Richard Chappell: What we do and why we do it

My creations explore human connection as an act of restoration , making space for people connect deeper with themselves, each other and the land around them. Our work shines a light on what people have overcome and where they are going. 

I see my work as a continuum of movement and empathy, where one work starts where the last left off. Beyond anything else, this evolution of my practice helps me to make sense of the world around me. I use dance as a way to celebrate care and togetherness. I believe understanding and acknowledging loss plays a huge part in creation and makes space for hope. My work frames the audience experience on an emotional level, lifting people up without striving to be intellectual. 

I am constantly investigating how to match simplicity and complexity, whether that be people’s experiences and sentiments, or the delicacy, nuance and vigour of my choreography. The full bodied and energetic physicality of my work draws from my experiences of contemporary dance, ballet, contact work and acrobatics. My vocabulary shapes virtuosity as an expressive tool which can be seamlessly blended with minimalism and intimacy.

I find things that overwhelm me beautiful and try to frame each work as sensorial experience for audiences. Through close and recurring relationships with dancers, lighting and sound designers, musicians and visual artists, we form a world for performances and audiences to inhabit. We strive for audiences to come away with a feeling and the freedom to not need to put the experience into words. 

Within the first five years of my career, I worked as a support worker and career for Robert Owen Communities. The experiences I learned in this role are instilled in my practice, framing my understanding of access, communication and mutual respect. Our work regularly features intergenerational community casts, highlighting how transformative and enduring dance can be for people’s wellbeing. 

My personal history plays a big part in my identity and my role within the dance sector. I come from a single parent, low income household in a rural part of the UK, where provision for and access to dance is challenging. RCD’s vision is to create high quality work within these communities, celebrating their stories and representing them on UK and international stages. 

Energy transference feels key to how my work interacts with architecture, nature and people’s body. I grew up in the countryside and am deeply inspired by ecosystems and how life finds its way through movement, adaptation and evolution. This lends itself to my outdoor practice and the organic way we shape stage spaces. 

As an activist, my work acknowledges the impacts of dancers and artists and as co-authors. RCD prioritises the worker in the decisions we make and actively works to better the sector’s support structure for freelancers, helping artists achieve their best work.