In 1995 Catherine Chappell, founder of Touch Compass, was invited to choreograph for the Healing Through Arts Trust run by drama therapist, Maxine Axford. This was her first experience of working with people with disabilities and where she met Jesse Johnstone-Steele, a founding member and dancer with Touch Compass. Following the arts trust project Catherine took a DanceAbility class with Alito Alessi, an integrated dance teacher in the United States, and also did an All Wheels workshop in New York, where participants were either on rollerblades or in wheelchairs. When Catherine returned to New Zealand she began her own integrated classes and later attended the first International DanceAbility Teachers Training with Alito Alessi in Eugene, Oregon.
Touch Compass presented its first season in 1997 and was set up as a charitable trust in 1999 with a board of trustees. The company presents one major season or tour a year and provides professional development training for dancers and teachers as well as community classes.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2007 the company published an historical book outlining the company’s achievements. Written by well known author Michelle Powles, the book is called Touch Compass – Celebrating Integrated Dance.