Monday, 11 September, 2017

Touch Compass Dance Company

Vacancy - General Manager

Touch Compass is New Zealand’s leading professional inclusive performance company – an inter arts organisation that goes beyond envisaging a seamless society, to actively creating one.

In this our 20th anniversary year we seek a new General Manager to lead us into the next phase of our life as a company.

We seek someone with a mix of experience in the arts and business sectors, with an awareness of the world of disability, to manage our team and to work with our talented artists.

In working with us you get to be part of the vibrant arts scene in New Zealand and to change people’s attitudes and experience of disability. It is an exciting combination.

Candidates must be able to demonstrate excellent relationship management abilities and have a track record of building successful and enduring relationships. Strong communication, written, negotiation, planning and budget management skills are also essential.

Download a job description here

You must be eligible to work in New Zealand to apply for this position.

Please send a CV and cover letter to Chair, Touch Compass, c/o by Wednesday 4 October 2017.

We apologise in advance, due to the nature of being a small team, only those shortlisted will receive a response.

Interviews will be held on or around Friday 13 October.


Touch Compass logo

Monday, 15 May, 2017

We have 3 InMotion events on offer in May and June to celebrate our 20th anniversary year.

1. Pimp My Wheels! – free family day

2. See The Artists at work

3. The InMotion Parade


Pimp My Wheels! – free family day

Sat May 27 | 10am – 4pm | Shed 10, Queens Wharf 

Bring the family down for an awesome and illuminating free day out at Shed 10. Fully accessible.

  • Get expert help and ideas to pimp your wheels
  • See performances by world famous illuminated man, Vospertron
  • Learn about Matariki and the night sky
  • Take part in cool hands-on science activities
  • Have a go on loads of bikes and wheelchairs

See The Artists at work

2 – 10 June | 10am – 4pm | The Cloud

Come and see the Wellington’s artists collective Lucid Dream Bike hard at work on 7 unique illuminated bike floats for our parade. As the week progresses the floats will begin to take shape. Pop in as many times as you like, our artists like the company!

The InMotion Parade

Sat June 10 | 6.30pm | The Cloud  Getting there button

Bring friends and family down to the waterfront to take part in Auckland’s first-ever illuminated bike parade! A free event for every one of all ages and abilities.

1)      Dust off your wheels – whether it be a bike, scooter, skateboard, wheelchair or stroller

2)      Have some fun pimping your wheels with fairy lights, bike lights, torches and tinsel,

3)      Head down to the Cloud with your wheels for 6.30pm to join the fun!

As the route winds along the waterfront, music and performances will light the way and fantastic illuminated bike floats will be riding with you.  The Route

The ride culminates at Silo Park with a short, spectacular  performance and a hot chocolate or a mulled wine for purchase. 





Monday, 1 May, 2017

Touch Compass Inclusive Dance Workshops in Rotorua

Saturday 6 May      1.30pm – 4.00pm (includes registration)

Sunday 7 May        9.30am – 12.00pm (includes registration)

The Workshops: Internationally acclaimed tutors Rodney Bell, Catherine Chappell and Renee Ball will teach a two hour workshop based on material from the company’s short film Flipped.  Content will include contemporary dance and improvisation techniques that will enable dancers and teachers to explore and develop their capabilities to perform and/or teach inclusive work in their community.


Catherine Chappell is the Touch Compass founder, artistic director and choreographer Catherine has worked in the performing arts for over 30years. She pioneered contact improvisation in New Zealand and in 2011 was received a Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellowship.                     

Rodney Bell is a founding Touch Compass dancer and tutor, of Ngāti Maniapoto descent. He is a former principal dancer of Axis Dance Company (USA) winning an Isadora Duncan Dance Award in 2008 and and won an Attitude Artistic Achievement Award at the 2016.                               

Renee Ball has a Bachelor of Dance from Auckland University and is a dance teacher, choreographer and dance competition judge who is currently teaching in Palmerston North. The Touch Compass film Flipped is based on her personal experience of Gullaine Barre syndrome.

To Book:

Ph: (09) 550 6464 or Email:


*Early bird for a limited time*

BOOK NOW! $20* waged, $10* students/unwaged - BOOK NOW!

(Full price $30 waged $15 students/unwaged)

*All workshops are fully inclusive and accessible 


Western Heights High School Dance Studio

70 Old Quarry Rd, Western Heights, Rotorua



Thursday, 27 April, 2017

To celebrate #InternationalDanceDay on Saturday 29 April – A selection of our short films will screen at the Rialto Cinemas Auckland and Dunedin, Victoria Theatre Devonport and Bridgeway Cinema - Auckland, Regent3 - Masterton, Regent Theatre Te Awamutu, Hollywood Cinema - Christchurch, Central Cinema – Alexandra, Raglan Old School Arts Centre

The films will screen during the week of International Dance week and beyond so do check out the above cinemas for screening times. As part of celebrating our 20th year we have dusted off iconic short films Union and Timeless from our first foray into film making in 2003.

