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