay continues performances through Saturday at Danspace Project, St. Mark’s Church, 131 East 10th Street, East Village; (866) 811-4111.
More Articles in Arts » A version of this article appeared in print on March 27, 2010, on page C5 of the National edition.