Also 8 our our films will screen at Te Papa on Sunday 30th April, our films being shown 11am-3pm in The Discovery Centre and WID are in the performance section 2-3pm.

Monday, 20 March, 2017

  • White Night
  • 20th Anniversary
  • InMotion projects
  • New Class
  • DanceBox films
  • What we've been up to
  • Company update

If you would like to receive news about our work sign up by clicking the newsletter button.



Tuesday, 28 February, 2017

Date: 18 March 2017

Performance times: 7:30pm - 7:45pm & 8:15pm - 8:30pm

Venue: Auckland Art Gallery - North Atrium

Auckland Arts Festival’s one-night arts extravaganza White Night is back!

All across town, inside and outside at over 100 venues and locations, artists, performers, musicians and makers of all description invite you to inspect, experience, watch, see, make and touch all sorts of wonderful creations. On White Night, galleries, squares, laneways and promenades, Auckland wide are free to explore at night.

Great news Touch Compass will perform as part of the Auckland Art Gallery's 'White Night' programme on 18 March.

Inspired by the original 'Undertide' dancers Suzanne Cowan, Alisha McLennan, Emilia Rubio, Julie van Renen will offer a new powerful live rendition supported by the original film. 

'Undertide' is an exquisite, mesmerising feast where subtle movements guide the dancers from within: It is the experience of living in a body and raises questions around the body’s vitality and how we experience life from the inside out.

Tuesday, 18 October, 2016

Wednesday 19th Oct

10.30am - 11.15am, Helene, Catherine and Jesse will teach an open movement workshop in Shed 1.

12.15pm ~ Community class will strut their stuff with one of their amazing performances.

Thursday 20th Oct - 7pm at Corbans Estate, Henderson.

Featuring an excerpt from our family show 'All The Way Home', the amazing band Mutes from Mars along with singing and comedy.

Book your free ticket at:

Thursday, 13 October, 2016

Come join Touch Compass Dance Company for a fun ride where magical worlds collide on a journey of discovery and cheeky surprises.

Experience this inspiring dance/theatre event by disabled and non-disabled performers on Sun, 6 Nov at 2pm.

Suggested donation: $3 for children and $5 for adults



Thursday, 11 August, 2016

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Thursday, 4 August, 2016

Touch Compass, Auckland's inclusive dance company, reaches new heights with a show for kids

Fun, games and dance as Touch Compass presents All The Way Home at Auckland Live's 2015 Pick & Mix series.

Fun, games and dance as Touch Compass presents All The Way Home at Auckland Live's 2015 Pick & Mix series.

Working with challenges and trying new things is nothing new for Auckland's inclusive dance group.

However, their next performance is a first even for them: performing for young children.

Touch Compass Dance Co. is New Zealand's only professional, inclusive dance company and provides the stage for both disabled and non-disabled dancers to meet, on the floor and in mid-air.

High art and inclusive dance members have always been Touch Compass's premise.

High art and inclusive dance members have always been Touch Compass's premise.Artistic director Catherine Chappell, originally from Mairangi Bay, has been working with Touch Compass for nearly 20 years.

While her next show is perhaps venturing into new territory, Chappell says that she is excited to be tailoring her work for this new demographic.

Instead of following a rigid plan from a book, this time the group are "making it up as they go".

"Not necessarily all of our work is tailored for children," she says.

Pick and Mix's Auckland Live series is a free, non ticketed event that brings performances and workshops to families from June 17 to September 4.

Entitled All The Way Home, Touch Compass's show is a feature of this series, and is suitable for 4 to 10-year-olds.

An inclusive dance cast aims to advocate, change perceptions and change expectations held by some people.

A sort of "isn't it nice what they do for those people" attitude can be patronising, she says.

"It's great working with people who are younger because they don't have those preconceptions".

Despite the demographic, Chappell will not scrimp on style.

"Children's theatre has to be as good as adult theatre," she says.

"We've made something especially for it."

The show features lots of props, a red trike, and a boy character who weaves his way through different worlds.

"It's important to get the right art to the work, so the audience feels like they are engaged in and on the journey.

"We have to get the flow right," she says.

Back in 1997, Chappell had no intention of founding such a successful dance company.

She says it was just an "organic pathway".

"There wasn't anyone who was open to doing it and it wasn't known that people with disabilities could dance."

  • Saturday, August 20 from 10.30am till 11.30am. Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall.
  • Sunday, August 21 from 10.30am till 11.30am. Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna.
Wednesday, 3 August, 2016

All the way home is our engaging new dance-theatre work that’s suitable for children and their families.

Created by Catherine Chappell and Carla Martell the piece features dancers Helene Burgstaller, Alisha McLennan, Adrian Smith, Jesse Johnstone-Steele and Julie van Renen.

