Blazeblue Oneline

In Antony Hamilton’s debut full-length work, even the title, Blazeblue Oneline, has a cheekily obscure but rhythmically exact quality. The tone is vigorous and brash, masculine but childlike and when mysteriousness creeps in, it isn’t long before things pop back into multicoloured joy.

Hamilton’s concept for the piece began with a desire to meld dance with visual art. It was, for him, a natural extension of two art forms that he has pursued side by side for years. Like the action painters of the 1940s and 50s, Hamilton is fascinated by the gestural implications of visual art. But in contrast to the likes of De Kooning, he is also interested in working in the opposite direction, starting with a picture and moving towards an action.

The focal point of the visuals in Blazeblue Oneline is graffiti. But rather than being a show about graffiti, Hamilton uses its aesthetic mainly as a cohesive agent for a panoply of set pieces. As with Shaun Parker’s debut, This Show is About People, there is a sense of directorial excitability in the sheer eclecticism of Hamilton’s work. Offered the gamut of time and space he has responded by creating a piece that flies with exuberance in any number of directions yet retains a tautness that keeps it from becoming indulgent or insubstantial.

The show starts with a remarkable sound and light overture that teams Luke Smiles’ rumbling drum’n’bass with Bluebottle’s perfectly timed splinters of light—revealing the architecture of the Meat Markets with a menacing sense of anticipation. It is an opening with all the thumping import of a call to arms and plants us firmly in an urban culture of jagged beats and solid walls.

Onto the stage steps a lone man. Secreted under a hoodie and facing away from us, he stands still, peering at the white wall in front of him. It is the artist facing a blank canvas, his nature eventually revealed to us only in the blue tags he swiftly marks on the set. Before we can settle in to the sombre oddness of it all, Hamilton’s whimsy emerges with an irreverent pas de deux for two up-turned cardboard boxes. Their movements, expertly steered by concealed dancers, have all the bounce and geometry of graffiti while also seeming to reference everything from Busby Berkeley to Tetris.

Hamilton, it would appear, isn’t going to take things too seriously and the audience giggles with delight when he and Smiles appear in rave-ready fluorescent leisure suits. They stand together, stillness interspersed with flurries of movement that match the off-centre choppiness of the grimy beats playing around them. The boisterous self-effacing mischievousness continues with an inspired segment of one-upmanship involving sheets of aluminium foil. Hamilton even throws in over-sized comic-book cut-outs, a laser sequence and a cardboard-clad Stuart Shugg as a Transformer figurine. It’s a melange that befits a boy’s bedroom: revelling in games and competition, in technology and self-expression.

Through all this playfulness, Blazeblue Oneline maintains the conceptual thread of integrating dance with visual art. Through the course of the show the set moves from a shiny white box to a surface carved up with looping curls and dripping angles. With sprays and markers, the dancers leave behind them a representation of action on the wall. At one point, Smiles and Hamilton sketch an intricately mirrored motif on the floor before teaming up to finish the job like a human inkjet printer.

Working in tandem with these visual manifestations of action, the show also extracts the lines and rhythms of its dance from what we see. Whether it is simply the preparatory shaking of an aerosol can writ large in the body, or the repeated outlining of a gesture, Hamilton’s choreography bears the hallmarks of graffiti. There is also a subtle recurrence of two-dimensional objects, such as cardboard, being given three-dimensional life and movement by the dancers. It is as though the flatness of visual art’s canvas is itself being reconstructed and reconfigured into the dynamic physical nature of dance.

Blazeblue Oneline offers up an appetising sense of what Hamilton will bring to his future works. It is clear that his personal capacity for expression sits comfortably with the creative forces he has gathered around him. The integration of music, lights and dance is almost seamless, with the distinct character of Hamilton’s vision always remaining clear. It is energetic, witty and charismatic. It is the work of a young choreographer who is clearly happy to play and the audience are more than happy to play along.

This article originally appeared in print in RealTime 85, June-July, 2008, page 35, and is reproduced with permission.