Finders Keepers

5 June 2012 | 6:24 pm | Paul Ransom

Melbourne-based contemporary dance superstars Chunky Move may be in transition but that hasn’t killed their sense of play. As choreographer Antony Hamilton tells Paul Ransom, their newest work is all about using what you find.

Hoarders have been prominent on the media radar lately; but Chunky Move's latest production Keep Everything has nothing to do with collecting junk. In fact, the Antony Hamilton-directed three-hander has more to do with 'allowing' than hoarding. “Spontaneity has always been a really good friend of mine,” Hamilton explains, “but often in my works I've skirted around what was happening in the studio. So, it was a revelation to me to keep the things in the show that were happening off the cuff in rehearsal, the things that people were doing almost as a joke.”

Keep Everything is a contemporary dance experiment with serendipity and creative happenstance. Although these are not new ideas in theatre they are less prevalent in the more exacting and often rigorously technical discipline of dance. As choreographer Hamilton reveals, “There's a human theatricality to the work, which is quite a divergence for me because I often work in a more architectural, formal way. But I'm quite sick of doing that… I really wanted to have a work that could be a forum for the expression of the performers and not be such a dictator.”

In Keep Everything Hamilton and his cast (Benjamin Hancock, Lauren Langlois, Alisdair Macindoe) are looking to explore playfulness and improvisational ingenuity. As well as 'keeping' rehearsal room inventions the show uses props that Hamilton loosely describes as “bits of rubble”. In this there is a reverence for the creative elasticity of child's play. “It's very much like children when they're given an object,” Hamilton observes. “They can turn it into anything, they can really make a creation and a fantasy world out of very little and I'm really inspired by that.”

However, Hamilton is quick to admit that the piece doesn't have a rigidly structured narrative. “I'm a big believer in the audience defining the narrative,” he declares. “I try and make work that's powerful and evocative with lots of strong imagery but which can remind you of lots of different things. But y'know, I still think that you need clarity in the work, a crafted form.”

Indeed the challenge for choreographers is how to work narrative into an avowedly non-literal artform. How can dance tell a story without lurching into mime or didactic pastiche? Antony Hamilton's take on it is clear, “Its subject matter is itself, absolutely; particularly if you're talking strictly structural choreography that deals with time and space and body alone. But once you start to introduce dialogue, as this show does, you have the potential to stretch out time and have little semi-narratives going on… The discipline of dance is a very flexible one and it's very fluid in terms of its ability to sit alongside other forms of expression.”

For a young choreographer like Hamilton, scoring a commission from a prestigious contemporary flagship like Chunky Move is much more than a choreographic challenge. He admits to feeling the pressure; after all Chunky has an internationally-lauded back catalogue and a hometown fanbase that expects a certain quality. Fortunately for Hamilton he is already an experienced virtuoso, having won Green Room Awards and mounted acclaimed works at drive-in theatres. “I'm lucky that I'm confident enough to just go in with nothing and enjoy that 'empty' process, where I start with zero and go from there.”

After which, as the title suggests, he might just keep everything.

WHAT: Keep Everything Chunky Move

WHEN & WHERE: From Thursday 15 to Saturday 23 June, Chunky Move Studio