All the way home premieres as part of Auckland Live’s Pick & Mix programme at 10.30am Saturday 20th August at the Auckland Town Hall and 10.30am Sunday 21st August at the Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna.





Wednesday, 18 May, 2016

InMotion inclusive dance tutor training will explore movement in motion, both physically and with a variety of apparatus. This 1.5 day training will focus on developing skills to teach a range of age groups from children to mature adults. Sessions will cover developing InMotion scores, spatial patterning and choreography for a range of abilities. Suitable for dancers/teachers, who areinterested in teaching inclusive dance in the community or in schools.


Rodney Bell – Internationally recognised and an award-winning inclusive performance artist of Ngāti Maniapoto descent. Founding dancer with Touch Compass, danced internationally with AXIS Dance Company and Dandelion Dance Theatre in San Francisco.

Catherine Chappell – Teacher, choreographer, founder and Artistic Director of Touch Compass. Pioneer of contact improvisation and inclusive dance in New Zealand Recipient of the Creative New Zealand choreographic fellowship in 2011.

Sue Cheesman – Dance teacher, choreographer and researcher. Currently the Senior Lecturer in Dance Education at the University of Waikato, and senior tutor for the Touch Compass weeklycommunity class for the past eight years.


Fri 10 June, 6.00pm – 9.00pm

Sat 11 June, 1.30pm – 8.30pm 


$50.00 (unwaged/students | $75.00 – (waged)


Grey Lynn Community Centre, Richmond Rd, Auckland

For further information or enrolment details:

Email: or Phone: (09) 550 6464 | 021 989 447

Friday, 29 April, 2016

Don't miss the opportunity to see the premiere of our latest DanceBox short film featuring Renee Ball's story on the big screen!

At 19 years of age Renee Ball’s life flipped on its head. Midway through a Bachelor of Dance Studies she contracted Guillain-Barré Syndrome and within a few days she was completely paralysed. Initially unable to communicate Renee spent the next five years rehabilitating and embracing her new normal through her abiding love of dance.

Flipped will be playing prior to selected films at The Victoria Theatre, Victoria Road, Devonport, from Thursday 28 April until Wednesday 4 May. Please see the session times below.


Flipped will be screened at The Victoria Theatre, Victoria Road, Devonport before the following feature film session times.

Eddie the Eagle

Thursday 28th April: 2.10pm, 3.30pm

Friday 29th April: 12.10pm, 2.15pm, 4.20pm

Saturday 30th April: 12.10pm, 2.15pm, 4.20pm, 6.40pm

Sunday 1st May: 12.15pm, 2.20pm, 4.20pm, 6.55pm

Monday 2nd May: 12.25pm, 3.45pm

Tuesday 3rd May: 12.15pm, 3.45pm, 6.10pm

Wednesday 4th May: 12.15pm, 3.45pm, 6.10pm


Mother’s Day


Thursday 28 Apr: 4:15pm, 5:40pm

Friday 29 Apr: 12:05pm, 4:25pm, 8:30pm

Saturday 30 Apr: 2:05pm, 4:25pm, 6:30pm

Sunday 1 May: 2:05pm, 8:30pm

Monday 2 May: 11:10am, 1:30pm, 5:50pm

Tuesday 3 May: 11:10am, 1:30pm, 5:50pm

Wednesday 4 May: 11:10am, 1:30pm, 7:50pm


Can't get to Devonport watch FLIPPED online:



Drumming is Like Thunder (3:30)

Mr & Mrs Jones (3:00)

The Big Adventure (2:45)

Lady Word Smith (3:40)


Monday, 18 April, 2016

Tuesday, 15 March, 2016

TOUCH COMPASS at Cuba Dupa this weekend with three stunning works.


Touch Compass presents Rogue – an energetic, jigsaw of physical bodies in which uncanny stories and coincidences embrace everyday activities. The piece challenges roles of dominance and different styles of motion and connection utilising each dancers’ unique physicality. Choreographed by Malia Johnston and dancers with music by Eden Mulholland.


3:15pm – 3:30pm


2:45pm – 3:00pm

Ghuznee Street (opposite Leeds St carpark)



From the company’s portable dance series Touch Compass dancers in collaboration with Wellington Integrated Dance bring you Roving Frame. This highly sculptural piece includes a series of solos, duets and trios that are performed within and around an ever-changing aluminium frame. Performers traverse between containment and freedom as they explore an evolving landscape set to a sound score by James Risbey.


2:00pm – 2:30pm


12:00pm – 12:30pm

Outside CQ Hotel, 223 Cuba Street



Touch Compass’s iconic Grotteschi explores the magical world of Ava the Spider Woman and Argyle the Magnificent Mantis Man, two hybrid creatures that engage in a saga of seduction and struggle. Choreographed by Suzanne Cowan in collaboration with Adrian Smith, and with a score by Eden Mulholland, Grotteschi draws on the freak show and burlesque as it plays with notions of the grotesque.


