Choreographer Deborah Hay’s archive goes to the Harry Ransom Center

[Press release Oct. 13, 2021, HARRY RANSOM CENTER] 

Award-winning choreographer Deborah Hay has established her archive at the Harry Ransom Center, a major destination for the study of dance and performance at The University of Texas at Austin. A founding member of the Judson Dance Theater, Hay is recognized as a pivotal figure in the development of post-modern dance.

The archive constitutes more than 60 boxes of material spanning the full breadth of her life and career, including films, music, letters, diaries, photographs, production files, dance scores, interviews and manuscripts for her published books.

Born in New York City in 1941, Hay first learned to dance from her mother, Shirley Goldensohn. In addition to her work with the Judson Dance Theater, she toured Europe with Merce Cunningham in 1964. In 1980, she formed the Deborah Hay Dance Company. Her works, including “The Man Who Grew Common in Wisdom,” “The Match,” “If I Sing to You” and “Figure a Sea,” have toured nationally and internationally to critical acclaim.

Attributes of movement training and agility are not ignored in Hay’s choreography, yet the foundation of her work is based on experiments with perception in which a personal daily practice of a dance replaces the traditional values inherent in a rehearsal (i.e., achievement, exactitude, perfection).

“I cannot think of anything else in my life where there is so much unlearning and learning happening at the same time,” Hay said.

Her choreography sometimes extends to written “scores,” literary texts that serve as extensions of the embodied performance. Not to be confused with dance notation, which offers a written way of reconstructing choreography at a later date, the scores are intended to continue the process of questioning and exploration that began with the choreography.

“Deborah Hay’s archive is unique among dance archives,” said Eric Colleary, the Ransom Center’s curator of performing arts. “She has consistently documented her work in ways that go beyond the typical film recording or press release. You can see the daily process and practice of one of dance’s most celebrated choreographers. Engaging with her archive is a deeply embodied experience.”

“What my body can do is limited,” said Hay. “This is not a bad thing because how I choreograph frees me from those limitations. Writing is then how I reframe and understand the body through my choreography.”

Hay was one of the inaugural recipients of the Doris Duke Artist Award in 2012, and she was awarded the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Artes et des Lettres from the French government in 2015. She was featured in a 2018 exhibition on the Judson Dance Theater at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and selections from her archive were presented as an interactive “documentation center” curated by French dancer and scholar Laurent Pichaud for the multi-venue 2019 retrospective of Hay’s work presented by Tanz im August in Berlin. She is the author of several books including “Moving through the Universe in Bare Feet” (Swallow Press, 1975), “Lamb at the Altar: The Story of a Dance” (Duke, 1994), “My Body, the Buddhist” (Wesleyan, 2000) and “Using the Sky: A Dance” (Wesleyan, 2019).

“Libraries have not played much of a role in my life, a pitiful story better told in person,” Hay said. “Thus the invitation to be included in the Harry Ransom Center collection is both ironic and humbling. The honor swells as I become aware of the treasures housed in the Center’s extraordinarily well-conceived and designed features and the inherent order within its walls. And yes, may my papers add to the lifetime of any independent artist and others seeking some tricks for survival.”

The Deborah Hay Papers are open for research at the Harry Ransom Center. Questions about the collection can be sent to

Review (Sept. 30, 2021): "Deborah Hay explores the body's movement patterns - but backwards"

"Deborah Hay explores the body's movement patterns - but backwards"

(Review of "Horse" by Deborah Hay, published in Dagens Nyhetter. 2021-09-30)

(Excerpt from the EN translation:)

"The world premiere of "Horse, the solos", danced by the Cullberg Ballet at the Stora teatern, is like a seven-man solo and much more magnificent and sublime than dance, writes Josefine Wikström.

What does a dance that does not want to look like a dance look like? Or rather, what does a dance look like that does not contain synchronous steps in time to music, recognizable dance styles or movements, nor is it traditionally structured with solos, duets and ensemble dancing?

Deborah Hay's new work "Horse, the solos" performed with the Cullberg Ballet and with a world premiere at the Stora teatern in Gothenburg, is an unusually successful example of this. The difficulty with this tradition is that art can easily appear as either unformed and formless or as an expression of a naive anti-modernism. But in Hay's exhaustion of dance as language and convention, this seven-man solo becomes something much more grand and sublime than dance.",sc

"Horse, the solos"

Choreography: Deborah Hay

Music: Graham Reynolds

Costume: Behnaz Aram

Lighting design: Minna Tiikkainen

With: The Cullberg Ballet

Location: The Grand Theater

November/December 2021 in Barcelona, Spain: CONSTELLATION Deborah Hay with Ballet Culberg


"The American artist, who broke new ground in dance in the 1970s and became a touchstone for later generations, will perform for the first time in Spain. She will present four pieces, two of them with Cullberg, Sweden’s most international ballet company.

Project co-funded by the Creative Europe Program of the European Union as part of DANCE ON, PASS ON, DREAM ON."

MERCAT DE LES FLORS, HOUSE OF DANCE, Lleida, 59, 08004 Barcelona

Season: 2021-2022

Figure a Sea (2015)

December 2 to 4, 2021

The Match (2004)

November 27-28, 2021

My Choreographed Body, Revisited (2015)

Dec. 4, 2021

A Lecture on the Performance of Beauty

Dec. 3, 2021

About Cullberg:

The Cullberg premieres the performance of HORSE, THE SOLOS, Sept. 2021

The public premiere of Cullberg Company's Horse, the solos, a collaboration with choreographer Deborah Hay, composer Graham Reynolds and Swedish light designer Minna Tikkainen 

About the dance:

Cullberg is the national and international repertoire contemporary dance company in Sweden, continuously co-creating to make cutting edge dance relevant for the many. Together with interesting choreographers and their teams from all over the world, we are exploring ideas on how dance can be defined, produced and presented. Those explorations are the pillars of a company that is constantly in motion at the heart of the international arena. Always challenging, always relevant.

”Horse, the solos is choreographed in a manner that relies on an intuitive understanding of risk, efficiency, and survival. There is control in efficiency but not risk-taking. Combined they establish the conditions for Horse, the solos” -- Deborah Hay

Stora Teatern, Gothenburg, September 29, 2021 at 7:00 PM

Deborah Hay Workshop rescheduled now for Oct. 4-8, 2021, Oslo, Norway

Monday Oct 4 – Friday 8, 2021

Workshop Oslo, Norway

The Prepared Body

Skuespiller – og danseralliansen “The alliance for Actors and Dancers” (short SKUDA),

Contact: Rudi Skotheim Jensen /