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

In celebration of its 25th and last season of work, the Richard Alston Dance Company is embarking on an international farewell tour. The kind of endeavour you might normally associate with the break-up of a major band, or with Cher – who is perennially on her last tour, and I think has been saying farewell since at least the beginning of the last century, as is the whim of an eternal being. The scale feels only a bit different for Alston and his dancers. Final Edition: Oxford [1] is a culmination of many lives at work together, expanding the practices of modern, postmodern, and contemporary dance in the United Kingdom.

Because of his eponymous title the Etonian has a claim to canonical status and this tour could have become an overwrought monument to privilege and ego. Instead, what we witnessed in Oxford’s New Theatre on Wednesday night was a homage to a history of dance, branded, and shaped by Alston, advanced by collaborator Martin Lawrance, and most importantly, pulled off with immense style, presence, and love by a company of extraordinary dancers. (more…)