A statement from Richard Chappell about Dance in Devon and Plymouth Dance
This below statement is Richard Chappell's response to the recent announcement from Dance in Devon and Plymouth Dance, which can be read here.
Dance in Devon and Plymouth Dance have both been the most influential organisations, allies and advocates for me throughout Richard Chappell Dance’s history. From 2013, the organisations impassioned directors supported me with honesty, transparency and compassion, providing endless strategic advice for the growth of our ensemble, and empowering emotional support to help navigate the challenges of thriving in dance. Both Sue Smith (Dance in Devon) and June Gamble (Plymouth Dance) and the other members of their team are a constant and huge source of inspiration for my leadership, demonstrating to how to have unwavering belief in how dance can enrich communities. Their consultations and mentoring made an honest and safe space to dream and recuperate when inevitable fatigue kicked in. Their care wasn’t transactional or templated. It was given with respect and value to me, with a rare focus on not telling me what I wanted to hear, but what I needed to hear.
Their work in the pandemic for artists and isolated communities was unmatched within the region, making them community heroes and showing how at the heart of the organisations was unconditional generosity and support for the local sector. If it weren’t for them, RCD’s navigation of the pandemic would have been considerably more traumatic and challenging. After such incredible demonstrations of how under resourced organisations can still help people in times of crisis, it is heartbreaking to hear about their closure.
When I was 18, I did my first independent creation whilst studying at Rambert School through the Youth Dance England and the Royal Opera House’s Young Creatives programme. It gave me a passionate ambition to become a dance maker and, upon finding out where I was from, choreographer Wayne McGregor instantly directed me to contacting Dance in Devon and Plymouth Dance. The last ten years is now history, and I wonder, without these organisations, who young and ambitious artists from Devon will be able to turn to now? This means we will lose local and future talent.
The thing that makes me proudest of the South West’s dance sector is its sense of joined up thinking amongst artists and organisations. For artists, this makes a non-competitive and uplifting environment, which allows people to passionately connect to their homes and champion each other. I have not encountered anything close to the level of safety in my practice that I have experienced in this region anywhere else in the UK or abroad. Their care has been expertly crafted and without Dance in Devon and Plymouth Dance, we will all need to work together to ensure the values they have instilled in us continue.
I have chosen to accompany this post with an image below of ‘Come Dance With Me’, which was a Dance in Devon event and creation at Torre Abbey in Torbay. It was my first intergenerational piece, opening the doors to what my practice can be. I recognise it now frequently as a pivotal point in my choreography and I am still feeling its legacy and learning now. Experiences with these organisations have shaped who I am, and I am deeply grateful to them for their love and care for our work, for their conversation and guidance and the laughter we have had along the way. I and many others will work incredibly hard to ensure what we have learned from these organisations propels us to continue our practices in Devon, bringing generosity to artists and care for local people. I cannot stress enough though how irreplaceable these organisations are.
Alongside many other brilliant artists and people, RCD will be working actively to ensure there is local momentum for dance in the coming months in Exeter and Torbay. It is essential though that we advocate passionately for the future of these organisations. Their history and nuanced understanding of local people makes them essential for dance development in the region, and we will continue to advocate for them to every level within the sector.
From everyone at RCD, we send huge gratitude to Dance in Devon and Plymouth Dance now, for all you have supported us to achieve and for your belief in our work. You are the best examples of inclusion and passion that I know in dance and the ways you have led by example will continue to support my understanding of leadership and my practice for the rest of my career. I deeply hope that this pause in activity is just that, and that there is still a bright future for Dance in Devon and Plymouth Dance.