Deborah Hay has decided that 2012 will be the final year of Solo Performance Commissioning Project at Findhorn. She feels it is time to move on to a new and yet undefined process of making and sharing work with others. There is something a bit superstitious too in deciding to end the SPCP after 14 years. 14 adds up to 5 and 5 is her favorite number.

"Through her courageous choreographic and performance practice, remarkable language and immediate presence, Deborah has touched and stimulated the most essential places in my artistic expression, encouraging the integration of every aspect of my performing self with my dance. And here I remember the pleasure in dance. I experience an availability, a flexibility, a wholeness rarely evoked through any other form - touching on my child, adult, fool, craftsman, artist and essential nature - accessing a very alive and ready state from which to work." - Ros Warby, dancer/choreographer

"At a time in my career when I was feeling stagnant, Deborah's work reintroduced me to my own dancing; to dance as a living thing. Her gentle and powerful focus in teaching cuts through old patterns and internal obstacles with fierce intellect and compassion, leaving me amazed to discover myself. Learning and dancing Beauty was like having the top of my head opened to the whole sky." Emily Stein, dancer/choreographer

"Deborah creates an atmosphere with which one can playfully and thoughtfully study the phenomenon of performance while enabling one to freely learn through their own experiences, the subtleties and largeness of art-making and one's presence within it." Amelia Reeber, dancer/choreographer

"Deborah has taught me to notice the physical presence of my favorite things about being a human being, and that they themselves, not representations of them, can be the material for choreography because I am an agent for their physicality. To me, this really is an invention that I have never seen or felt before. And I feel it before I know it because of everything about the Solo Performance Commissioning Project: Deborah's choreography, her teaching strategies, the use of our time." Kathryn Johnson, dancer/choreographer



Dancers commission a solo dance from Deborah Hay. She guides and coaches them in the performance of the solo during an 11-day period in a residency setting. At the conclusion of the residency each participant signs a contractual agreement to a daily solo practice of the new piece, for a minimum of three months before their first public performance.

What is unique about this project is that the dancers must raise the commissioning fee from within his/her community. This becomes the selection process by which a performer attends the SPCP. Community, whether family, friends, local, state, or national granting agencies, corporations, become the patrons for each dance. All patrons receive program acknowledgment every time the solo is performed by any of the participating dancers.

From 1998 through 2002 Deborah Hay conducted the Solo Performance Commissioning Project on Whidbey Island, at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, in Washington State.

In August, 2004, the SPCP Helsinki was held in Helsinki, for performers from Finland and Northern Europe. Since August 2004 the SPCP has taken place at Findhorn, Scotland, and it will take place there again in 2011, from August 24 through September 2.




Deborah Hay's orientation to dance is activated by attention to practices of performance. In an intense learning environment she challenges the experienced performer with movement concepts that trigger multiple levels of perception at once. She choreographs the world "between" moments, where movement proclivity plays second fiddle to exercised inquiry.

With the Solo Performance Commissioning Project all participating artists commission the same solo dance choreographed by Deborah Hay.

Hay rarely demonstrates solutions to the choreography. Rather, she conveys her concepts through directives that each performer translates individually into movement in his/her unique way. As part of the process, the artist is bound to the material through meditation-like exercises that are applied throughout the choreographed dance.

In the latter half of the SPCP each artist is personally coached in his/her performance of the dance, with everyone present. Ultimately the solo is adapted by each performer through a period of practice that extends into the months following the project.

More About the Adaptation, 2011

The following thoughts are inspired by Igor Stravinsky’s “Poetics of Music in the form of six lessons” in particular Lesson #6, “The Performance of Music”. In some instances Stravinsky’s phrasing has merely been tweaked to accommodate my interest in further defining adaptation as a medium for the transmission of dance.

The performer who adapts one of my solo works calls into action 3 parallel roles: the dancer, choreographer, and the executant. Executant means “putting into effect the exact demands” which underlie the practice of performance of my movement material. Each dancer must be a conscious executant. At the same time the virtues of “fidelity and sympathy” with my choreographic preferences has to be felt. I run a risk every time my dances are performed because a competent practice of the work depends on the unforeseeable and imponderable factors that make up the performer’s virtues of fidelity, sympathy, and streaming perceptual challenges.