4:15pm – 4:30pm


4:00pm – 4:15pm

Ghuznee Street (opposite Leeds St carpark)


Wednesday, 10 February, 2016

In January in the intense heat we shot aanother DanceBox fim, Flipped is the artistic portrayal of Renee Ball's journey after contracting Guillian Barre Syndrome fives years ago and the impact it has had on her life. 

With the help of the Ministry of Social Development, our creative team Romola, Catherine, Ado, Tony and Matt, joined forces with Renee and her family to tell this extraordinary story in an extraordinary way.

Julie, Katie, Fathe, Merhawey and Sierra all put in compelling performances, helped considerably by Miryam who ensured everyone was feed and looked after. 

Right now we’re in the editing suite, slotting scenes cohesively together cohesively. Watch this space for the final version. 

Wednesday, 10 February, 2016

Watch out for Touch Compass'a portable dance series set within the gorgeous Hamilton Gardens

on 19 & 20 February. Its worth a day trip for! Ticketed and free events.

Thursday, 12 November, 2015

At the end of January 2016 we will be moving out of our beloved Sandringham studio.

The studio has been a solid base for nearly four years, providing us with a safe and valuable creative space that has enabled the company to develop new exciting products, and engage with a diversity of people and community participants.


Despite recent fundraising efforts, regrettably, we could not meet the required two-year rental term and the landlord now has a new tenant who has committed to five years. 

Sadly, this is the commercial reality in Auckland’s property market.


We are now seeking a new home. We do not yet know where it will be or how long it will take, but please be assured we will do our best to ensure there is minimal interruption to our scheduled community and youth classes, albeit they will be in a different location.

We appreciate this news is a surprise, and disappointing. 


If anyone is aware of suitable space for hire and also appropriate storage for our stage, costumes and equipment please contact Catherine, Karen or Juliet.

 I am sure there are more exciting opportunities ahead and in the meantime enjoy the studio and plan to be at our Christmas get-together at 3.30pm on Saturday 5 December.

Monday, 7 September, 2015

Check out what's on offer and for those who can't make it put in a pre-auction bid (closes midday Friday 11 Sept) 


For the arty amongst us

  • Philippa Bentley art work
  • Swan from Nord, is it a planter, a magazine holder, or....???


Bon Apetit!

  • Lunch for 4 at The Navy with a tour of HMNZS Canterbury
  • Dinner at El Humero, Takapuna
  • Lunch at Franc’s
  • Dinner at Regatta Bar
  • High Tea at Sofitel
  • Devonshire Tea at The Esplanade
  • Gorgeous basket of French goodies from Chateaubriand
  • Brunch or lunch at Takapuna Beach Cafe
  • Case of Central Otago rose
  • Magnum of Prosecco


For the Adventurous Ones...

  • A J Hackett Auckland Bridge Bungy Jump – throw yourself off the bridge, why not
  • Formula E Indoor Raceway, NZs fastest indoor karts!  - Karting for 5, fantastic for a family,  birthday party, stag or hen do, corporate team-building etc
  • Fishing Trip for two, including lunch
  • Rainbows End family pass
  • Jump (trampoline centre) pass for two
  • Snow Planet – family pass


Get out and about in the Spring Air

  • Bike around Waiheke on an E-cycle (for two!)
  • Take a trip around Devonport on a Segway (for two!)
  • Ferry pass to Waiheke and picnic lunch for 2 from The Goldie Room
  • Red Boats ferry pass to Riverhead
  • Parakai Hot Springs pass


Let me.....Entertain You !

  • Tickets to Victoria Cinema + tapas
  • Tickets to Company Theatre – Don’t Dress For Dinner at The Rose Centre
  • Tickets to The Bridgeway Theatre, Northcote Pt
  • Private Hire of the 30 seater Benwell Cinema at Victoria Theatre, great for a bunch of friends, a birthday party, work do, choice is yours!


Spoil Yourself – it’s Spring!

  • A night for two at Sky City Grand
  • A Facial from the lovely Skinsense
  • Bliss aromatherapy – treat those tired feet
  • Nail shape and paint from Honey
  • Cut and Blow dry from Vauxhall Rose salon
  • Craniosacral Treatment from Pure
  • Spray tan – Brown Bella
  • 1:1 pilates session with ‘Pilates with Emma’
  • Cosi Fan Tutte – Orange Blossom pack


Cosy night in....

  • Bottle of wine + voucher for Civic video
  • Topp Twins dvd and books


Just lovely things....

  • Full towel bale and basket from Wallace Cotton
  • Lovely gift basket from Red Queen, Devonport Wharf
  • 2 pairs luxury merino socks, Yarntons
  • Luxury silk hand-stitched kantha (queensize throw) – Song, Jervois Rd

Useful Stuff

  • WOF and wheel alignment – Firestone, Devonport







Tuesday, 18 August, 2015

Tuesday, 9 June, 2015



21 August - Playhouse Theatre, University of Waikato, Hamilton

27 – 29 August -  Te Whaea Theatre, Wellington

New Zealand’s pioneering inclusive dance company, Touch Compass, is hitting the road in August with their popular 2014 Acquisitions season. In addition, today they announce a thrilling new line-up of dancers.

