Richard Chappell Interview

Published June 4, 2019

An Interview with Richard Chappell: The Independent Choreographer behind Still Touch and Silence Between Waves

Ahead of our one off performance of Richard Chappell Dance’s double-bill of Still Touch and Silence Between Waves we had the chance to speak to the choreographer behind the dance company. We chat, inspiration, interdisciplinary artistry and the importance of the sea in Chappell’s work.

Silence Between Waves, the first work in the program is a collaboration with three dancers from Singapore. How did this creation come about? 

For the last four years I have taught at institutions and created commissioned works quite regularly in Singapore. It’s been a joy to get to know the varied and diverse dance scene there and this is the first time I have been able to work on an independent creation in the country and bring it to the UK.

The work was originally created for Eyeview’s Extraordinary Festival in Torbay and co produced by Dance in Devon.  It explores both Torbay and Singapore’s relation to the sea, which is a close topic for me. 

Still Touch, the second work in the show questions the relationship between three dancers and three sculptures – where did the idea for the show come from?

The idea came from the sculptor Anna Gillespie‘s beautiful representation of the body. We discussed in depth at the start of our collaboration how the subtle body languages of her sculptures let watchers relate their own emotional states to the figures and see themselves in the works.  We realised quickly that that was a similar affect to what I strived for audiences to see in the dancers I work with, but in very different ways.

The idea of three sculptures came about because we wanted to give the audience the chance to relate themselves to the work in different ways equally, as well as put equal focus on static sculpture and movement within the piece. 

This is your first interdisciplinary work – what have you found different or enjoyed particularly about working in this way? 

It’s been wonderful! I didn’t feel confident enough in my own practice until around nine months ago to undertake this kind of collaboration. I felt I needed to really eloquently know what I wanted from dance at the moment before bringing another artist’s voice and a complex visual element into my work.

It’s a joy now though to work with Anna and I’m discovering new things every day that we’re in the studio or when we’re in dialogue with each other. She works very sculpturally with the dancers and I work very choreographically with her sculptures. 

You brought your previous show At the end we begin to us last March. Does this show carry any of the same themes?

I think all my works feel a bit like a continuum – one work starts where the last left off. At the end we begin was a special work for me as it was my first full length creation. Still Touch is my second and is very much a a sequel.

I’m working with the same group of close collaborators including dramaturg Neus Gil Cortés and Composer Samuel Hall for both creations in this show. Each dancer has toured At the end we begin in the past for around year each so that history is in their bodies and connections of the group are really present.

Who have you found the piece appeals to?

This programme is perhaps my most open work to date for new audiences. With Anna’s collaboration, we hope to really open a new experience to visual arts enthusiasts who perhaps haven’t seen much dance before. The double bill is also performed by six wonderfully talented dancers from five different countries.

Ultimately though both these works are about human connection in different ways and the relationships between the individual cast members. The cast connect with each other and sometimes explore what it feels like to be alone. I hope people who can understand a feeling of loneliness and people who want to celebrate wholehearted relationships will embrace this work. 

What have been some of your favourite moments in the rehearsal room for this show?

The dancers in both casts have really pushed themselves. With Still Touch, the work explores some particularly raw and intimate feelings and the dancers have really opened themselves up to these. The sculptures are also heavy and they have really worked hard to connect physically with them.

With Silence Between Waves, the cliffs we rehearsed on were tough and the groups energy has been constant. It’s very much them that make up my favourite moments. 

You established your dance company at a very early stage in your career. What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting out in the world of dance?

Just do it and don’t think to much. Follow your gut and the advice of others more experienced than you. Be open and happy that your practice will change and grow and universally treat people with the empathy and support that you’d want to receive as a young artist.

I think the best gratitude you can show for support people have offered you is to do the same for another choreographer when you have more time making behind you. 


Richard Chappell Dance’s double bill takes place at Exeter Phoenix on Thu 20 June. Find out more about the performance and book tickets here >>