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My Body, The Buddhist

Deborah Hay

Publication Year: 2013

Through a series of imaginative approaches to movement and performance, choreographer Deborah Hay presents a profound reflection on the ephemeral nature of the self and the body as the locus of artistic consciousness. Using the same uniquely playful poetics of her revolutionary choreography, she delivers one of the most revealing accounts of what art creation entails and the ways in which the body, the center of our aesthetic knowledge of the world, can be regarded as our most informed teacher.

My Body, The Buddhist becomes a way into Hay's choreographic techniques, a gloss on her philosophy of the body (which shares much with Buddhism), and an extraordinary artist's primer. The book is composed of nineteen short chapters ("my body likes to rest," "my body finds energy in surrender," "my body is bored by answers"), each an example of what Susan Foster calls Hay's "daily attentiveness to the body's articulateness."

Published by: Wesleyan University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xviii

Introducing Deborah Hay’s body-as-Buddhist. Such an agile body, capable of lightning-quick transformations—floppy then precise, always deft, full of buffoonery and deadly serious in its commitment to each gesture. It gallops, swaggers, tip-toes, and falls gently backward into the embrace of space. ...

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pp. xix-xxii

They are loved, the many friends in Austin who have supported my work with small and large favors that over time have become priceless gifts. Constant, whether I am away from Austin for long periods or at home, drawn to the comforts of my low profile apartment, ...

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pp. xxii-xxvi

Alone in candlelight one evening several years ago I made a list of the most valued teachings learned from my teacher, my body. I wanted to itemize, to see a written account of the practical wisdom I have discovered while experimenting with my teacher as guide. Each of the eighteen lessons is a chapter title in My Body, The Buddhist. ...

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1 my body benefits in solitude

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pp. 1-3

I lie on the floor in the corpse pose, called Shavasana in yoga. Wherever I am the dance is. Instead of dancing wherever I am, I choose the time and space to play dance. This is equilibrium, and motion. Several minutes pass before I remember even to notice that my thoughts are going yacketta, yacketta, yack—even after three thousand corpse poses. ...

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2 my body finds energy in surrender

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pp. 4-8

Playing Awake 1995 was a four-month movement/performance workshop for sixteen untrained and trained dancers, held in Austin, Texas. It concluded with the premiere of my heart in April 1995. In May I began the most integrative phase of the choreography—extracting a solo from the group dance material. ...

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3 my body enjoys jokes, riddles, and games

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pp. 9-15

The group dance 1–2–1, performed at DanceHouse, in Melbourne, Australia, in September 1996, contained a ten-minute sequence that strongly appealed to me right from the beginning. It was characterized by a tight, unpredictable musicality, suggesting acolytes in ludicrously formal worship. ...

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4 my body engages in work

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pp. 16-19

On February 15,1996,I brought twenty-four tall,glass-encased candles, purc hased at a Latino grocery store in Park Slope in Brooklyn, into the dance studio at Skidmore College. I wanted to create a soothing atmosphere for the first evening seminar.* ...

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5 my body commits to practice

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pp. 20-23

Each new performance practice signifies a conscious re-invention of my mind. Beginning with a puzzlingly simple feeling of integration experienced while I am dancing,I attempt to articulate and then devote myself to exploring and measuring the consequences of this fleeting logic. ...

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6 my body seeks comfort but not for long

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pp. 24-26

In February 1995,Linda Montano asked seven Austin dancers to participate with her and Ellen Fullman in a seven-hour memorial for her guru who had recently died. Linda used her voice in memory or celebration of each of the seven chakras. Ellen Fullman played her longstringed instrument,an installation consisting of 120 strings, ...

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7 my body is limited by physical presence

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pp. 27-29

A dance is choreographed. It is performed. If a dancer or choreographer is lucky,there will be several public performances. Most dances have a weirdly limited lifetime. The hours I have spent on stage performing dance add up to less than a single year. My body is limited by physical presence. ...

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8 my body knowingly participates in its appearances

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pp. 30-48

Avenue,three blocks from the state capitol in Austin,T exas. The theater was on the second floor of a two-story building. Its aesthetic similarities to performance lofts in New York City were a comfort to the choreographer. Three days after the performances ended,the choreographer packed her bags and flew to Acapulco to visit a friend. ...

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9 my body likes rest

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pp. 49-52

I received help. October 1, 1996, a driver of a black sedan, courtesy of the Rockefeller Foundation, met me at Malpensa Airport. I had left Melbourne, Australia, twenty-four-and-a-half hours earlier. After fifteen months on the road, my luggage was too much to cart anymore. ...

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10 my body is bored by answers

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pp. 53-82

I was never drawn to participate in sacred dance classes. I feared my irreverence, cynicism, and snobbery. Little did I realize that my problem was linguistic. Sacred dancing is redundant.

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11 my body seeks more than one view of itself

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pp. 54-58

So I wasn’t surprised when praying surfaced. As far as I know, very few of my peers have been smitten with similar holy journeys within the context of experimental dance. It is generally understood that we veer away from this subject matter altogether. Finding myself with the task of exploring spiritual values in the avant-garde dance ...

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12 my body delights in resourcefulness

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pp. 59-63

She is looking for a job, her preference is to work on a one-to-two year performance project with an inspired, innovative theater director. A generous annual wage would compensate her commitment to explore the body as a window onto metaphysics, myth, pathos, humor, sound, history, horror, ordinariness, poetry, nature, and dance. ...

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13 my body trusts the unknown

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pp. 64-73

The I Ching, an ancient Chinese book consisting of sixty-four oracles, was the single source of guidance to which I referred for choreographic direction before the start of my four-month workshop, Playing Awake, 1995. To consult a hexagram, three coins are tossed in the air six times. ...

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14 my body feels weightless in the presence of paradox

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pp. 74-77

When the music starts the dancer hears an appeal to exit. In so doing, she notices she is also entering. The two experiences are as inseparable in life as they are occurrences in her body. The weight of the past mingles with the weightlessness of becoming. ...

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15 my body equates patience with renewal

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pp. 78-81

More than a year of work-related commitments would have me on tour from May 1996 through September 1997. I was playing whatever cards I could to ensure financial stability, and thus my attention was drawn to opportunities outside of Austin, the city where I live. ...

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16 my body hears many voices, not one voice

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pp. 82-96

Choreographer's Note: Some of the movement descriptions may seem incomplete. It is because at times my capacity to differentiate between one movement, mine for example, as being more appropriate in the moment than one of the dancer’s seems unreasonable. ...

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17 my body relaxes when thoughts abate

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pp. 97-98

The three dances are dedicated to Cynthia Jean Cohen Bull who died September 27, 1996. Cynthia Jean Cohen Bull was a dancer, choreographer, anthropologist, researcher, teacher, and producer. She practiced an uninterrupted, open-minded inquiry into all types of dancing. ...

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18 my body is held in the present

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pp. 99-102

There are no tickets or reserved seats. I don’t know where the dance performance is and I am not to look for nor anticipate the location. The choreographer whose work I am about to see suggests that the small group consisting of her audience/patrons apply her frame of reference for seeing dance before we leave home. ...

a chronicle of performance practices by Deborah Hay

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pp. 103-104

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about the authors

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pp. 134-137

Deborah Hay is “an experimentalist in soul and body” (New York Times) and “a phenomenon capable of expanding and diversifying the language of movement in the most striking and unexpected ways” (Dance Australia). Her choreography, from exquisitely meditative solos to dances for large groups of untrained and trained dancers, ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780819574527
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819564368

Page Count: 133
Publication Year: 2013