The country’s only professional, inclusive dance company, Touch Compass works with disabled and non-disabled dancers to create high quality contemporary dance that challenges perceptions about who can dance and what dance is.

According to Touch Compass’ Artistic Director, and Acquisitions Curator and Co-choreographer, Catherine Chappell, the choreography draws on the dancers’ unique disabilities and, as such, their differences become artistic features.

“We are thrilled to remount Acquisitions with a new look company, which will see the magic from the original choreography come to life with exciting influences from the new Company members,” Chappell says.

Acquisitions is a multi-media dance production consisting of two performance works which sit alongside a series of engaging short films.

The first, Undertide, is an exquisite mixed media dance and film work by Body Cartography, USA-based choreographers Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad. It explores the experience of living within a body and raises questions around how we experience life from the inside out supported by intriguing music composed by Clare Cowan.

The second, Watching Windows, is a compelling work created by company dancers in collaboration with Catherine Chappell. Watching Windows plays with the idea of scale and physical boundaries. Bodies, objects and moments are hidden and revealed in a journey of discovery and intrigue with music curated by percussionist Chris O’Connor.

The short films were created as part of the company’s outreach programme and feature the company’s professional dancers together with community participants.

The newly-formed ensemble for Acquisitions comprises Georgie Goater, Cameron Lansdown-Goodman, Duncan Armstrong, Alisha McLennan, Joshua Pether, Julie van Renen and Samantha Wood-Rawnsley.

As well as their professional work, Touch Compass dancers undertake community, youth and tutor training classes. They are the only company in the South Pacific providing opportunities for aspiring disabled dancers and choreographers.

Chappell says, “The impact Touch Compass has on the lives of all its dancers is profound, as well as giving individuals living with disabilities the opportunity to dance and choreograph at a professional level. We take our role very seriously in challenging and changing views on what dance is and who can do it, and we hope this consequently impacts wider views around disability and the performing arts.”

Acquisitions will open in Hamilton on 21 August and Wellington on 27 August. It premiered in 2014 at Auckland’s Q Theatre.



The opening work in this most mesmerising of programmes begins with a filmed section projected on to a large wooden cube which contains and catapults the dancers into action for the whole of the show's duration. – Bernadette Rae, New Zealand Herald 

Chris O'Connor provides a sound score that choreographers and dancers can only dream of – 'loving the musical boxes, the mix of live percussion and recorded sound that supports the quicksilver final section. – Dr Linda Ashley, Theatreview


Season information


PlayhouseTheatre, Hamilton

Performance – Friday 21 Aug (7.30pm)

Schools’ matinee – Friday 21 August (11am)


Te Whaea Theatre, Wellington

Performances – 27, 28, 29 August (all 7.30pm)   

Schools’ matinee – 28 August (11am)

Schools’ workshop – 28 August (12.30pm)


For more information, images and interviews, please contact:

Siobhan Waterhouse | Mr. Fahrenheit Publicity | P: 022 126 4149 | E:


More about Acquisitions and Touch Compass:








Monday, 1 September, 2014

Didn't make it to Acquisitions '14

Loved it so much you want to watch it again ?

Watch the 2014 Touch Compass season performed in August at Q theatre HERE

Saturday, 23 August, 2014

Local inclusive dance company receives anonymous $100k fund-matching offer

An anonymous donor has made an incredible offer to local inclusive dance company, Touch Compass, promising to donate $100,000 the organisation.

However, there’s a catch: Touch Compass first have to raise $100,000 themselves – and they must do it by August 1, 2015.

The offer came completely out of the blue for Touch Compass, based on Auckland’s North Shore and Chairperson Phil Gibson says the opportunity couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

Touch Compass is New Zealand’s only professional integrated contemporary dance company. Its unique, high-quality performances include dancers with and without disability and the company has won both national and international acclaim for its ground-breaking performances.

The impact that Touch Compass has on the lives of its dancers is profound, offering a chance for individuals living with disabilities to dance, choreograph and undertake lighting and stage duties at a professional level.

“Dancing with Touch Compass has enabled my exploration of physical diversity and further helped me crystallise my ideas of my disability by discovering my body's limitations and possibilities through dance,” says Touch Compass dancer, Tess Connell.

Gibson says raising $100,000 and having it matched by the anonymous donor would be a huge opportunity, allowing Touch Compass to develop more accessible venues, provide direct employment opportunities to dancers and help it reach into regional areas and overseas.

Donations can be made to; or Touch Company Dance Trust at ASB: 12-3022-0388572-50. Alternatively, cheques can be written out to the above and mailed to:

Touch Compass Dance Company, PO Box 33 1086, Takapuna, Auckland 0740




Thursday, 7 August, 2014


Touch Compass Dance Company's new season, Acquisitions '14, will make dance accessible to blind and vision impaired audiences in Auckland with an audio described performance on Sunday 10 August.

