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Deborah Hay : Solo
Performance Engineers : Larry Heilos; Witt Wittnebert

October 13; 23, 1966

Performers: Lucinda Childs, William Davis, Susanne De Maria, Letty Lou Eisenhauer, Walter Gelb, Alex Hay, Deborah Hay, Margaret Hecht, Kathy Iverson, Jim Jardy, Julie Judd, Olga Kluver,, Bob Schuler, Carol Summers. Cart controllers:  Franny Breer, Ed Iverson, Michael Kirby, Vernon Lobb, Fujiko Nakaya, Steve Paxton, Bob Rauschenberg, Joe Schlichter, Marjorie Strider. Cart controllers conductor: James Tenney. Music: "Funakakushi" by Toshi Ichiyanagi. Performed by: David Tudor. Men's Costumes: Letty Lou Eisenhauer.  Prototype of platforms: Witt Wittnebert. Platforms were a collaborative building project: Mechanical work: Larry Heilos Electrical work: Witt Wittnebert.

Deborah Hay performance. Photo: Adelaide De Menil.jpg

Deborah Hay's piece Solo

Artist Statement:

Solo is a white, even, clear event in space. The performers are part of the space and light. They continue the quality of the area – a white environment. All movement is with the intention of maintaining a balance of order and evenness.


Solo is cumulative, gradually accumulating more light, more platforms, more performers, more activity – yet remaining as still and composed as in the beginning.

There are 24 performers. Eight of the performers remain stationary. Formally dressed, they are seated as a musical ensemble. From this position they operate eight remote control platforms, which move in and around the space. Sixteen of the performers also move in and around the space, sometimes on the platforms.

Bright lights around the stage area are strongly reflected by the white costumes of the 16 moving performers. The extreme intensity of light bouncing off the costumes modifies the lines of the human body. At times there are no lights. I am interested in creating a middle ground between seeing and not seeing.


The principal visual elements of the piece are moving performers, lights, darkness, remote control platforms, and movement. It is my main intention to make all these elements equal in energy and visibility.

Solo was a tightly choreographed dance with specific rules for dancer and remote-controlled cart movement in relation to the performance area and to each other. Debbie Hay wanted her piece to be white and even. So the performers wore simple white costumes and, and the dance moved at a slow, even pace, with the carts moving slowly about the floor, with dancers either walking or riding on a cart.

Solo begins with an reference to music.  Eight performers formally dressed in black take their seats in eight chairs like a musical ensemble and Jim Tenney stands in front of them as the conductor. Each “musician” holds a controller device, a box with a joystick they could use to control the direction and movement of one of the eight remote- controlled carts. On Tenney’s signal, the work starts.  A cart enters from the right carrying a performer.  The dancers enter either walking or riding on a cart.  The work gradually accumulates more moving carts, more performers, more activity -- yet remains as still and composed as in the beginning.  Sixteen performers, dressed in white, move singly or in groups, sometimes performing choreographed movements. They interact with the carts, standing, or lying on them. The dancers entered either walking or riding on a cart, and then walked or rode on the carts in solo, duet or trio formations. The whole space was filled with changing patterns of dancers, carts, light and sound. 


From time to time the lights in the armory went out, and after a few second came back on, revealing that the dancers had continued to perform in the dark. Several large clear sheets of vinyl were hung in front of the audience, causing the image of dancers to ripple as they moved across the stage behind the sheets.


The sound for Solo was a two-track reduction of Funakakushi by Toshi Ichiyanagi, originally an 8-channel work composed for eight outdoor stone speakers on Shikoku Island.  Hay described the effect she wanted, "The sound had to travel, it needed space to flow and disappear.  The source had to be dispersed and undefined."  To achieve this effect, David Tudor moved the sound from speaker to speaker using the proportional control system.  He moved a small pen-light flashlight over a board divided into 16 squares, which had under each square a light-sensitive photo-resistor, connected to a frequency and amplitude-sensitive proportional control receiver.  The position of the light determined which speaker was receiving sound, and the amount of illumination -- the closeness of the light to the surface of the board -- determined the level of the sound.


The carts and the remote control system were designed and built by Larry Heilos and Wit Wittnebert so that the carts could carry a performer, and they could move in any direction, backward, forward, or in a circle.

Preparations & Technical Elements


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