Paula Lay: the making of 10,000 small deaths

Performer and choreographer Paula Lay is currently completing a Masters of Fine Arts (Dance) under scholarship at the VCA where she is researching the experiential body in performance. This month, as part of Dance Massive, Dancehouse presents 10,000 small deaths – a solo dance performance by Paula which she has been bringing together since 2010.

10,000 small deaths initially came from a piece of poetic text that I had written inspired by a dream about thousands of fireflies all burning brightly above a massive lake.

The fireflies begin to gradually fall until they submerge beneath the surface of the lake, their beautiful light fading away. There was something about this image and its reference to the cycle of life and death that I have come back to quite often during the making of the work.

The passing of time is something we constantly deal with as humans and is of great interest to me. Our perception of time, and time passing, can change depending upon state of mind, context, and our relationship to it. We often perceive time to be very linear but it’s much more cyclical and this feeds into my thematic and choreographic concerns.

10,000 small deaths.
10,000 small deaths.

The making of 10,000 small deaths has been a fragmented creative process. There was an initial 2-week development period in 2010 followed by small pockets of time in the studio thereafter. But it wasn’t until the Underbelly Festival in 2013 and then undertaking a Masters of Fine Arts (Dance) at the VCA in 2013-2014 that I was able to complete the work.

I often work solo for a large portion of my time. This may include being in the studio, writing and researching, using video for feedback and then at key moments during the process various collaborations shift into the foreground.

As we moved closer to the public presentation there was a much stronger focus on synthesizing and integrating the video and film, sound. lighting and the performance itself.

The fact that it has been quite a drawn out process has allowed ideas to evolve organically and find a depth that perhaps wouldn’t have been as attainable in a shorter period of time.

It is very exciting to be presenting the work as part of the upcoming Dance Massive 2015 season and I hope that the work opens up a space for the audience to contemplate the delicate nature of being, in its simultaneous banality and profundity.

10,000 small death runs at Dancehouse from Friday 20 to Sunday 22 March 2015.


A version of this article originally appeared on Channel, the Faculty’s previous publishing platform.