I Hear Motion: Hamilton Brothers talk ‘Ruth’

At first glance it might appear that the worlds of chart topping techno pop and the often conceptual domain of contemporary dance could meet only in a rehearsal space; perhaps with dancers warming up or down. However, this would not be the case in the Hamilton household.

As they proved back in 2012 when they debuted Keep Everything with Chunky Move, brothers Antony and Julian Hamilton bridge the divide between award winning choreography and multi-platinum album sales. Now, in 2015, the brothers are back as part of the Campbelltown Arts Centre’s I Can Hear Dancing programme. Their new, multi-room collaborative work, Ruth, will kick start a season of choreographer/musician collaborations that will feature some of this country’s finest creatives, including Bree van Reyk, Deborah Brown and Lucy Phelan.

Antony & Julian Hamilton Ruth

Antony & Julian Hamilton’s new project, ‘Ruth’. Photo courtesy of Antony & Julian Hamilton.

Since the notion of collaboration sits at the heart of I Can Hear Dancing it is appropriate to ask how it is that siblings go about the co-authoring process, given their obviously shared history. Musician Julian takes up the cudgels first, stating, “Antony and I both work with a lot of other people outside of working together and whilst there’s certainly a brother relationship there and we have an unspoken language and shared taste in music and art and film, I don’t know how much of it is two brothers working or whether it’s just two artists working. Maybe a little bit of both.”

For choreographer Antony the challenge of working with his musician brother is one of familiarity. “The fact that we have shared taste doesn’t necessarily make it easier. It kinda makes us a bit too comfortable maybe, whereas we both really like to push beyond what we know.”

Having made his fortune with The Presets in the radio friendly world of the 3:20 pop tune, Julian Hamilton clearly finds the more austere world of dance both liberating and challenging. “It’s tricky in that generally when I’ve been asked to make music for dance I’ve been asked to make it simpler,” he explains. “Y’know, do less. Less sound, less melody, less development; whereas when we’re making pop songs or techno things the music has to be interesting by itself.”

The art here, of course, is for the brothers Hamilton to bring their separate muses together for a combined purpose. “At the start of the process though we did spend quite a bit of time together in the studio sorta nutting out ideas,” Julian recalls. “It was me at a piano and Antony standing next to me trying to work out music and movement together; which was certainly very different for me.”

Antony & Julian Hamilton's Ruth

A shot from Antony & Julian Hamilton’s latest project ‘Ruth’. Photo courtesy of Julian and Antony Hamilton.

Indeed, as it has evolved over its lengthy two and a half year gestation period, Ruth has encouraged the brothers to nudge at the limits of form. Although it began life in the regulation ‘black box’ it eventually split off into multiple, smaller spaces. As Antony Hamilton says, “One of the challenges I was facing was the whole linear aspect of things; y’know, that whole beginning, middle, end thing and the expectation of a dance work taking roughly an hour. As a maker you’re slightly forced into that framework; but what if you wanna make something that doesn’t last an hour? What if you want to make five to ten minute self-contained pieces?”

Given that, the multi-room solution fitted the bill perfectly and has since augmented the overarching mood of Ruth. “It’s kind of narrative in a way because it does revolve around two characters, or two human like people; but it’s quite fragmented by the changing rooms,” Antony observes. “It’s kinda like a dream, when you step into a different space and the previous one is just gone.”

For brother Julian the shifting scenes have, perhaps surprisingly, made little impact on his composition. “But I guess now that you mention it, I could sorta go back and investigate how that might work,” he half jokes.

Via its dream-like, surreal narrative Ruth investigates ideas about intimacy, anxiety and vulnerability. In addition, it promises to represent the Hamiltons’ creative partnership as superbly as Keep Everything did, coalescing sensibilities from pop, dance and high culture into a moody and evocative work of art in motion.      

‘Ruth’ will be presented on Friday and Saturday July 24 and 25 at Campbelltown Arts Centre as part of ‘I Can Hear Dancing’. For tickets visit www.campbelltown.nsw.gov.au/Dance.

 By Paul Ransom of Dance Informa.

Photo (top): Brothers and collaborators Julian and Antony Hamilton. Photo courtesy of Julian and Antony Hamilton.

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