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Richard Chappell Dancing by Matt Austin

Q&A with Richard Chappell

Hello Richard, we are very excited to be seeing At the end we begin at PDSW. How long has this piece been running for?

We’re excited too! At the end we begin premiered in May 2017 and has since been performed 24 times across the UK, with PDSW being our 25th and final performance in the UK for the foreseeable future. PDSW has supported the work a lot through it’s development, so it’s such a pleasure to have our final show be in a building where we really started it’s growth.

How did you come across T.S. Eliot’s classic series, Four Quartets and how did the poetry inspire this work?

I actually heard an excerpt of Little Gidding the final poem by a guest speaker in my graduation ceremony from Rambert School at Canterbury Cathedral in 2014 and it resonated deeply. Each poem in the series was relatable to the body in a different way and I had a strong drive to create from it. I wasn’t good enough at choreography at the time though and felt a responsibility to do it real justice so I waited three years! The poems look at time in a unique way and I was fascinated by Eliot’s unanswered questions and reflections on his creative life. As a young artist looking forward, I found his acceptance of a lack of answers empowering.

What was the choreographic process like? 

We created the work through a research period at PDSW and Dance City, before an extensive five week creation process at Studio Wayne McGregor in the Olympic Park. As my first full length work, the process was a challenge which bonded us as a cast very close together. The work is very dependent on our group connections, and the process was a beautiful opportunity to learn from each other. Even though casts have subtly changed over the years, the creative input of that group still feels very present. Out of the four cast members, two of us are from the original cast and two other dancer’s now perform the other roles. With etc new cast member, we’ve been able to bring someone into that shared history and evolution. The process introduced me to my now longer term collaborators Samuel Hall (composer) and Neus Gil Cortes (dramaturg). 

As the choreographer what would you like audiences to take from watching At the end we begin? 

At the end we begin is an intimate and sometimes tender performance, which feels rich in sentiment, connection and full bodied movement that pushes our perceptions of exhaustion. Like a lot of my work, At the end we begin takes a lot of inspiration from the individual performers and I hope audiences really feel they’ve experienced something personal and transparent insight into the group. The show is a powerful and arresting experience of dance and it’s been a joy to see it move audiences over the last few years! Although enjoying the work is by no means dependent on knowing the poems, if we’ve sparked your interest to look up the poems as well, then that’s great!

What inspires you to create and choreograph?

I think for me a huge drive has to be the artists that I engage with on a daily basis. We have all worked together for over a year now and have a very close connection, but I have joy from learning new things about each of them every day. I live and make through a mentality that I love the artists I work with more than the choreography I make, and they take care of the rest. I’m fascinated in general by the human condition and how contemporary dance can be a transparent and honest way to depict struggle, bravery, intimacy and everything in-between. Experiences that have a deep and instinctual effect on the body inspire me… human contact… generally just living!

What else are you up to? 

Right now it’s a busy time for us, which I’m grateful for! Alongside touring At the end we begin, we are developing my next full length work called Still Touch, which is a collaboration with sculptor Anna Gillespie. Still Touch was originally co-commission by the Royal Opera House last year and the full length version will premiere in June 2019. I am also working on a third creation with three dancers from Singapore called Silence Between Waves, which will tour alongside Still Touch in June.

See At the end we begin by Richard Chappell at PDSW on Thursday 14th March, 7.30pm

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