Deborah Hay: A week of learning

To begin to understand something

Reflections on a week with Deborah Hay

The following text serves as a departure point from my week spent with Deborah Hay at Siobhan Davies Studio ( London) Independent Dance:

Practicing Performance
What if it is not what we do as dancers but how we engage the billions of passing moments in the space where we are dancing, either in solo or group work? We will learn to practice the how of performing.”

a dawn


To walk the city. To walk the hills. To walk the chalk pit; to see and be seen; to perceive and to be perceived.

To disappoint and command expectation through the weigh of each step.

The body as it stands still occupies and consumes space; it formulates a spatial code which conducts and enquires.

The weight of breath as it is pushed through eth solid heavy air that engulfs.

A memory:

I stood. Still on a hill top. The wind consumes my body. It took it and allowed it to rest. I stood for what seemed like years; willing the wind the hold me still. A gaze cast to the sea, feet cemented in the heather field. I watched. The land form took passages of flight; the sand dunes erupted in imminent storms; a passage only of stillness.

I continued to stand.

 i stood

Rain now.

It battered and bruised; angry and fierce; a passion that would not relent. An energy that waited and waited to allow equilibrium.

I stood.

In harmony; in disharmony; in anxiety; in calm amongst the symphonies of the lands which commanded.

A slow start. From the gut. a swift fall to the soft ground which waited. Moments that demand all training; all dance leaves the conscious mind; instead I conduct a dialogue with the elements which consume me. Mirror the rain; not to impersonate but to embody the living experience and to demand that the experience can resonate through the body; such command cannot know boundaries of time and limitation.

A hurling; throwing; contorting; roaring. To ask a question simply to appreciate complexity and allow freedom from it,. To cling to the precious in suffocation to let it go.

To appreciate the impossible science of the uniqueness of being.

“What if every cell in the body has the potential to distinguish loyalty and disinterestedness (in the loyalty), at once?” ( Deborah Hay)

What if I can stand here and appreciate and remove the pride of appreciation; to gather and scatter; to notate and document and destroy.

“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience.
It isn’t more complicated that that.
It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is,
without either clinging to it or rejecting it.”
(Sylvia Boorstein)

standing still

To be aware that my body was on a hill in the middle of an unknown location making an effort to muddle through so many complexities; the dance; why the dance? The notation; the documentation; the photograph; the movement; the texture; the earth; the scene; time; weather. To stand and to appreciate the complexities of the uniqueness of the body in space and time.

sight stand still

Such internals struggles cannot be an outward performance. This was not a performance. This was a non linear dialogue; a form of healing to begin to understand something.

I have stood now in many places in this frame; I have walked many journeys alone to situate a place to explore this frame. This is a personal journey that does not invite critique yet allows me to begin understand.

“Do not try to become anything.
Do not make yourself into anything.
Do not be a mediator.
Do not become enlightened.
When you sit, let it be.
What you walk, let it be.
Grasp at nothing.
Resist nothing.”

(Ajhan Chah)

A language I can feel forming between my body and landscape. Landscape is studio; is hill; is bus stop; is gravel pit; is boat; I wish to explore how to embody a sentiment through non linear counter intuitive dialogue; this is an unknown; a space that allows for any potential; with no boundary or limitation

“What if my body has the potential to give me what I need” ( Deborah Hay )

The perception of the condition in which I exist; eth condition of the landscape which engulfs me and the time that passes me as I stand. The modes of perception which I can allow myself to fall into as I can form new perceptions and comprehensions of the lands I pass; this is specific reaction to time and space.

To consider active perception as a means to fully engage with the nature of space; with no expectation yet a moment of gratitude for the science of being. The role of the viewer to construct a frame work in which to construct a logic or non logic for an occurring action or non action.

The strangeness of human behavior when observed in the lab. I watch the action; a man jumps; a woman shouts; a symphony of bodies getting what they need? It is a training I am told to be able to perceive the situation in this way. I sit and I watch. A jump; a scratch; a leap; a howl; this is not improvisation; this is being; being here and in the present with no weight to perception holding back the past or concluding to the action of the future.

As we reflect; we cannot say “What HAPPENDED” there is no image; notation or documentation suitable to relay the experience. A doubt crosses my mind and plagues me; have we created an elitist experience; does it matter? A language in which we are all well versed; the language of the body moving or still in space and the feeling which can occur when the cells of the body are alert to the nature of time and space.

Effort. I have had to make a real effort on the small scale to allow my mind to perceive in such a way that has been difficult and almost impossible to understand. The here and now; to not relay the quality of experience but reflect on the scope for the potential of the generation of further experience. Effort does not exist in many ways now. We eat tinned food, we sit and type. We do not have crops and our effort to exist is minimal; is this why we are nation of obese work alcoholics? I run up hills; I cycle fast I hurl myself at hills; to feel tired. To understand effort and yet have not real need for this. Another thought which needs an action plan to sort.

A form of experience that defies classification or explanation of human behavioral form; an encou8ntyer with anew mode of perception that allows a lightness and new sensibility to the existence of the body in space and time.

Back to the hill.

Exhausted and beaten by the wind and rain; and understanding of the body; yet to be formalized into words.

“What is it that binds you?
You are not bound by any chains now.
Is it just the thought that you are bound that binds you?
Mental chains can only be broken by mental effort.”
Zed (slightly edited)

To realize that all decisions can be made in a moments of such clarity and focus; strength and in weakness; to hold what is dear; dear; to let go of uncertainty and feelings which pursue negativity.. all through the perceptive modes of the body in space and time.

“Do not pursue the past.
Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is.
The future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is.
In the very here and now, the practitioner dwells in stability and freedom.
We must be diligent today.
To wait until tomorrow is too late.”

(Bhaddekaratta Sutta)

start here ( / )

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