Touch Compass is an inclusive contemporary dance company in Auckland. It has received international acclaim for its works with disabled and non-disabled dancers.
Richard Benge, Executive Director, Arts Access Aotearoa, says this will be the first audio described dance performance in New Zealand.

“Touch Compass has led the way in providing performance opportunities for disabled dancers,” he says. “Now, it’s leading the way in building new audiences for contemporary dance by providing audio description.”

Karen Fraser Payne, General Manager, Touch Compass, says the inclusion of an audio described dance performance, along with an Accessible Forum on 9 August, demonstrates the company's commitment to accessibility.
“Providing skilled facilitators, and specialist tools and equipment is vital to ensuring increased participation for all New Zealanders,” Karen says.

The audio described performance will also include a touch tour of the performance space before the show begins.

Accessible Forum

The Accessible Forum will feature an explanation of the show, led by Touch Compass Artistic Director Catherine Chappell and some of the performers. The forum will be sign language interpreted and facilitated for blind and sight impaired patrons.

The week-long season of Acquisitions '14 includes three new works, combining dance and film.

One of these works is the world premiere of Undertide– a film and live performance work by award-winning New Zealand/United States choreographers Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad. 

Watching Windows, created by Catherine Chappell and the company dancers, explores physical boundaries and limitations.

The third work is the company's interactive DanceBoxproject, which will be displayed in Q Theatre foyers throughout the season.


Tuesday, 29 April, 2014

Dancers from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are taking up a unique challenge to create portable dance works performed inside a box.

Touch Compass Dance Company’s DanceBox Challenge will be launched in Auckland to celebrate International Dance Day on Tuesday 29 April.

In the first stage of the project, 14 dancers in Auckland take part in a three day workshop to develop pieces performed within the confines of a 2m cube box.

The works will be filmed and uploaded online for others to join the conversation and the best works will be part of the Touch Compass Dance Company’s Acquisitions ‘14 season in August.

Touch Compass artistic director Catherine Chappell says DanceBox brings diverse dancers together to exchange and share stories in a creative and physical way.

The project uses dance, performance and film to shine light on “those profound moments when life reveals itself to the person living it – often changing everything from that point on”.

Ms Chappell said launching the project to tie in with International Dance Day worked alongside Touch Compass Dance Company’s philosophy of questioning who can dance and bringing dance out of the theatre and into people’s lives.

“We want people to join in the conversation and comment on the different works.”

The workshops include young dancers from Touch Compass Dance Company’s community class working with Touch Compass professional dancers  and themes for the dance works are around ‘something that changed my life’.

The DanceBox Challenge project is an extension of Touch Compass Dance Company’s successful Hotbox season in 2013, a season of short performances on the streets of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch which was experienced by more than 5000 people.

“So often dance takes place on stage in a theatre, but last year we took it to the street," Ms Chappell said. "This year, we’re taking that one step further and taking it online to engage with as many people as possible."

The first stage of the DanceBox Challenge will be uploaded online over the coming months. The Wellington and Christchurch workshops will take place in May and June.

The Touch Compass DanceBox Challenge is supported by the Ministry of Social Development Make a Difference Campaign.

Wednesday, 29 January, 2014

New Education Resource for schools is now available for pre-orders. Out 14 February 2014. See Education page for details.

Thursday, 15 December, 2011

Touch Compass is pleased to announce that its expression of interest in Creative New Zealand's Arts Leadership Investment Programme has been successful. The Arts Board recognised Touch Compass's ability to deliver the programme's key roles of creating, presenting and distributing high quality contemporary New Zealand dance, and providing professional development services and information to the wider dance sector. This is a great coup for Touch Compass and will enable us to truly develop our training and performance programme over a number of years.

Download full media release

Wednesday, 17 October, 2007

Touch Compass dances around North Island for 10th birthday celebration Renowned New Zealand dance company Touch Compass celebrates its 10th anniversary in Auckland from October 17, 2007 with a four centre North Island tour. The company's most memorable works have been selected for this retrospective showcase, including the outstanding and critically acclaimed work - Lusi's Eden. Over the last ten years audiences have been drawn to the beauty and skill of this ground breaking company, unique for its integration of professional dancers and choreographers with and without a disability. Highly regarded for their innovation and "flying", which sees wheelchairs and dancers suspended and swinging above the stage, the company creates work to challenge public perception of "what dance is and who is a dancer". The work that has resulted has earned Touch Compass the reputation as a pioneering and ingenious contemporary dance company. A decade ago, artistic director and founder Catherine Chappell returned home from the United States to experiment with her newly learned contact improvisation skills. Touch Compass was created in the same year and in 1997 the first Touch Compass season proudly premiered at Auckland's Maidment Theatre. Lusi's Eden is a theatrical journey which sees the heroine Lusi Faiva trade her electric wheelchair for a harness, to fly her to freedom across the stage and high above the audience. This physical and metaphorical flight of fancy inspires and uplifts audiences, who identify with the liberation of spirit which is captured by this poignant and exuberant work.


