Deborah Hay, photo by Rino Pizzi
I really wanted to like Deborah Hay’s No Time to Fly, which opened at Danspace Project on Thursday evening. Hay, who danced with Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1964 and was a member of the experimental Judson Dance Theater, has always been interested in investigating different levels of consciousness. Unfortunately, I found myself frustrated by her evening-length solo and unable to sink my teeth into her exploration of the ephemeral nature of dance.
Wearing black pants, a white collared shirt, and a beret, Hay gently shifted her weight, swayed, and stretched her limbs as she created different patterns along the floor of St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery. The dimmed lighting, by Hay’s collaborator Jennifer Tipton, cast a sleepy, mysterious haze over the space. Silence was broken by Hay’s whispered singing or chanting, or the occasional mouthing of inaudible words. She performed with a frustrating sense of hesitancy, never truly committing to one movement or another. If dance is fleeting, why approach it with such delicate caution? The result was a string of evanescent movements that were gone all the more quickly because they were performed with apparent tentativeness. I hope the solo was fulfilling for Hay as an exploration of dance’s “ephemeral existence” – as the program noted – but as a performance it lacked commitment and intention.
Dance, no matter how fleeting, can potentially have a lasting impact for both the viewer and the performer, but perhaps the performer has to believe in dance’s enduring, non-ephemeral abilities for this to be true.