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Experimental Body

Five dancers get to grips with the complex work of US choreographer Deborah Hay

Five dancers and one director are staging work by influential experimental choreographer Deborah Hay. One of the founder members of New York's Judson Dance Theatre, her work continues to speak to contemporary performers. Solo dances will be performed by Ella Clarke, Cindy Cummings, Emma Fitzgerald, Julie Lockett and Áine Stapleton, in an evening directed and designed by Jason Byrne. Ella Clarke brings us up to speed.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT HAY'S WORK THAT APPEALS?

Her work challenges the judgements which limit how we identify the physical body in time and space, and broadens the traditions that are currently prevalent in dance. Her experimental work has remained alive and contemporary over four decades, and her writing on the body and dance has had a profound impact on the field.

HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM YOUR USUAL ENCOUNTERS WITH CHOREOGRAPHY?

Hay's work is fundamentally different in that, instead of reciting a pre-ordained series of movements, the performer responds to a complex series of tasks in relation to his or her noticing of time and space. It's designed to engage the performer on several levels of consciousness at once.

DO YOU REPRODUCE THE MOVEMENTS FROM SCORES?

Yes, we are working from scores -- very intricate, complex and detailed, difficult and beautiful scores. Each of the choreographies has a blueprint, notes for the performer, a structured series of impossible tasks that define the dance, and a central performance practice in the form of an unanswerable question. In my experience, Deborah's work is unique in her method of writing choreography.

IS IT UNUSUAL TO HAVE A THEATRE DIRECTOR INVOLVED?

Jason's skill and understanding in his work give him the tools required to frame these pieces. It is an artist's process, and not necessarily the genre they work in, that is pertinent in the creation of work. To name a performance as theatre or dance is often an editing of what one sees, a statement of political allegiance and sometimes, but not often, a necessary definition. He is the right artist for the job. - SC

House of Crossed Destinies runs 'til Saturday, February 6th, at the Project Arts Centre. See www.projectartscentre.ie for more information


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