Richard Chappell’s work Infinite Ways Home opens with five dancers grouped upstage right in a partial darkness that is pieced by beams of light.  On a day when the news was filled with terrible accounts of the citizens of Mariupol sheltering in basements, this felt like a cave, in which people awaited salvation from the world above.

The creative team, led by choreographer Richard Chappell, have drawn on ideas of community and ritual, finding links between the Druids’ ancient connections with the natural landscape and the collective experience of rave culture.  The work follows the arc of a trip, as dancers and audience share an intense multi-sensory experience.  Towards the end, violinist Enyuan Khong comes on stage, raising the intensity of the sound to a level that feels almost unbearable.  At the after-show discussion, led by Miranda Laurence, Chappell described how he had worked remotely with composers Matthew Allmark and Kai Hellstrom (collectively known as Larch) during the first lockdown, as they developed the pulsating electronic score.  Remarkably, the superb lighting design by Joshua Harriette, which felt intrinsic to the production, was created afterwards.

Chappell’s collaborative process fully involves the dancers (he generously acknowledged previous dancers on the programme sheet) and he ran an exciting workshop the following day at the United Reformed Church Hall in Oxford for advanced and professional performers.  His choreography involves strong, supple and sensual movements with full use of the entire body to shift smoothly between upright positions and the floor with energy and dynamism.  Although he has to work with free-lance dancers, they all take company class together and their performance showed a powerful sense of shared purpose and commitment.  Looking around the auditorium, it was clear that Chappell’s work reaches audiences that might not ordinarily attend dance works, and at the end dancers Fay Stoeser, Iris Borras, Edd Arnold, Imogen Alvares, and Theo Arran received wild and enthusiastic applause.

Like Chhaya Collective, which appeared at The Mill Arts Centre Banbury the previous week, Richard Chappell Dance is based in the West Country:  we owe a big ‘thank you’ to the Dancin’ Oxford Festival for helping to bring these companies to Oxfordshire.

Maggie Watson

20th March 2022

Dancin’ Oxford‘s Spring Festival features exciting guest companies, local companies and newly commissioned work as well as a host of participatory activities such as workshops and discussions. Here follows a list of performances, with links to more information and booking details:

Moving With the Times, now in its 11th year, features three new works from exciting emerging companies, co-commissioned by Dancin’ Oxford and Pegasus Theatre. In Excessive Human Collective‘s piece Post Truth Whatever, three female performers create and broadcast propaganda in a fictional world which is eerily similar to our own. Night People Events present The Rave Girl; housed within a colourful visual landscape, the rave girl explores how hype, rave, and expression can collide, creating a complex, yet otherworldly persona that demands to be seen. In light of the horrific murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, Phoebe Tompsett Dance work The Daily Male casts a stark light on the measures that women are forced to take every day simply to remain safe.

Date: Friday 4th & Saturday 5th March 7.30pm

Venue: Pegasus Theatre, Magdalen Road, Oxford OX4 1RE

Tickets: £13, concessions £10 Book online here

Recommended age: 12 years+

For the Festival Opening Oxford’s Westgate shopping centre will come to life with a series of short shows from national and local companies to make you think, smile and want to dance. Richard Chappell presents Infinite Ways Home – a multisensory production that explores ritual, rave and human connection. Unlock the Chains Collective depicts a community united in grief and anger as it remembers and mourns the lives of those lost at the hands of the state. This outdoor piece is commissioned by Dancin’ Oxford and supported by TORCH. Joli Vyann presents an innovative duet fusing circus, dance and theatre – blurring the boundaries of dance and circus skills. Also performing will be vibrant and talented youth dance troupes from across Oxford including Step2 Dance, Body Politic, TPD Young Artists and Mini Professionals. Join the Zumba party for fun and to learn some moves.

