Fellows Focus – Antony Hamilton

5 September 2012 Fiona Mackrell

Acclaimed dancer and choreographer Antony Hamilton looks more tradie than ballet, braced against the cold in his beanie and black puff jacket sipping his coffee. His arms move expressively as he talks. He taps out complex syncopated rhythms on the table. He traces the brickwork with a finger as he explains the potential of video mapping and simply lifting his cup draws consideration of existential questions such as where do I begin and end.

It seems he can’t help but physicalize the provocations that intrigue him and turn them into choreographic expression. He’s fascinated in how the body can be used to create sculptural effects, the way thoughts read on a dancers’ face and the exploration of abstract constructs in movement.

His choreography requires exceptional skill and concentration from the performers but his work goes beyond dance. He’s fastidious about the details: the texture and movement of the costumes, the soundscape and lighting effects. And he’s experimented with incorporating visual and installation art elements too, using the dancers’ movements to trace shape and line. It’s the sort of approach that’s had him hailed as one of the most thought-provoking and innovative makers of contemporary dance in Australia.

Hamilton started out in ballet switching to contemporary dance while at WAAPA. Midway through his third year he grabbed the chance to join the Australian Dance Theatre in Adelaide. Then in 2002 he took another leap, moving to Melbourne and going independent. In the past ten years he has had near continuous demand, performing and creating work with the likes of Lucy Gurein Inc. and Chunky Move and developing his own work such as the critically acclaimed Black Project 1 and Drift.

2012 has been a big year for Hamilton, not only with the addition of twins to his family but with presentations of his work with Melanie Lane Clouds above Berlin in Perth, Melbourne and at the Sydney Spring Festival and of his commission for Chunky Move Keep Everything. With Australia Council funding he’s spent five-weeks in the early phase of development for a new work and been awarded a commission as part of the Screen Dance Initiative. He has also received an inaugural Creative Australia Fellowship for an established artist.

The Fellowship’s emphasis on supporting artists as they explore new creative directions and innovative interdisciplinary practices is providing Hamilton with the means to collaborate with other innovative artists in the form of two-week intensives. He will also attend the Impuls Tanz dance festival in Vienna next year.

Each of Hamilton’s proposed collaborators inform aspects of his interdisciplinary approach. German performance artist Ivo Dimchev’s confronting surreal performance art has been very influential for Hamilton and he wants to learn more from him about how it is devised. With Melbourne based visual and street artist Ash Keating, he hopes to create a dancework that has a painted outcome. Hamilton is working with Amsterdam based, non-functional garment designer Lucy McCrae to create costumes that will make different pitch and tonal sounds forming part of a new work’s soundscape. Then with renowned industrial designer Boris Tellegen (aka Delta) Hamilton hopes to devise ways to further use objects and sculptural elements in his work.

‘I’m a bit of a hermit as an artist,’ Hamilton says of what influences him. ‘I tend to work in a bit of a bubble.’ With the Fellowship process however, he’s hoping his collaborators offer up things he hadn’t considered. After all, he says, ‘That’s kind of the point.’

Image: Antony Hamilton Credit: Diane McLeod