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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Flutsch

Hot House: Richard Chappell Dance

★★★★

Review: Hot House by Richard Chappell Dance, on tour until 6 April 2024. Book here.

[Disclosure. This show was performed in Oxford as part of Dancin' Oxford's Spring Dance Festival. Dancin’ Oxford and Oxford City Council (one of Dancin’ Oxford’s funding bodies) are marketing/PR clients of Quaere Ltd - which also published this blog. This is not a sponsored post. Our reviewer received free tickets and free drinks for the purposes of this review.]


Hot House is Richard Chappell’s new contemporary dance show – choreographed as a response to the cost of living crisis.  Founded in 2013, Richard Chappell Dance is known for pushing the boundaries of contemporary dance with its innovative multidisciplinary collaborations.

 

In Hot House, Chappell collaborates with classical violinist Enyuan Khong and electronic music duo, Larch, to create a richly layered soundscape that blends Chinese, Indian and European classical music with electronic music.  Five dancers, all clothed in red, are on stage in various groupings, along with Khong, who plays gorgeously, and live, at various intervals throughout the 55 minute show.  The piece morphs between full ensemble dance, trios, duos and solos and the accompanying music blends alternatively between meditatively repetitive and aggressively electronic, with an unaccompanied Bach sonata thrown into the mix.

While all the dancers were wonderfully fluid, Australian dancer Tia Hockey stood out as absolutely exceptional. Every now and then, you come across a dancer who is going to be a star, and Hockey is definitely one of those dancers.  Every movement of Hockey’s was  nuanced, intentional and executed with absolute surgical precision – she was truly a joy to watch.  

There are some moments of ethereal beauty in Hot House – in particular, when the lighting, music and dance come together in rhythmic synchronisation.  Watching the lighting rig sprinkle pin point shafts of light across the dancers in time with individual notes was something rather special. In fact, I felt that the choreography was at its best when the music had a discernible rhythm – it gave the audience something to hold onto, some framework within which to interpret the choreography.  This was important because to me there was no real narrative or dramaturgy to the choreography.  

Dancers are notoriously bad at describing their own work – which is fine – otherwise they would be writers - but I do find that their words often fall short of capturing the essence of their choreography.  And I think this is what’s happened to Hot House – Chappell’s words about the show don’t really reflect the choreography accurately.

In various places Chappell has said that Hot House is a protest turned into a party, a response to the cost of living crisis, a response to the commodification of warmth, and a celebration of generosity in crisis.  While all of these motivations are related, Hot House does not weave these into one clear narrative arc. 

This doesn’t necessarily matter unless you’ve read about the motivations for the show prior to seeing it and are expecting the choreography to embody them. Those who love their dance to tell a clear story may come a little bit adrift when watching Hot House.

 

Chappell has also said that he wanted to create a work that generates its own heat.  And in this he has certainty succeeded.  Forget the dramaturgy, and enjoy Hot House for what it is – heat, light and intensity.

 

All photographs © Jack Thomson

If you enjoyed this review, you might enjoy my other dance reviews.

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