Date: Saturday 5th March 12.00-5.00pm

Location: Leiden Square, Westgate, Queen St, Oxford OX1 1TR

Free, and suitable for all ages

KHAOS & HYMNOS – Chhaya Collective

A double bill of two extraordinary dance pieces about women resisting oppression. In HYMNOS, inspired by the story of Iranian artist Saba Zavarei and her online platform Radio Khiaban,”even the most captured woman guards the place of the wildish self, for she knows intuitively that someday there will be a loophole, an aperture, a chance, and she will hightail it to escape.” In KHAOS live musicians join six contemporary dance artists to revel in the joy, tenderness and the power of wild women.

Date: Thursday 10th March 7.30pm

Venue: The Mill, Spiceball Park, Banbury OX16 5QE

Tickets: £16 Book online here

Recommended age: 13 years+

Body Politic – Them

Directed by Emma-Jane Greig and with choreography by L’atisse Rhoden, THEM flicks through the journal pages of three survivors of sexual violence, exploring the women’s struggles to navigate the trauma and its impact on their mental wellbeing, their loss of self, and finding healing. Inspired by American poet and novelist Kim Addonizio’s poem To The Woman Crying Uncontrollably In The Next Stall, this powerful and gripping display of hip-hop dance draws movement from the stark and vivid imagery of her words.

Date: Friday 11th March 7.30pm

Venue: The North Wall, South Parade, Oxford OX2 7JN

Tickets: £14 (concessions £12, under-25 £10) Book online here

Recommended age: 14 years+

Stay after the show for Talk About Dance, an opportunity to join Body Politic Artistic Director Emma-Jane Greig in conversation with independent dramaturg Miranda Laurence, share your thoughts, ask questions and join the discussion. 8.45-9.30pm, free.

Wriggle Dance Theatre – Squidge

Do you squish or squash, handshake or hug, stretch out or snuggle in like a bug? A truly magical and funny interactive dance show with live music and digital projection, taking a light-hearted look at our sense of touch and how it influences our everyday lives; at its heart a tale of  friendship and compromise. An immersive shared experience to delight children and their grown-ups alike.

Date: Saturday 12th March 11.00am and 2.00pm

Venue: The North Wall, South Parade, Oxford OX2 7JN

Tickets: £8 (concessions £6) Book online here

Running time: 50 minutes Suitable for ages 3-8 years

Watch the Squidge film and participate in a workshop at the Mill Banbury – find out more here

Richard Chappell DanceInfinite Way Home

Critically acclaimed choreographer Richard Chappell presents his most ambitious work to date, a multisensory production that explores ritual, rave and human connection. Using a diverse choreographic language of ballet, contemporary dance and improvisation, Infinite Ways Home looks to redefine our sense of community and home, in a mesmerising feast of colour and pulsating sound. Performed by an ensemble of extraordinary dancers, it features electronic music by award-winning experimental duo Larch, alongside live violin by acclaimed soloist Enyuan Khong.

Date: Monday 14th March 7.30pm

Venue: Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2LW

Tickets: £10 – £16.50 Book online here

Duration: 60 minutes Suitable for ages 7 years+

Stay after the show for Talk About Dance, with choreographer Richard Chappell and Miranda Laurence, to share your thoughts, ask questions and join the discussion. 8.45-9.30pm, free.

Botis Seva – BLKDOG

A beautifully brutal commentary on how the youth of today are coping in a world not built for them. Through emotionally charged Hip Hop dance, BLKDOG reveals how self-discovery leads to self-destruction. Through haunting childhood memories and adult life traumas, how do we fight through our vices to find a sense of peace? The music has grown from a long-standing collaboration with Torben Lars Sylvest and words performed by  Far From The Norm and guests. Tom Visser’s lighting brings a dark smog of disillusion, while hooded caps and padded costumes by Ryan Laight echo the protection and comfort of childhood. BLKDOG won an Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production in 2019 and in 2021, and has been was nominated for a Black British Theatre Award 2022 for Best Dance Production.

Date: Wednesday 16th & Thursday 17th March 7.30pm

Venue: Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2LW

Tickets: £10 – £26 Book online here

Suitable for ages 11 years+

Find a full programme of Festival activities including participatory workshops here