Reorganizing Ourselves is two 60-minute performative lectures: A Continuity of Discontinuity by Deborah Hay, and Alva Noë’s See me if you can!, framed by a participatory salon-style think tank discussion facilitated by dance curator Michèle Steinwald afterwards.

Reorganizing Ourselves is made possible in part by the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards program.

Reorganizing Ourselves is made possible in part by the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards program. - See more at: http://acttheatre.org/Tickets/OnStage/ReorganizingOurselves#Details

Noë’s previous talks have connected understanding and presence, equating what we know to what we see, and defining a pluralistic view of understanding through judgmental, perceptual, and practical modes, and attributing concepts as abilities. “Presence,” as he claims, “is something we do as fully embodied experience in social situations.” His concepts of ‘skills of access’ break down into active looking, engaging, and thinking as keys to understanding, bringing our thought practice back into the body, noting intuition and instinct as integral components. As he reassures us, “the brain is not alone. Consciousness is something the body does not the mind.” He states that “we need a new way of thinking of presence, seeing isn’t pictorial, our perceptual consciousness extends to that which is hidden, to that which is excluded, hidden behind other objects… we need a new way of thinking of presence as access, as availability.” The correlation can be made between dance appreciation, understanding and corporeal communication and this relating to presence. “Consciousness is not something that happens inside of us, it is something we achieve. Consciousness is not like digestion, it is more like dance, and like anything we do or achieve, like dance, it depends on a dynamic interaction on our larger bodies, on our larger environment dependent capacities, on our emplacement in a landscape of a particular kind, and indeed on other people as well.”

Noë’s new research expands these notions to dance, choreography, presence and consciousness, as an exploration of the questions, What is art? Why does it matter? to bring out the philosophy in choreography and the art in philosophy. This material will perfectly support Deborah Hay’s lecture that maps out her research from the 1970s on to today. Hay combines the integration of a rudimentary understanding of cellular biology, with her early assumptions about herself, her phases of learning, and a multitude of excerpts taken from her dance notebooks which illustrate and enumerate the choreographic questions that have guided her methodology and kept her and generations of dancers engaged with the material of performance. Hay explains, “My body is capable of so much more than what it can do. For example, the range of sound coming from the piano was more or less constant until John Cage created the prepared piano by introducing different objects that were placed between or on the strings, hammers or dampers. These outside components altered the piano’s harmonics and added a whole new gestalt of sound to the world of music.  In a similar way the dancer who performs my work has a prepared body although I do not mean movement training, physical strength or prowess. A question, crafted by me, is introduced and infiltrates every cell in the dancer’s body. The attractiveness of the question redirects the dancer’s attention away from her/his inherently choreographed body making room for a different mode of performance behavior to arise. The visibility of this altered behavior is experienced in direct proportion to the dancer’s willingness, practice, and experience in investing the body with an intelligence that makes use of the question by constantly returning to it. The prepared body is necessary to my choreography and the performance of that choreography, even before my dances are made.”

Michèle Steinwald has an impressive assortment of curatorial, institutional, artistic and educational bona fides. But the fact is, she’d much rather talk to you about Deborah Hay, about Rosas' Bartok or maybe Jan Fabre. Maybe you’d like to hear about the punk and dance convergences that shaped her young career, or her thoughts on dance as practice rather than product? She could also tell you a story about this one time, when she was 19, a controversial shot of her in Jana Sterbak's meat dress got front page play on all Arts' sections of Canadian newspapers, the same day that they were covering Martha Graham's death.

Since retiring as a dancer and choreographer, Steinwald has managed performing arts projects and professional development programs for On the Boards (Seattle), New England Foundation for the Arts/National Dance Project (Boston), DanceUSA (DC), and the Deborah Hay Dance Company (Austin). She joined the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis) in October of 2006 as Assistant Curator for the Performing Arts and remained in that role until summer of 2013. She is on the boards of the National Performance Network (New Orleans) and Movement Research (NYC). She has served on panels for the NEA, MANCC, NPN, McKnight Foundation, USA Fellows, and been an artist mentor for Creative Capital's retreat and Arts Midwest's ArtsLab. She graduated from the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance at Wesleyan University in 2013 and presented her thesis at Envisioning the Practice: Montréal International Symposium on Performing Arts Curation last April. She is currently an independent curator and dance producer living in Minneapolis.


Alva Noë is a writer and a philosopher living in Berkeley and New York. He works on the nature of mind and human experience. He is the author of Action in Perception (MIT Press, 2004); Out of Our Heads (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2009); and most recently, Varieties of Presence (Harvard University Press, 2012). The central idea of these books is that consciousness is not something that happens inside us, or to us. It is something we do. Noë is just finishing a new book on art and human nature called Strange Tools. He received his PhD from Harvard in 1995 and is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a member of the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Center for New Media. He previously was a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has been philosopher-in-residence with The Forsythe Company. Noë is a 2012 recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, and is a weekly contributor to National Public Radio's science blog 13.7: Cosmos and Culture. 


Deborah Hay was born in Brooklyn. Her mother was her first dance teacher, and directed her training until she was a teenager. In 1964, Hay danced with the Cunningham Dance Company during a 6-month tour through Europe and Asia. She was one the founding members of the Judson Dance Theatre in New York, and is acknowledged by critics and historians as one of the most relevant and influential choreographers of experimental dance today. She shared with her Judson colleagues a conflict with the manufactured distinction between dancers and non-dancers. 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 during her time with Judson.

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 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 Hay focused almost exclusively on solo dances such as The Man Who Grew Common in Wisdom, Voilà, The Other Side of O, Fire, Boom Boom Boom, Music, Beauty, The Ridge, Room, performing them and also passing them on to noted performers in the US, Europe, and Australia. Also, My Body, The Buddhist, her third book was published by Wesleyan University Press, 2000. 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 five New York City choreographer/dancers and then for seven French dancers of comparable experience. The Festival d’Automne, in Paris, presented The Match in 2005, “O,O” in 2006, and If I Sing To You, in 2008, which was commissioned by The Forsythe Company and which toured extensively in Europe and Australia. In 2009 The Toronto Dance Theatre premiered her work, Up Until Now, and in 2010 Lightning premiered at the Helsinki Festival, a dance for six Finnish dancers/choreographers.

In 2007 Hay received a BAXten Award. “Your experimental work has remained alive & contemporary over four decades, inspiring your colleagues and peers and now - new generations of choreographers & performers. Your sustained commitment and your willingness to change course provides an example for others. Your articulate writing on the body and dance has had a profound impact on the field.”

In October 2009 Hay received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Dance from the Theater Academy in Helsinki, Finland and in 2010 she was awarded a US Artist Friends Fellowship and a 2011 Artist’s grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. In 2012, Hay became one of the 21 American performing artists to receive the inaugural and groundbreaking 2012 Doris Duke Artist Award.

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, curated by Annette Carlozzi for the Blanton Museum in Austin, TX. The installation also travelled to Yale Art Museum in New Haven, CN.

Hay, in collaboration with Laurie Anderson, is now working on an evening length work for 21 dancers, Figure a Sea, commissioned by the Cullberg Ballet in Stockholm, Sweden. It premieres September 25 - 28, 2015.