Token Armies at Melbourne International Arts Festival
When you enter an environment populated by varied lifeforms, animated machines and a set that itself seems to pulse and breathe, you know you’re not in traditional dance territory.
This visionary creation throws every rule to the wind, and is the first work created by Antony Hamilton since taking up the helm of Chunky Move.
Token Armies is a symphony of action, image and sound, and a collective experience through which audiences will make their own journey. Featuring a leviathan sculpture by Creature Technology Co.—the renowned creators of works such as King Kong and Walking with Dinosaurs—this immersive spectacle explores the way labour becomes ritual and opens up opportunities for a future humanity. Bio-mechanical forms alongside an ensemble of 23 performers query the boundary between the living and the inanimate.
Rosie spoke with Executive Director of Chunky Move Kristy Ayre about why this work is their most ambitious project to date and how it will change the future of dance. Read the full interview below:
Token Armies is Chunky Move’s newest work, and explores the boundary between humanity and the inhuman. What inspired the creation of this work and why did you feel this was the right fit for Chunky Move’s 2019 program?
For Token Armies, Artistic Director, Antony Hamilton sought to create a work that brings together varied lifeforms in a collective action. The work seeks a common language between forms and a sense of unified, focussed cooperation. Through a symphony of action, the work attempts to illustrate how important the idea of participation in a common endeavour is to the success of all life and ask questions about our sense of individual freedom amongst the collective.
We were eager for this work to launch Antony’s tenure as new Artistic Director of Chunky Move as this piece reflects the creative ambition and scale we expect from the company while providing our audiences with a truly unexpected and unforgettable experience.
The words ‘ambitious’ and ‘epic’ have been used a lot when speaking about Token Armies. What is it about this work that pushes the boundaries of contemporary dance?
The varied forms which are brought together in this work are extremely unusual in the context of dance performance. We have the largest cast of professional dancers (20) ever engaged on a work by Chunky Move and again, this is rare for companies within the small to medium arts sector in Australia. The collaboration with Creature Technology Company has been particularly special given the bulk of projects they’ve been known to work on previously have been big budget, commercial works such as Walking with Dinosaurs and King Kong.
Antony’s aesthetic is uniquely distinct and his body of work reflects a style that is visually intricate and rich in choreographic detail.
Token Armies is described as an immersive spectacle, a work that encourages audiences to move around and make their own journey. What sparked the decision to move the audience from their static seated position and how does this change the way we interact with the work?
As an audience member in Token Armies you become part of the environment of the work. It’s a way to encourage gentle participation for the audience by allowing them a certain level of agency. They are not however, required to actively do anything other than to observe the other elements within the space and contemplate their role within that collective environment.
What do you hope to achieve with Token Armies? What can audiences expect when they come to see this show?
I hope audiences will get a strong sense of this next chapter of Chunky Move repertoire. We want to deliver on our desire to create experiences for audiences that challenge their perception of contemporary dance performance and transform the way in which you can experience contemporary dance. Token Armies is an exciting major work that will set the tone for our next era of activity and we couldn’t be more proud to be premiering Token Armies in our home city for the 2019 Melbourne International Arts Festival.
As one of the Artistic Directors of Chunky Move, how do you see this company continuing to lead change in the contemporary dance sector? In what ways would you like to see this industry developing in the future?
Antony is the Artistic Director and I’m the Executive Director. We work together, along with Freya Waterson our Program and Touring Producer, to create a program of annual activity inclusive of the development and premiere of new major works and, the delivery of a year round public program of classes, workshops and interdisciplinary arts activities that are presented both on and offsite in partnership with other esteemed artists and organisations.
I’m very interested in the sustainability of careers in dance and how as a population, we can more deeply value the role of dance in Australia’s cultural landscape. Through every project we deliver at Chunky over the coming years we’ll interrogate the impact of our work and how it connects to everyday Australians in an intelligent an inspiring way. We’ll work to elevate the profile of Australia dance practice locally and globally through our activities.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
Favourite production you have ever seen?
Too hard.. so many.. but to name a few ‘Einstein on the Beach’, The Manganiyar Seduction’, ‘Miracle’ by Phillip Adams, ‘Meeting’ by Antony Hamilton and Alisdair Macindoe and Daft Punk’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl show in 2007.
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
Dream show to create?
I hope I haven’t seen it yet.
Plays or musicals?
A hobby you have beyond the theatre?
What’s next for you after this show?
Early next year we’ll be working with Japanese artists Contact Gonzo and hosting them in Melbourne for a choreographic workshop.
Token Armies is on at the Meat Market in North Melbourne until October 20. You can get your tickets here.