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Tenacity of Space

CN D - Centre national de la danse
2018 - Director : Centre national de la danse, Réalisation

Choreographer(s) : Hay, Deborah (United States)

Present in collection(s): CN D - Spectacles et performances

Video producer : Centre national de la danse

Integral video available at CND de Pantin

en fr

Tenacity of Space

CN D - Centre national de la danse
2018 - Director : Centre national de la danse, Réalisation

Choreographer(s) : Hay, Deborah (United States)

Present in collection(s): CN D - Spectacles et performances

Video producer : Centre national de la danse

Integral video available at CND de Pantin

en fr

Tenacity of Space

Deborah Hay never became attached to a language. In Tenacity of Space, this pioneer of postmodern dance continues her fundamental work on practice as a way of expanding the dancer’s horizons. With the DANCE ON dancers, she sought experimental conditions that would make it possible for them to give expression to their experience in space. The title of the piece came by chance from Jim Crace’s novel Harvest, which describes the cataclysmic transformation of an agricultural community. Tenacity of Space was created against the backdrop of the election of Donald Trump and the movements of Syrian migrants, which Deborah Hay, who sees dance as her form of ‘political activism’, has responded to through pure movement, an almost ‘Buddhist’ movement that starts out from the visual field of each dancer. After working with performers of every level, the American choreographer has concentrated on experienced dancers. With DANCE ON, she has found seasoned partners. She is particularly preoccupied with the issue of age: ‘I had to find another way of pursuing what I wanted to do that was not connected with physical endurance or virtuosity.’ To the latter Deborah Hay has preferred sober simplicity and a search for what dance can be when proven effects are set aside. Tenacity of Space epitomises her. She quotes Gaston Bachelard’s Poétique de l’espace: ‘Immensity is within us. It is linked to a sort of expansion of being that life restrains and that prudence checks.’

Source: program of the CND

Hay, Deborah

Deborah Hay was born in Brooklyn. She trained in the 1960s with Merce Cunningham and Mia Slavenska. In 1964, Hay danced with the Cunningham Dance Company during a 6-month tour through Europe and Asia. She was also sharing with her Judson colleagues the artificial distinction between trained and untrained performers. She focused on large-scale dance projects involving untrained dancers, fragmented and choreographed music accompaniment, and the execution of ordinary movement patterns performed under stressful conditions.

 In 1970 she left New York to live in a community in northern Vermont. Soon, she distanced herself from the performing arena, producing Ten Circle Dances, performed on 10 consecutive nights within a single community and no audience whatsoever. Thus began a long period of reflection about how dance is transmitted and presented. Her first book, Moving Through the Universe in Bare Feet (Swallow Press, 1975), is an early example of her distinctive memory/concept mode of choreographic record, and emphasizes the narratives underlining the process of her dance-making, rather than the technical specifications or notations of their form.

 In 1976 Hay left Vermont and moved to Austin, Texas. Her attention focused on a set of practices ("playing awake") that engaged the performer on several levels of consciousness at once. While developing her concepts she instituted a yearly four-month group workshop that culminated in large group public performances and from these group pieces she distilled her solo dances. Her second book, Lamb at the Altar: The Story of a Dance (Duke University Press, 1994), documents the unique creative process that defined these works.

 In the late 1990’s Deborah Hay focused almost exclusively on rarefied and enigmatic solo dances based on her new experimental choreographic method, performing them around the world and passing them on to noted performers in the US, Europe, and Australia. Also, My Body, The Buddhist, her third book, was published. It is an introspective series of reflections on the major lessons of life that she has learned from her body while dancing. 

 In 2002 Hay made a decision to apply what she had learned from 30 years of working with mostly untrained dancers to choreographing dances for experienced dancer/choreographers. In 2004 she received a NYC Bessie award for her quartet The Match. In 2006 she choreographed O, O for 5 New York City choreographer/dancers and then for 7 French dancers of comparable experience. 

 After a two year research collaboration with Motion Bank, a project of the Forsythe Company directed by Scott delaHunta, an online interactive website dedicated to Hay's choreographic aesthetics was launched in June 2013. One outcome of that collaboration was Hay's first museum installation, Perception Unfolds: Looking at Deborah Hay's Dance.

 May 5, 2015 France's Minister of Culture and Communication awarded Hay the title of Chevalier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres.

Source : Déborah Hay’s website

More information: 

Centre national de la danse, Réalisation

Since 2001, the National Center for Dance (CND) has been making recordings of its shows and educational programming and has created resources from these filmed performances (interviews, danced conferences, meetings with artists, demonstrations, major lessons, symposia specialized, thematic arrangements, etc.).


The DANCE ON ENSEMBLE embodies our central aim: to show how dance as an art form benefits from experienced dancers.

Whereas only young bodies are associated with beauty and virtuosity  on stage, DANCE ON is formulating what will hopefully be a trend-setting  perspective for the development and presentation of the artistic  potential of mature dancers. The added physical intelligence, confidence  and expressiveness of the latter arise from lived experience. In  addition to sound knowledge of numerous dance techniques and  choreographic styles, mature dancers also have in-depth awareness of the  impact of their own bodies in movement.

As from 2019 Ty Boomershine will be responsible for upcoming artistic direction of the DANCE ON ENSEMBLE.

Tenacity of Space

Artistic direction / Conception : Deborah Hay

Artistic direction assistance / Conception : Avec le collaboration artistique de Jeanine Durning et Ros Warby - En collaboration avec Ty Boomershine, Amancio Gonzalez, Brit Rodemund, Christopher Roman et Jone San Martin

Choreography assistance : Katharina Rost

Interpretation : Ty Boomershine, Jeanine Durning, Brit Rodemund, Christopher Roman, Jone San Martin

Original music : Mattef Kuhlmey

Lights : Tanja Rühl, Patrick Lauckner

Costumes : Judith Adam

Production / Coproduction of the choreographic work : Coproduction tanzhaus nrw, ADC-Association Danse Contemporaine Genève. Cofinancé par le programme Creative Europe de l’Union Européenne, dans le cadre de DANCE ON, PASS ON, DREAM ON. Avec le soutien de NPN, en coproduction avec Fund for Dance, le Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, German Bundestag. Spectacle créé le 24 mars à tanzhaus nrw, Düsseldorf.

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