Transitions 2018: Q&A with choreographer Richard Chappell

Ahead of Transitions’ 2018 international tour, we caught up with renowned British choreographer Richard Chappell who worked with the company on brand new piece ‘When running starts and stops’. 

Image result for richard chappell

What have you most enjoyed about working with the Transitions dancers?

I would say their generosity in working with me. I like to work with a mix of improvisation and task-based work which I think is a hybrid of my own training and the dancers have adapted to that with a lot of energy and willingness to challenge themselves. As it’s relatively early on in their academic year, they’ve got to know each other throughout the creation process and this has been a real pleasure to be a part of. They bring their own skills, styles and qualities to the work as well and it’s been a pleasure to get to know them.

The 2018 company is truly international – do you think this has had an impact on the style of the company and/or the way you worked with them?

Definitely! Training isn’t necessarily the same across countries so naturally there will be differences and it’s such a unique and enriching experience for them to learn from each other. Lots of the company don’t have traditional dance backgrounds either which I think is really interesting. My own background is ballet and contemporary dance, but I’m also influenced by forms of capoeira, improvisation and martial arts so I like that the dancers come with different movement qualities as it allows for a varied interpretation of my practice. But for all the diversity, I think there is a good balance in skills which combine nicely when the company work together.

In brief, how would you sum up your piece?

My piece is a movement response to the themes and relationships of some of the characters found in Watership Down. I’ve used moments in the text and narrative as a point of departure to create something which lives by itself outside of the story though. The work has its own journey and abstract narrative between the performers and involves a lot of physically challenging movement.

What was your inspiration behind the work?

The work is influenced by Richard Adams’ Watership Down, but it’s not a literal interpretation. I wanted to bring out elements of the relationships between the characters and how their personification makes them relatable to us as a people. Themes of the book such as death, struggle and migration have immense resonance with us as human beings at the moment, and I wanted to explore that sense of personal struggle and journey with the dancers. I work a lot with text and this is a book which I’ve recently rediscovered throughout the creation process which has been a joy to explore, especially as Adams passed away last year.

Why did you decide to do this particular piece with Transitions?

I’ve had the idea for the work in my mind since last year when Adams passed away. The book had an immense impact of some formative moments of my childhood and when I came to really unpicking it, I felt that the energy and themes really suited Transitions. They’re at the start of a really exciting artistic journey and I think it’s a special time to work off a story which resonates both with childlike fantasies and very raw and power human emotions, such as loss, suffering and family.

Transitions was the very first student touring company and recently celebrated 35 years. Do you think it has had an impact/what impact do you think it has had on the dance landscape?

Student companies allow dancers to process their training to date and it’s also an incredibly formative time within a person’s career and life. I know from friends and colleagues experiences’ that they grew as performers and dance artists during their time within various student companies and it’s also a prime opportunity to gain insight into working in a professional repertory company. I’ve had the privilege of working with several graduates from Transitions and its impact on the international dance seen is I’m sure felt by everyone in a very positive way.

It’s almost impossible to get gigs in the industry without having some kind of professional experience, so companies like Transitions offer that bridge and allow for dancers to learn new skills and challenge themselves in a supportive environment, whilst connecting with makers who have a direct interest in working with artists at the beginning of their careers. It’s something I’m very supportive of and feel strongly about. Since 2014, I have always employed recent graduates in my own company.


By Robyn Donnelly (Press & PR)


Transitions 2018 Tour | 19 February – 24 May

For full tour details and to find out more about Transitions Dance Company, visit

To find out more about studying dance at Trinity Laban, visit our pages.

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