Caryn Chappell grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, where she began her dance training in jazz, tap, lyrical and ballet. As a student in dance at Ryerson University, Chappell was often encouraged by her teachers to break through the glass box, to embrace being uncomfortable and to make challenging choices. Since graduating in 2014, Chappell has taken that advice to heart and is pushing herself to embrace the discomfort of the new. She founded Chappell Projects as an umbrella for her creative explorations and has worked with several Toronto artists including Hanna Kiel, Kate Hilliard, Christopher House and The Garage. Currently, Chappell is dancing with Toronto-based contemporary dance company, ProArteDanza for their Season 2015 and national tour.
Tell us about Chappell Projects.
After school, I felt like I needed to have something of my own. I talked with Kate Hilliard about this — she was doing Ryerson Dances that year — and she recommended that I just put on a show. I took that idea and expanded it. I brought up this idea with Francesca Chudnoff, who was in my year at school, and asked if she’d be interested in choreographing a piece for us. We had five works in the show, some new, some remounted. Hanna Kiel jumped on board and choreographed a solo for me, which was very generous of her. Kate Hilliard remixed her work from Ryerson for me and Francesca. I also asked other Toronto artists to come in and remount work they had previously done in the city. It was held at The Cornerstone, and it was a really great intimate setting for the first presentation I’ve curated.
What gives you inspiration?
Definitely the dancers I am working with. They inspire me to push myself in different ways, or if I like something, I take what they’re doing and apply it to myself. All the shows I see also really inspire me to get up and start moving, especially if they’re really out there and different.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career thus far?
Hip hop. No, but seriously, I would say that the biggest challenge is and will be managing my career. I sometimes joke that I could use a “life manager” to help out with the difficult decisions. I am organizational at heart, but do find challenges when opportunities overlap. I want to do as much as I can, but must keep reminding myself that I cannot be in two places at once!
Tell us about your experience working with ProArteDanza.
Jumping into ProArteDanza’s Season 2015 was a big leap. I attended their SIP [Summer Intensive Program] in 2013 and was taught by Roberto Campanella [the artistic director] and Robert Glumbek [the artistic associate] at Ryerson, so I had an idea of what dancing for them would entail; however, dancing for them professionally is a different experience than as a student. I learned very quickly in my first week of rehearsal that my pace of solidifying choreography had to change, quicken to be more specific. It was an overwhelming adjustment, but definitely one that pushes me to be a stronger and [more] mature dancer.
What do you like most about working with ProArteDanza?
For one, I like the physicality of the work. You become very demanding of yourself when you have very little time to get it together. It is fulfilling to use your body to the point of exhaustion. While trying to meet their high expectations is a challenge, it is definitely worth the results. It is satisfying to see and feel the change you can make as a performer, and I feel grateful to have this opportunity to [push] my limits.
What’s next for you? What are you interested in exploring?
After the ProArteDanza tour, I will be involved in two projects in December: Inverse presented [by emiMOTION] at Dancemakers and Body Brake 5.0 [presented by Anandam Dance Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille]. I have been resisting exploring my own work and choreography, and I feel it is time for me to take the plunge and see what happens. I plan on using [the experience of the 2014 curated Chappell Projects presentation] to play and collaborate with my floating thoughts. In the long term, I want to continue dancing in the many different facets of our community, being open to meeting new people and getting involved in what is available to me. I am very interested to see where my career takes me.
Read more about Cayn in the November/December issue.