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Contemporary Dance You, Beauty Navigates Ideas of Scale, Movement and Horror

photography EVA OTSING
06 May 2024

Chunky Move has just announced their major production, You, Beauty, for 2024. Choreographed by artistic director Antony Hamilton, You, Beauty, is set to be performed in Melbourne’s Immigration Museum during Melbourne’s Rising Festival.

Hamilton’s productions have always challenged the relationship between humanity and their built environment. Pushing this idea further, You, Beauty explores tenderness and human connection while also navigating ideas of scale, movement and horror. Alongside a giant sculpture, performers Samakshi Sidhu and Enzo Nazario, will navigate the thematic thorns and throws of love.

Laura Tooby How are you doing, Antony?

Antony Hamtilon I’m well. I’m a little tired, but definitely excited.

LT This makes sense; it appears you’ve been busy! You have been preparing You, Beauty, which will debut at Rising Festival in June. I’ve read that dancers are swallowed by a giant structure and are transported into a surreal other world of song and dance. Can you tell me about the performance in your own words?

AH Well, this work is quite different from recent Chunky Move productions. Normally, we have an ensemble performing, but You, Beauty is performed as a duet. I think the thing that’s more in keeping with Chunky Move’s ‘offering’ is that there’s a disarming, immersive sense of scale in the room and throughout the experience. We’re working with this gorgeous inflatable pop-up theatre, which the audience spends half their time inside of. Through the course of the performance, there’s a sort of transformation and a transition from the outside of this inflatable structure to the inside. Inside the sculpture, it’s almost like being invited into someone's private room. So, it’s something akin to being a fly on the wall of a bedroom. There’s this playful tension between it being a private and public space.

LT I imagine the structure is quite large. How did you consider scale when constructing the work?

AH Scale really determines my thinking, especially when you’re in a room with two dancers together because it’s really just about them. I was getting pretty tired of thinking about the body as pure material, or the body in relation to the environment. With You, Beauty,I have introduced a little more vulnerability and softness. This has been a pleasure. The immense scale of the space itself amplifies the gentleness in a way. For instance, the smallest touch, like a hand on a face, really resonates. It’s something about the closeness amidst immense largeness.

LT Do you think this work is an extension of your 4/4 work from 2023?

AH Not really, actually. I have made works like this before, which have been much more surrealist in their presentation. But this one is a really different kind of language. There’s a whole range of theatrical crafting that I have also experimented with, which has been a bit dormant for me.

The thing that is very similar about this work to other Chunky Move works is that there’s a sense of completeness, in terms of the design, action and experience. It’s one of the things that we really focus a lot on in the company.

You, Beauty choreographed by Antony Hamilton

LT You mentioned that the work has been playful and pleasurable to make. How have the dancers contributed to this?

AH I believe there are some performers who, with every cell in their body, wish to be seen. Then there are other performers who are happy to just produce material to fulfil a creator’s vision. There are also some dancers who are very technical and who are driven to simply achieve certain technical feats. These dancers definitely fall into the first category, I believe they really desire to be seen. They also bring a whole suite of skills and personalities to the work.

Enzo plays piano and has a formal background in acting as well as dance. Samakshi is formally trained in dance, though she brings characterisation and voice and a clowning ability to the work.

LT How does the sculpture tie into the movement and themes of the work?

AH I think motion and movement in material things can suggest or echo the movement of many, many things. And this sculpture is quite an ambiguous object, really. It looks kind of like a pillow. It looks kind of like a cloud. It looks kind of like an organ. When you shine pink or red light through it, it certainly looks much more like a heart or some internal part of the body. But I think my approach to the movement of these things is related to my fascination over many years with the choreographic sensibility being placed on material objects. The dancers and materials of this work configure the scale and sensations together.

LT You’ve decided to present the work in the Immigration Museum; why did you choose this venue?

AH It was important that the space have character. We did not want a black box or an empty space. We wanted a space with history and its own story so that when we place our story inside, there’s a dynamic between them. We wanted a space that was living.

The acoustics of the room are also stunning for this work because there’s a heap of resonance in the room, which can be quite haunting and beautiful. One thing I can guarantee is that it will be a very sumptuous experience. One where the room feels like it’s holding you as an audience member.

You, Beauty choreographed by Antony Hamilton

LT   In You, Beauty, are there opposing or unglamorous expressions of love presented?

AH The complexity of power dynamics in relationships is explored just as much, for sure. In the work, there is an exhibition of emotional manipulation and its tumult. The visceral nature of the body—the sweat, the tears and the blood rushing through us—holds a lot of truth.

There is also an element of this work that is tethered to sexuality and how the body is placed to behave with another. Between these bodies, there is pleasure and beauty but horror as well.

LT Can you tell me a little more about this horror?

AH I think that everyone’s perspective, at any moment, is like a thin veil. We can easily find an experience that we once enjoyed or felt at peace with quite terrifying. I think that people who experience anxiety know the feeling of being at peace and in comfort and then suddenly being terrified or anxious. It’s kind of like the sensation of having the rug pulled out from under you.

It also exposes situations that could generate pleasure or, equally, claustrophobia or nervousness.

LT And I suppose different people in the audience will bring their different readings of this based on their histories. Where are you hoping to take You, Beauty?

AH The company and I want this work to have another life after this season, so we’re very hopeful that it gets continued. I hope it kind of lingers for audiences. I hope it can be moving or cause a shift in some way.

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SEE ISSUE #06 HERE. The theme for this issue, Revelations, delves into the unfiltered aspects of life. It’s an appreciation and exploration of raw beauty, where authenticity reigns supreme; the unconventional is not just accepted but celebrated. In a world of manufactured perfection, this issue chooses to validate our quirks and idiosyncrasies. After all, they are what make us inimitable.

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