Monday, 22 February, 2016



Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2016


Touch Compass dance company

at Cloud Court, Hamilton Gardens, Hamilton

From 19 Feb 2016 to 20 Feb 2016 

[45 mins]

Reviewed by Debbie Bright, 22 Feb 2016

This work has clearly evolved to fit in with the atmosphere and features of several of the gardens in the Hamilton Gardens, rather than be limited by the single garden – Cloud Court – that was advertised in the Arts Festival Programme. This change of focus leads to audience members moving around various garden areas, looking and asking, to try and find out where the dance is to begin. I trust that all have found the right place in the end, because the venue decisions made by Touch Compass are good ones. Besides, I find it friendly and homely when I, as an audience member, am directed by friendly people, rather than by notices and officials. Unusually, audience members are forced to talk with each other before the work even begins, as they share information on the starting location. It is all worth it! In the Piazza, Touch Compass Director Catherine Chappell welcomes the audience and explains how we will be directed to new garden areas as the dance work progresses.

In the Piazza, the performers dance on, in and around chairs placed between columns, the columns themselves and the circular colonnade they create, metal poles supporting the canopy-style roof, and the sides and contents of the central pool. Red for the women and plain red and black for the men – colour, practicality and individuality within uniformity. Three men and two women explore the chairs and the spaces, sometimes slowly and thoughtfully, sometimes quickly and riskily, alone or interacting with each other, to the sound of light-hearted songs. In locomotion, four on legs and one in a wheel chair; all pushing at times to the extremes of balance and trust and at other times dancing within more comfortable boundaries. It is still full daylight; at 6.30pm at this time of the year, there is no need for artificial lighting. I am made particularly aware of the levels of dance. At some points, dancers stand on chairs and use the columns for added scope and support, at others they are seated or interacting with the wheeled dancer, at others, the ground is the focus. This first section is often solemn, showing quiet enjoyment of each other, an exploration of architectural space, personal space and body, and the spaces and shapes of another body, with sudden breaks into high energy, fast changes and interactions, and the fun elements of playing with chairs, spaces, each other and the water. I imagine the fun turning into games of tag, hide and seek, and full-scale water battles which end with sodden bodies and laughter.

The exploration of shapes and spaces between and within is continued by two women performing on a single large rock in the first section of the Japanese Garden: beige rocks and raked beige gravel, surrounded by green. I see caring contemplation, weight-bearing of self and other, supporting of self and other, the simplicity of the natural setting of the garden and the beige colour of costume that could be an undergarment – an undressing, a revelation of the body and how it moves, and how it can interact with another body, how two people can meet and harmonise with each other, and the two harmonise with their surroundings. If these two dancers hadn't walked out of the space at the end of the piece, I could imagine that this is their home, that they will still be here when I next visit this garden. Mesmerising, contemplative, slow-moving, accompanied by contemplative, slow-moving music. Beautiful.

The other half of the Japanese Garden: a wooden floored pavilion with low wooden parapet overlooking quiet waters, rocks, trees and green ground, where ducks and doves land and fly and linger a while, moving smoothly across the water. We sit or stand in the pavilion and look out towards the water. In the pavilion, two dancers, also in neutral beige, interact quietly, their focus on each other, exploring movements that are slow, movements that are faster, and moments of stillness, that can be achieved with a wheelchair, a floor space, a wooden parapet, two bodies of differing sizes and areas of strength, a man and a woman. I find myself thinking about how the body organises itself to move. Slow-moving contemplative music floats out over the water. Beautiful.

We move on, pausing in Cloud Court to watch a single dancer in similar beige costume, on a single chair placed in the middle of the cloud pool, balancing, reaching, swivelling and pausing. Her movements are reflected in the still water beneath her. Silence, balance, control. Risk apparent but discounted. An individual at peace with, in harmony with, herself and her surroundings. Beautiful.

Our final destination, the American Modernist Garden. For us, the audience, a backdrop of trees and greenery before us, and the curved pool edge behind. We see again the five dancers from the first section, this time without wheel chair, dressed in bright multi-colours, and focused on and around a white performance mat secured to a raised terrace. Meeting and greeting, smiling, enjoyment, fun. A light-hearted exploration of bodies in movement, singly and in pairs, abilities, possibilities, sometimes standing or jumping, often focussed at floor level, tumbling, balancing, leaning, lifting, reaching, contracting. Colourful interaction, caring, laughter, beauty, fun.

As a site-responsive dance piece, this works for me. The company has created dance vignettes that match and interact well with the chosen garden spaces, and we, the audience are gently and clearly directed along its pathway. I am left with a sense of hope, of positivity, of warmth and caring for the environment and other people, of the beauty of our bodies and how they move, of the potential for dance in any body, in any space. My sense of enjoyment in movement and dance is renewed. Thank you. 

