Chunky Move celebrates Hancock’s Princess
Dancer and choreographer Benjamin Hancock talks to Rachel Cook about his latest work for Chunky Move, Princess.
In one of Benjamin Hancock’s more unusual performances, he played the Red Queen and delivered the coin toss at an AFL game between Hawthorn and the Sydney Swans in Hobart as part of the art and music festival Dark Mofo.
In his current work as part of Chunky Move’s Next Move program, Hancock has continued with the theme of royalty, with the performance simply titled, Princess. There is much Hancock feels he can explore with this theme and much of it is to do with the legacy of paying tribute to his past teachers – considering Hancock has been dancing since primary school, he has had more than a few mentors along the way.
[Image] The Red Queen delivers a coin toss unlike others the AFL have ever seen
Starting off with competing in the Eisteddfods, once Hancock hit his teens he began taking dance classes at high school. He also studied karate and gymnastics, but while his love of moving and being physical was strong, he found he didn’t enjoy the competitive nature of those sports and so dance won out. His talent was obvious to his teachers and one of them suggested he look into the School of Dance at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and for Hancock, this was a turning point.
“Something struck me when I went to the open day in 2005, when I was about 18 or 19 and I really liked it,” he says. “I knew I was interested in making and creating things but I wasn’t sure how to yet and then I went to the VCA open day and I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
Hancock’s piece Princess is the only preexisting work that is being presented in Next Move’s program titled, It Cannot Be Stopped. Princess was originally created for the Melbourne Now festival at the NGV.
Anthony Hamilton, who was the guest curator of the Melbourne Now dance program, invited Hancock to perform there after seeing his roaming performance work at MONA FOMA (Museum of Old and New Art: Festival Of Music and Art) in Hobart.
“I wanted to start pushing my practice and Anthony Hamilton suggested I bring out a bit of my roaming performance work into my solo work.
“I was trying to think of how do I do that without making it too sexy. In a club atmosphere you can play with gender more, and how you look and dress and I wanted to find a mature way of doing that in this work [Princess]. It’s all about challenging gender and what is masculine or feminine and I want to play with that scale.”
Watch: Hancock delivers an AFL coin toss as the Red Queen
Returning to the idea of honouring the legacy of those who have taught him, Hancock says the premise of the work is about being someone whose inheritance strongly influences and contributes to the practice they perform.
“I thought of the idea of inheritance and so with a princess that’s about the kings and queens that came before them and that relates, in the sense, to those who taught me and who’ve influenced me. How do I use all their information in my body but make it my own.”
Hancock’s CV is impressive. From the esteemed dance company Lucy Guerin, to his current work with Chunky Move, he is forging a strong name for himself in the dance world.
However, outside of that he works with 2nd Toe Dance Collective. The collective formed from a need for young dancers to have a platform to create work on an ongoing basis. Part of the group’s program is to work with high school students.
“We formed in 2006 and we made our first work called Something Blew,” Hancock says. “Our main structure has been working with high school kids and we also did a youth project with Chunky Move, which I costumed designed too.
“We also presented a solo project where we all made works about what family means to us.”
For many artists the reality of subsidising yourself via waiting tables or working in retail is inescapable, but for Hancock that reality was short-lived.
“I did that when I was at uni, but it was just too stressful and if it’s going to be stressful, I’d rather keep it in an all creative practice.”
And so this means being able to move between being a dancer and a choreographer:
“It’s about putting on your own works and currently there is a big interest in solo making and putting on your own works.
“I think when it comes to opportunities at the moment there are some dance companies you may only be doing the one project with, and so you have to find other ways to be creative.”
[Main image] Benjamin Hancock.
Princess is part of It Can’t Be Stopped, Chunky Move Studios, 111 Sturt St, Southbank, June 20 - 29, 2014. chunkymove.com.au