Photo - Byron Perry
Having been on the receiving end of graffiti several times, I have always found the practice of tagging rather annoying and ugly. This is not to say that all street art is a nuisance, but it exists in a world and demographic to which I do not relate.
Blazeblue Oneline by Antony Hamilton attempts to merge this practice with dance and there are plenty of similarities between the two activities to make for interesting exploration. I have to admit that I left the show with a greater appreciation for the skill and art involved in tagging, even though I don’t plan to dive into that world myself. I really enjoyed the highly charged energy, humour and stylized recklessness of the show.
While Blazeblue Oneline does explore this street art/dance connection in some effective and entertaining ways, as an overall viewing experience and full length choreographic work, it operates more as a big, fat, loud assault (in a good way) on the senses. It has a distinct boyish ethos and moves at a mile a minute. It is a piece for the attention deficit generation, bred on video hits, video game and hyper-stimulus. It is filled with art made on the spot, cartoon and comic book references, boys enacting fighting rituals in aluminum foil props and a large, robot like costume made of cardboard squares that moves with a casual ease, considering its materials. Blazeblue Oneline begs to be seen by huge scores of teenagers and would be great to tour to that demographic to introduce them to or engage them deeper with physicality of dance.
Two upright walls stand corner to corner on a white floor - a blank canvas ready to be taken over, inhabited, and covered with designs. Dance music pumps and lights blare as if in a nightclub. A performer eventually appears and executes a meticulous and large tag repeatedly on a wall. It’s a complex web of lines and squiggles, yet he recreates it perfectly each time. This gives way to a duet by Hamilton and Luke Smiles in fluorescent track suits who dance through a fluid mixture of contemporary and hip hop movements. An equally intriguing duet by two cardboard boxes (yes, boxes) that move in unison and look like they are break dancing - spinning around, flicking up a corner, shaking - is pretty wild. Eventually the stage is cluttered and the walls are covered with tags and pictures. It is a crazy playground littered with toys, clothes, rubbish and paint.
This could easily be a big mess, but Blazeblue Oneline succeeds for a few reasons. Firstly, Hamilton and Smiles are just really good performers. They are fully trained classical/contemporary dancers, but can also take on that more innate, less refined street style that this show demands. Also, the show moves from segment to segment at a good pace. It has an appealing sense of dynamic and flow and there is always a new surprise around the corner. The connection between the street art and dance is tenuous at times, but certain moments really work - the most impacting being when Hamilton sprays a design on the wall and Smiles dances the curves of the moniker with his body. In another duet, the two boys finish lying down, facing the wall and pull white strips of tape off the wall. As the tape slowly zigzags off the wall, it leaves a large, ornate, blue design. The boys end up buried under a jumble of unfurled tape. It’s a great image. There are many effective sections like this, most of which would not be nearly as clever without the enhancement of Byron Scullin’s sound design and Paula Levis’s costumes (especially in the case of the cardboard robot).
In terms of continued development, there is further for the dance/street art theme to go and perhaps a more rigorous intertwining of the main elements. Having said that though, it would be a shame for the show to lose its illusion of haphazard craziness which so well characterizes that male sensibility that Hamilton has managed to bottle up, place on stage and let explode like a giant water balloon. This energy, combined with all the aural and visual stimuli is Blazeblue Oneline’s biggest strength. It is rare that a contemporary dance piece leaves its audience with such a tangible, sensory experience, even down to the toxic smell of the spray paint fumes and the beats of the music ringing in our ears way past the curtain call.
Antony Hamilton presents
Venue: Arts House, Meat Market
Dates: Wednesday 30 April – Sunday 4 May 2008
Times: Wed – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 6pm. 50 minutes – no interval
Bookings: www.easytix.com.au/artshouse or 03 9639 0096
More info: www.artshouse.com.au