Every adaptation includes the execution of the specific, non-specific, yet easily discernible material within the written dance score that I provide. No matter how detailed or broad the language, between the written score and the performance are hidden elements that cannot be defined because my “verbal dialectic” is deliberately powerless to define the performer’s movement dialectic.

The significance of an adaptation includes the limitations imposed upon the performer by my choreography and/or the limitations that the performer imposes upon himself/herself.


Notes for the 2009 SPCP

In my 1998 introduction to the Solo Performance Commissioning Project (see below), I felt like I could promise artists a choreographed solo dance that would simply require a daily practice, otherwise called learning without thinking, for three months prior to their first public performance of the solo adaptation. I thought the SPCP would appeal to experienced performers who were terrified or overwhelmed with making or performing solo work.

In 2007 it was apparent that I needed to describe the barely recognizable yet quintessential transformation that takes place during the artist’s adaptation process. I wrote that assuming everyone is choreographed up the wazoo by culture, politics, gender, dance training, etc., a sustained and steady self-regulated transcendence of the choreographed body has to be exercised within the sequence of movements being practiced.

At the 2008 SPCP at Findhorn, Scotland, four solo adaptations, The Ridge (2005), News (2006), and 2 adaptations of The Runner (2007), were informally presented. The SPCP participants and a few members of the Findhorn community made up the audience. I saw four self-regulated transcendent solo practices of performance, yet little distinguished one dance from the other. Although the movement directions were different, each solo was performed with a similar dynamic and structural open-endedness, like four rivers without their banks. I realized that something more needed encouragement from within the adaptation process, and that is the aesthetic predisposition that brings each individual to the SPCP in the first place.

Just before the 2008 SPCP I asked, “what if dance is how I practice relationship with my whole body in relationship to the space where I am dancing in relationship to each passing moment in relationship to my audience?”

A house can be defined as a container for relationship. A house can be designed to animate or obscure relationship. The SPCP participant needs a house to reflect and enliven his/her practice of relationship while preserving the choreography. A sensitive integration of these three components,

1) the practice of relationship, or performance, or dancing,
2) the choreography, and
3) the house,

are paramount during the three month minimum solo adaptation process.

In my role as choreographer I provide the tangibility of a movement sequence and the intangibility of strategies to engage in the performance of that movement. The dancer/choreographer adds a house to frame the wizardry of his/her boundless perceptual activity. Aside from my strong suggestion to edit the choreographed material, i.e. let go of what does not work in the sequence of given movements, there are opportunities to costume, stage, light, add sets, and/or other media. These elements are to some degree the exterior architecture. Some of the solo adaptations I have seen have assumed this dimension, but ten years later it is time to get more explicit about this dimension of creativity within the formal construct of the solo adaptation.

Building a house ups the ante for the 2009 SPCP participant.


The Aesthetic Preferences and Artistic Orientation of the Performer in the Solo Commissioning Project Conceived by Deborah Hay (1998)

This list can help determine whether the SPCP is applicable to you as a practitioner of movement and/or performance art, including acting. Those not familiar with my work should consider each item and determine whether these attributes are ones either already familiar to you and/or ones you wish to conscientiously exercise.

_Your ability to laugh at your serious intentions at any given moment is a tool you like to remember to use.
_You have explored "self-expression" and found it limiting as a means to create performance continuity.

_You are drawn to explore movement in all its variety - either through a cultivated or ingrained absence of discrimination.
_You are not content with partial practice.

_You want your process to be continually challenged.
_Your respect for the intelligence of your whole body is unqualified.

_In performance, your non-attachment to professional training in dance or techniques in acting is a source of on-going insight, and delight.
_You are without fear of appearing foolish in your capacity to violate form in order to recognize where and why it exists.

_Integral to your experience of performance is an inclusive regard for the presence of your audience.
_You are becoming or already are skilled at monitoring your own performance.

What this means is you have developed a capacity to witness yourself from more than one perspective at once, not as a judge but a guide in the practice of attention.