© 2012 Sabine Weier

Deborah Hay and Rauschenberg, technical rehearsal for 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering, Berkeley School, Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, Summer 1966. Photo: Frances Breer

Trisha Brown, Rauschenberg, and Deborah Hay rehearsing Rauschenberg’s Spring Training (1965) in his Broadway studio, New York, 1965. Photo: Ugo Mulas

Alex Hay, Rauschenberg, Barbara (Dilley) Lloyd, and Deborah Hay performing Deborah Hay’s They Will (1963), probably at the First New York Theater Rally, New York, May 1965. Photo: Elisabeth Loewenstein Novick

Steve Paxton, William Davis, Barbara (Dilley) Lloyd, Carolyn Brown, Rauschenberg, and Deborah Hay at a party in Japan during Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s 1964 world tour

Alex Hay, Steve Paxton, Deborah Hay, Rauschenberg, Alan Solomon, and Tatyana Grosman at ULAE (Universal Limited Art Editions), West Islip, New York, ca. 1964–1965

Lucinda Childs, Rauschenberg, Alex Hay, and Deborah Hay performing Alex Hay’s Colorado Plateau, Surplus Dance Theater’s sur+ series, Stage 73, New York, 1964. Photo: Hans Namuth


Deborah Hay

Deborah Hay trained in New York with Merce Cunningham and Mia Slavenska during the 1960s. She became involved with the experimental Judson Dance Theater with Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, Simone Forti, Alex Hay, Robert Morris, Steve Paxton, Yvonne Rainer, and Rauschenberg, among others. In 1964, Hay danced with the Cunningham Dance Company while on its world tour and when Rauschenberg served as its artistic director. She went on to develop her own choreography while continuing to perform. In 2009 she received an honorary doctorate degree in dance from the Theatre Academy in Helsinki. Perception Unfolds: Looking at Deborah Hay’s Dance, a site-specific video installation, opened at the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, in 2014 and traveled to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut. She was awarded the distinction of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2015. Hay is the author of four books, including Using the Sky: a dance (2016).


Excerpt from Interview with Deborah Hay by Alessandra Nicifero, 2014

Hay: I’m sure I learned a lot more maybe from Bob than anybody about how to work. One of my quotes of Bob’s that changed my life was when Bob said to me—at one point I was going to work on a piece. I said, “Well, I don’t even have any dates yet.” I can’t quite remember the context and Bob said to me, “Never wait for anything.” And that, whoa, that changed my life, right there, “Never wait for anything,” four words and what a message. Yes, so I learned how to work. I think I learned how to work being around Bob. I think I learned what work is. I learned materials to work with, but I learned how to work from him.

Nicifero: There’s always this description of him at work, being engaged, often in the company of other people while still extremely focused.

Hay: Yes and he’s always working, even in his play he’s working.

[ . . . ]

Hay: He could always make something combining things that—yes, in terms of his cooking, yes. Costuming, props, sets, yes he was—he loved the challenge of making things from nothing and that’s another thing that I definitely, definitely got from him, creating something from nothing, a big strong influence in my life.

Nicifero: Which makes absolute sense with “never wait for anything.”

Hay: Yes, right, yes, never wait for anything and surviving.