On the Couch with Benjamin Hurley

Benjamin-Hurley-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Benjamin Hurley?
I am a contemporary dancer, artist and teacher based in Narrm/Melbourne. I have primarily worked in Naarm since graduating from the VCA in 2016, however I have also travelled around Australia, Europe and Asia to perform and participate in workshops; including performing in the Venice Art Biennale with the Trisha Brown Dance Company and in the M1 Contact Contemporary Festival in Singapore. Although I am an independent artist who works with many artists across varying art forms, I am interested in ongoing collaborations that span across multiple years and projects. I am interested in how artistic conversation can continue to deepen when pushed past a certain threshold, and what feeds the dialogue from that point onwards.

I am also a pet sitter, yoga teacher and a lover of my partner, friends and family. I love to drink Riesling and gin, and I eat probably too many sweets. I especially love a packet of nerds.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I am not really sure if I can really pinpoint or say what I would do differently, as I feel that I live a very fruitful and personally meaningful life. Prior to doing a dance degree, I wanted to be an accountant, however, I don’t think that I can say that I wish that I have had pursued that now. Some things that spring to mind off the top of my head include; being able to play the guitar, singing, ice skating, learning Spanish as my boyfriend is Colombian (or any other language), volunteer at farmers markets or other homelessness / environmental initiatives.

I did just complete my open water scuba diving course in Cairns at the Great Barrier Reef, and I must admit that I couldn’t believe that I had never done it before after experiencing how intensely beautiful it was. I love to do and learn many things and meet new people all the time. I also love to throw myself into the deep end, and am interested and curious about who I am and how I react in extreme situations.

Who inspires you and why?
I feel inspired by many people, but mostly the people that I am close with; my partner, family, friends and colleagues. I believe that the people whom I learn and grow from the most are the people who I have ongoing and deep relationships with. I love to read and learn things from the internet, however I think it’s always important to ground this somewhat far reaching knowledge and information into a sense of immediate reality; being able to relate it back to the people whom I am closest with. In saying this, I do appreciate and try to be present with everyone that I meet, fleeting or otherwise, as I believe that every experience, small or big, has the power to change who I am and therefore change others around me.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I like to be present in my everyday life and in everything that I do. I am such a chatty person, and love to have meaningful conversations with people; strangers or loved ones. I like to not take myself or things too seriously, and always try to see things from a brighter side. I really am a very simple person who gets a lot out of appreciating the finer details in life, and I believe that it’s the small things that make the biggest difference in the world. I never want to see myself getting to a place where I stop growing and learning, and I want to always stay open and curious to learning new things and meeting new people, no matter their age, gender or background. Through engaging in this style of living I feel that I can make a difference in the world.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I loved Bologna in Italy; it was such a quirky city rich in history yet very multi cultural. The buildings were stunning and the food incredibly delicious. Having a gelato and aperol in the city square was nothing shy of a perfect moment. I also love to go back home to Alice Springs where my family live to experience the place I grew up in with new eyes.

When friends come to town, what attractionwould you take them to, and why?
Melbourne is such a rich and vibrant City, and there is always something on. I love to take friends to the NGV, watch a contemporary dance show that is on, go to delicious restaurant like Ichi Ni Nana in Fitzroy. Melbourne also has great parks, like Carlton or Edinburgh Gardens. I also love to take them for a casual stroll around my neighbourhood and show them where I live and get a coffee from my favourite nearby cafe.

What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading The Divided Brain and the Search For Meaning by Iain McGilchrist. A book that explores the decline in human happiness due to the lack of understanding between the division of the two hemispheres of the brain. Our brain is split into two halves; the left (cognitive) and the right (creative) hemispheres. As we evolve within a Western standard of living, the left/cognitive hemisphere is taking dominance and overpowering the right/creative side of the brain, and so the book dissects why and explores methods of rebalancing the two hemispheres.

Definitely a book that takes a bit more time and concentration and not for the light heartened, but I would still highly recommend as it has incredible insights to offer.

What are you currently listening to?
Lately I have been listening to albums from beginning to end. I have been enjoying listening to the narrative style of how songs are compiled. Three albums that I have been listening to are; Fleet Foxes Acoustic Album A Very Lonely Solstice; Khruangbin The Universe Smiles Upon You; and Prins Emanuel Arbete/Fritid. All quite different albums, ranging from slow acoustic to experimental electronic.

Happiness is?
Happiness for me is really hard to pinpoint; however I generally feel at my happiest when I am content with something. Often, I experience happiness in retrospect, when I reminisce on a moment that felt really special. I find happiness in the most simple pleasures; lounging around at home reading a book, or drinking a glass of wine with a friend, partner or just by myself. There is definitely something in the fact of feeling comfortable and relaxed within myself which allows anxiety to wash away and for happiness to settle in.

What does the future hold for you?
This is a really great question, and I wish that I had an answer. I feel content and happy with where my life is right now, but there is a definite sense of how the hell did I end up here and where will I be in one year, five years, or even ten. I live an incredibly transient lifestyle, working multiple jobs and juggling multiple gigs simultaneously. I feel that I am on the right path, and things seem to continue to flow in a more effortless way; whether that’s work or personal life. I get a lot out of feeling like I have achieved goals relating to personal affirmations and work, but also feeling like I have enough space and energy for myself, partner, friends and family. I imagine dance always being a part of my life, whether that’s as a profession, teaching, or for my own personal enjoyment.

Benjamin can be seen in UpAndUpAndUpAndUp – presented as part of a Triple Bill program (with Thomas Woodman and Pia Lauritz as Billy Soy) at Temperance Hall, South Melbourne: 7 – 9 April 2022. For more information, visit: www.temperancehall.com.au for details.

Image: Benjamin Hurley – photo by J Forsythe