Sally Clark caught up with Hilton Denis ahead of the Sydney season of Limbo Unhinged.
HILTON Denis is best known to Australian audiences as a Top 20 member of the inaugural season of So You Think You Can Dance – Australia, (2008). There he was promoted as a contemporary/hip hop dance hybrid, which was a gross underestimation of the skills of this talented, multi-faceted performing artist, who already had theatre (Showboat, Oliver) and movie credits (King Kong 2005) racked up.
Since then he’s continued to evolve his skills and is currently performing in Limbo Unhinged, the production described as “grungy vaudeville-meets-circus-sideshow”. Here he not only gets to showcase his versatility as a technical exponent of a myriad of styles – hip hop, tap, contemporary and acrobatics – but also has the opportunity to show off a few new circus skills he’s acquired for this production as well as the choreography he’s created for it.
And he’s excited. “Limbo Unhinged is a show that has it all,” exclaims Denis. “Circus skills, dance, acrobatics, live music, comedy and side-show skills, all merged into one crazy show. I get to incorporate all of my skills into the show, which keeps it very fresh and entertaining for me, and the audience, as well.
“For the creative development of the show, everyone had to be very flexible, open and able to work with a mix of people from all different parts of the world, including musicians, circus performers, dancers, side-show performers and more. We all had a great deal of creative input into the show and it was a very collaborative process. I was also able to help choreograph bits of the show as well. “This is a show that evolves with time – as circus is something that takes a long time to develop,” he continues. “So much has changed from the first show we ever did at Adelaide Fringe in 2015 [Limbo] to now. It’s amazing! We’ve built on elements of the show every day to make it more challenging and more thrilling for the audience while we’ve been on tour all around the world.”
The international cast for this production includes many artists from the original production: musical director – Sxip Shirey (USA); Mick Stuart (Aus) on drums; polewrangler and beatboxer – Mikael Bres (France); Heather Holliday (USA), billed as the sword-swallowing pocket-rocket, as well as Denis, but also introduces some new artists/talents to the line up. The show is directed by Scott Maidment, for Strut and Fret Productions and features costumes by James Browne (known in Sydney for his lavish creations for “Pacha @ The Ivy”). Reflecting on what he enjoys most about the experience of developing and performing in this show, Denis says, “I like the overall energy and reaction from the audience every night. The live music element and the blend of different skills from an array of artists also makes it very different from other shows I’ve seen and it’s very exciting to watch and be part of every night. I trained from an early age as a dancer, then was a self-taught musician and acrobat, so being part of a group of so many talented performers has allowed me to learn and grow along the way learning new skills.”
Denis grew up in Sydney and trained at Brent Street Studios. He has always been inspired to push himself to be the best artist he can be. Where might his passion take him next? “Creating original shows and collaborating with awesome people! I’m lucky enough to have an amazing talented family – both my brother and sister are performers [brother David is currently focused on his work as a DJ/music producer and sister Nancy is an actress – but both are also multi-skilled triple threat artists] so to have an opportunity to collaborate and make a rock concert with them both would be my ultimate dream.”
In the meantime he’s just happy to be home. “Sydney is my hometown, my crib! I can finally invite all my family and friends and colleagues to come and see me in a show that I truly love being part of. Sharing this show with family, friends and Sydney
audiences, back in my hometown, makes me very proud.”
This article appears (with extra content and photos) in the February/March edition of Dance Australia, out soon! Don't miss out! Buy the new issue at your favourite magazine retailer or purchase an online copy via the Dance Australia app or go to here to subscribe.