The latest work from choreographer Antony Hamilton is called Keep Everything. He describes it as a sort of choreographer's scrapbook, a series of orphaned ideas and characters that, over the years, never quite found the right project.
At first glance, this conceit slots itself snugly into the kind of easy career narrative that busy arts writers adore: an artist on the cusp of middle age, clearing the creative decks before he launches into the next phase of his artistic life. In May this year, Hamilton became a father – of twins. At about the same time, to his surprise, he was awarded a Creative Fellowship for an established artist by the Australia Council. All the pieces seem to fit.
Unfortunately for busy arts writers, the complicated reality of an artist's career is never that simple.
"I think I was hoping it would be like that," he says, when asked if this latest work anticipated a decisive break. "But it's harder to escape from yourself than you think."
Although the project began as a forum for ideas that Hamilton still felt had merit, but which he hadn't had the chance to develop, new ideas quickly emerged and took over.
"If I'm really honest, though," he says, "I don't think a lot of the old stuff got into the piece. New things emerged. I ended up not being as attached to the things I'd brought with me."
He says now he isn't worried so much by whether his work looks like a decisive artistic progression to others.
"I'm still satisfied by what feel like large jumps. To the outside eye they might not look like these enormous leaps, but that's because most of it is happening in here," he says, tapping his brow.
Keep Everything attempts to convey something of the absurdity that Hamilton sees as integral to contemporary dance. "It's full of sketches and strange characters. It's very personal material, but I wanted also to show the fun energy that goes into the development."
The theme of absurdity points to one of the more subtle movements in Hamilton's recent work, the move from abstract, almost architectural forms, toward something more consciously human. "Like I'm recognising I'm a human, not just a choreographer," he says. He points to his last major work, Drift, as being an important transition piece, a work set among the enormous concrete forms beneath a freeway, a space into which a naked human form intrudes.
Yet there remains in his attitude a persistent resistance to open humanism, which manifests in this latest work as a tension between novelty and nostalgia, as the new ideas colonise old longings, overriding their claims upon the body.
"I think what happens is that a new landscape is created each time you start a new work, and no matter how much you want to do those things that you thought were important, other things grow out of them. And the new thing, it probably still has a kernel the old, but it's adapted to a new landscape."
In a sense, all of Hamilton's work appears to share this submerged nostalgic origin. He cites his favourite movies from childhood as ongoing influence. "I'm forever influenced by my favourite films. It's like I'm forever trying to create the best dance version of Escape from New York by John Carpenter," he says, laughing. "It's kind of ridiculous, but it's true. I've never nailed Aliens yet, if you know what I mean."
His first major independent work, Blazeblue Oneline, emerged from his early obsession with urban hip-hop culture. Then there is the ongoing influence of Michael Jackson, which he maintains, half jokingly, is his first point of reference, even to this day.
But then, against this, the defining characteristic of Hamilton's choreography is probably its rigour, its fierce discipline. There is nothing baggily nostalgic about the result.
"I am scared of what comes out if I let go," he says, explaining his perfectionist approach to movement, "like my life."
You can see a wariness about nostalgia's potential to inhibit creativity in his attitude to the hip-hop tag which he is sometimes stung with.
"I sort of can't stand the implied hip-hop connection," he complains. "It bugs me because I've moved so far beyond that, I don't consider what I do has anything to do with hip-hop. It just happens that I was interested in the topic when I was younger and really got into it. And the information is still in my system. So what comes out is not a conscious reference to that genre or style, it's like a relic in the body."
Keep Everything also marks a Antony's first collaboration since 2000 with his rock-star brother – Julian Hamilton of Presets fame. Both of the Presets, Julian and Kim Moyes, are providing a soundtrack. Robin Fox will be providing video, while Benjamin Cisterne does the lights. Out front will be performers Benjamin Hancock, Lauren Langlois and Alisdair Macindoe, three extremely versatile dancers who are working together here for the first time.