Deborah Hay has a great sense of humour. The contemporary dance audience does not.
‘No time to fly’ was like the opposite of watching a 3D movie. In the Imax, you’ve got your goggles on, the screen is two dimensional, and yet BOOM, you experience it three dimensionally. With Hay, she’s as solid and three dimensional as a real life superhero, but my experience was somehow two dimensional. She arrived at me through a filter; a screen of contemporary dance mystification and reverence. For a start we’d been positioned in two rows. I sat on the back row, to avoid self-conscious front row-ness. I like to feel like I can stop watching if I want to itch, drink water, relax without spoiling the experience of others.
Why is it that I feel like no one dares to move, or even breathe? I would crack open a bag of popcorn if I had one – Hay’s work invites us to relax, to look, or not.
We are in the mecca of practice-led performance and Hay is our leader. There’s more than a bit of a feeling that I’m back at Sunday Mass in my local Catholic Church, kneeling on a cushion, trying not to think about sex. And yet the material that results from Hay’s practice is both infinitely rich and irresistibly unassuming in its nature. It is sensual. It is funny. Yet there is simultaneously the sense that anything she does could be any of these things.
She doesn’t explicitly work to make something funny. Her performance is in her going about her performance, much like people say their prayers. She is attentive, she is dutiful, she is fantastically skilled and thorough. But this practice is an approach. And we are not approaching it back. We are sitting still, not breathing, taking it as a finished product, and that is where we are failing it.
‘No Time to Fly’ by Deborah Hay, 10 September 2010, Siobhan Davies Studios (London)