Walker Art Center

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Deborah Hay’s Solo (excerpt from the DVD series 9 evenings: theatre & engineering)



In Solo, choreographer Deborah Hay attributed equal time and visual prominence to all the elements of the performance, from the dancers and props to the lighting and soundtrack. To accomplish this, she created a score by combining simple sequences that featured walking as a basic motif.

Each performer assumed passive and active poses in turn, strolling around or rolling on carts steered by means of remote-control devices. The carts could also be presented as independent objects endowed with freedom of movement. A series of instructions given to the dancers and cart drivers made it possible to determine the circumstances in which specific sequences would occur as well as the shape they would take.

Hay opted for a proportional distribution of the entire troupe of 16 dancers and 8 cart drivers. With additional lights brought in to supplement the Armory standard, the lighting was extremely bright. Six Mylar sheets provided a transparent wall between the stage and the audience space.

Choreography: Deborah Hay

Technological design: Larry Heilos

Performers: Lucinda Childs, William Davis, Suzanne de Maria, Lette Eisenhauer, Walter Gelb, Alex Hay, Deborah Hay, Margaret Hecht, Ed Iverson, Julie Judd, Olga Klüver, Vernon Lobb, Steve Paxton, Joe Schlichter, and Carol Summers

Operation of the remote-controlled devices used to drive the carts: James Tenney (conductor) Franny Breer, Jim Hardy, Michael Kirby, Larry Leitch, Fujiko Nakaya, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Schuler, and Marjorie Strider

Central control: Larry Helios, and Witt Wittnebert

Lighting design: Jennifer Tipton, and Beverly Emmons

First moment: The cart drivers emerged from the wings and sat down on folding seats that had been installed on the left side of the stage. The lights were at the maximum setting. The go-ahead signal was given by James Tenney, who functioned as an orchestra conductor. Each cart bore a conspicuous number that enabled the driver to keep track of it. At one point, the stage was plunged into darkness and three dancers made their entrance, one traveling on a cart. The dancers adopted the pace of the carts’ movements. After moving around the entire stage, the three stood still for a few seconds.

Second moment: After about four minutes, David Tudor played music by Toshi Ichianagi over the Armory speakers. The three dancers could then either remain where they were, or separate. The stage was plunged into darkness. Two dancers came on and performed a series of unsynchronized arm and leg exercises. Three other dancers appeared onstage and the lights come back on. Some of the dancers remained still while others continued to execute their choreographic sequences.

Third moment: Eight dancers came out of the wings to take up their positions on the stage. The score provided for a random switching of distinct choreographic motifs. The dancers walked about singly or in groups moving in the same direction. They remained still—standing, lying on the floor, or propped on the carts. The choreographic structure did follow certain set rules, only a cart could approach individual performers in order to form a trio. A dancer could, depending on the circumstances, lead the trio in the direction suggested by an approaching cart, or he or she could also spin around in another direction. When a dancer felt like repeating the sequence of exercise moves, he or she took up a position in front of one of the Mylar curtains and waited for a partner to join in. The performance wound down as the lights dimmed. The dancers moved slowly toward the Mylar sheets and greeted the audience.

9 evenings trailer and more info