Interview with Antony Hamilton – RISING 2024

Rising Festival 2024

Artistic Director and co-CEO of Chunky Move

Interview by Chris Duncan

Antony Hamilton was appointed Artistic Director and co-CEO of Chunky Move in 2019. His choreographic work examines the elemental and primordial nature of the body, set against intersecting narratives that explore past, present and future. He often employs a sophisticated melding of movement, sound and visual design to collaboratively imagine complete worlds, and develops new choreographic languages to occupy them.

This week, Chris Duncan had a chance to catch up with Anthony to discuss You, Beauty which will be part of RISING Festival 2024.

“You, Beauty” presents a unique intersection of physical space and movement. Can you share what initially inspired the concept of using a giant undulating inflatable within the historic Immigration Museum’s Long Room?

Anthony Hamilton: Many of the works I make for Chunky Move involve experiments with materials to create new performance experiences. A few years ago, I undertook a studio collaboration with photography and visual art duo Honey Long and Prue Stent. We were working on developing a choreographic workshop experience designed for children. Honey and Prue proposed experimenting with an inflatable as a pop up space for activities. Sadly that project never eventuated, but the inflatable stuck, so I owe the inspiration largely to their imaginative contribution to that project.

How do you see “You, Beauty” as a continuation or departure from previous works you’ve directed at Chunky Move? What makes this piece stand out in your artistic repertoire?

Anthony Hamilton: In relation to most of my other works for Chunky Move, it is a departure. Many of my works explore the dynamic of larger ensembles. A democratic influence often emerges in these contexts, with all the dancers sharing an equal volume of presence and work to perform. The sense of the individual in these works often becomes reduced, with the collective being central. You, Beauty is a duet, and becuase of the intimate and proximal relationship in a duet, the studio creation more easily gravitates towards the myriad dynamics found in the relationship between two individuals. Where You, Beauty continues in relation to other works I’ve made for the company, is in the convergence of creative elements to develop a complete world, with the space, clothing, light, sound and material elements carefully crafted together to make a whole experience for audiences.

The performance involves dancers interacting with both the inflatable structure and each other. Could you describe the process you used to choreograph these interactions? How much was improvised versus tightly choreographed?

Anthony Hamilton: You, Beauty is fairly tightly blocked in terms of scenes and choreography for the dancers, and so is the manipulation of the inflatable. One of the biggest challenges with this work was understanding the physics of the inflatable with varied amounts of air in it, and mastering the control of its movements in order to develop a consistent pathway of actions throughout the performance to support the dramaturgical arc of the work. The dramaturgical arc for the performers relationship is more character driven than in other works of mine. Most of my works are however a blend of human experience in the embodiment of the performance while also being formally and technically choreographic.

The choice of the inflatable structure and the specific location in the Immigration Museum seems integral to the performance. Can you discuss how the materiality of the inflatable and the architecture of the Long Room influence the overall experience?

Anthony Hamilton: Sometimes technical problem solving can be the driver of context, and then creative solutions need to be found to match the context. The Immigration Museum was one of many locations we had earmarked for possible presentation. We knew we wanted a space with a sense of character, and its own history. We didn’t want a black box. All spaces have different energies. We also needed a space large enough to accomodate both the inflatable and a sizeable performance area outside the inflatable. It also had to fall inside the RISING festival precinct map, so there were a few conditions.

In the end, we feel like we have the perfect space for this work. It has incredible acoustic properties, and a lot of personality.

“You, Beauty” is described as both cavernous and intimate. How do you balance these dynamics in a live performance, and what do you hope the audience feels or takes away from this experience?

Anthony Hamilton: With this performance, it was quite natural to play with the proximity of the performers to the audience, and the way the audience is organised in the space allows for this to be emphasised. The inflatable also create these very large scope transformations of the space. So, it is never really one space you are in. It’s always becoming something else. Live performance is extremely sensory and three-dimensional. I always want to maximise this sensory experience for audiences, and for it to be a transformative experience for them.

The show is referred to as a “love letter to dance histories and futures,” distorted by material borders and the passing of time. Can you elaborate on the themes of historical and future connections in dance that you are exploring through this work?

Anthony Hamilton: This description is very personal to myself and the ensemble of two that I am working with. We each have a story and relationship with dance. Even our yesterday is a history with dance, and tomorrow a future. It’s a way of saying that dance is all around us in our timeline. As You, Beauty is a significant creative departure from more recent works of mine, maybe it signifies a dimensional leap between times and places.

What have been some of the most significant technical challenges in creating “You, Beauty,” particularly in working with the inflatable structure within a confined historic space?

Anthony Hamilton: The two biggest technical challenges have been ensuring we allow enough audience capacity inside the inflatable and having a very minimal technical components with lighting and vision, so as not to disrupt or incur on the austere beauty of The Long Room.

The performance allows for audiences to be ‘swallowed’ by the structure. How important is audience interaction in this piece, and what role does it play in the overall narrative or experience?

Anthony Hamilton: Audience interaction is fairly minimal really, but like all performance, audience attention is critical. Like most performance, audiences will have a better time if they allow their senses to guide them. There is plenty in the work to capture people’s imagination.

Anthony Hamilton Bio

Antony has been the recipient of major fellowships from Bangarra Dance Theatre (the Russell Page Fellowship), the Tanja Liedtke Foundation, the Australia Council for the Arts and the Sidney Myer Foundation. In 2013, he was Resident Director of Lucy Guerin Inc and in 2014 was guest dance curator at The National Gallery of Victoria. He was also the inaugural International Resident Artist at Dancemakers Toronto from 2016 to 2018. He has created numerous national and international commissions, including Keep Everything and I Like This for Chunky Move, Black Project 3 for The Lyon Opera Ballet (FR) Sentinel for Skanes Dansteater (SE) and They Want New Language for La Comète (FR).

Antony has received four Helpmann Award nominations, winning for Black Project 1 & 2, and Forever and Ever (Sydney Dance Company). He has won numerous Green Room Awards and has also received a New York Performing Arts Award ‘Bessie’ for Outstanding Production for MEETING.

In his time as Artistic Director at Chunky Move, Antony has premiered new works including Token Armies (2019), Universal Estate (2019), Yung Lung (2022), Rewards for the Tribe (2022), AB_TA_Response (2022) and 4/4 (2023).

For more information and tickets, visit the RISING festival website

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