Thursday, 29 October, 2015


Tmepo Dance Festival

Reviewed by Roxanne de Bruyn, 15 Oct 2015

A popular staple of Tempo, Prime brings together new works by established New Zealand choreographers. This year's showcase includes four very different creations by Sarah Knox, Kristian Larsen & Georgie Goater, Touch Compass Dance Company and Brigitte Knight.

The show opens with a taste of Touch Compass's 2016 season. Titled 2 x 2 x 2, the curtain opens to an aluminium cube taking centre stage, which is used to explore the ideas of containment and freedom. Its presence creates a structure and a form for the dancers, yet doesn't seem to overly restrict them. There's still a sense of free, unbound expression beyond the confines of the cube, which contrasts with the more structured, minimalist movements and contortions within it.

There is also lovely sense of balance evident in the solos, duos and trios and the feeling of support between the dancers – a must in a mixed-ability dance company. The physical strength of the dancers is immediately obvious as they support themselves and others, leaving the audience unsure whether a disability is real or part of the performance. In the wonderful style of Touch Compass, any disabilities form part of the essence of the story rather than hindering it.  

The next piece is Sarah Knox's new work, In the Face of Uncertainty. Six female dancers make their way across a dimly lit stage, moving in a group for much of the piece. There is a sense of conformity and collectiveness as they move almost perfectly in unison. Occasionally, one will break away, finding her own movement and direction, before coming back to the path again, sometimes affecting the style and rhythm of the collective movement.

There's something almost meditative about the steady progress and sometimes repetitive moment, but the irregular breakouts and odd quirks keep it from being monotonous. Instead, In the Face of Uncertainty draws the audience into its rhythm, remaining somewhat restrained even as the dancers break into pairs and find another movements for a short time. In the end, they are back in their group, the expressive climax never quite coming. Technically good, the performance is beautiful but very measured and contained.

A collaboration between Kristian Larsen and Georgie, Good Evening, Vietnam is the longest work of the night. Quirky, clever and sometimes awkward, it builds anticipation with slow movements leaving the audience waiting for something that never quite comes. This tension permeates the performance, the dancers ensuring every movement is precise, exaggerated and filled with effort.

There are some wonderful scenes – the silhouetted bike held upside down, its wheel spinning; Georgie standing motionless on the chair, the couple staring at audience as they slowly crumple, the embraces that never quite find their target. Uncertain and anticlimactic, Good Evening, Vietnam is full of beautiful movements that never quite reach their full extension, building a suspension and frustration that is only slightly relieved by its clever comedic moments.

The final piece of the night is the response of the choreographer, Brigitte Knight, to the suggestion that she should “stay where she's better acquainted”. More energetic than the previous two pieces, John and Eleanor is a modern, contemporary ballet, performed on pointe. The three dancers wear dark colours with shiny satin shoes, and quickly strip off their bulky jackets to display skimpy, revealing outfits beneath.

Their dancing is generally solid, with a nice energy and engaging sharpness. The unity between the three dancers is still emphasised, and their movement seems intentionally contained, despite its sharpness and speed. It's a dark comedy, not a light-hearteed piece, and the trio ends up in their initial bulky outfits once more, seemingly ultimately unchanged by their performance.

Wednesday, 14 October, 2015

TEMPO 2015 : Y CHROMOZONE (2015)

Tom Bradley (Sydney Dance Company), Kimbrian Bergh (South African Ballet Theatre) and Tim Podesta (Projection Dance), Paul Knobloch (Sydney Dance Company), The Dust Palace, Touch Compass, Da Bradas (Identity Co), New Zealand School of Dance

Reviewed by Camelle Pink, 7 Oct 2015

Seriously, change your plans for Wednesday night and purchase tickets to Y Chromozone. This smorgasbord of dance works will have you leaning in to appreciate the nuances in the movement scores, as well as relaxing into your seat with laughter. The show certainly celebrates the strength, agility and artistry of the men (and women) who are active in our New Zealand dance communities, bringing some fabulous offerings from local dance companies, groups and individuals. Thank you to the performers, choreographers, and the Tempo Team for bringing this delight of a show to Q Theatre.

With no interval, it is quite a long program, but one that is worth your time. Even for the sheer prospect of seeing the OMG Dad's get their groove on -Bruno Mars should get these guys on tour! There are well-placed breaks in the show allowing allow viewers to relax the mind and simply enjoy the pleasure of seeing wonderful execution of steps combined with a flair for performance.

Y Chromozone kicks off with the bright Eight by Brigitte Knight performed by current Unitec students. The simple backdrop sets the scene for energetic leaps and bounds. It interprets the music appropriately while showcasing the youthful male power of these dancers.

Next, Touch Compass Dance Company bring us an interesting play with the frame of a box in Framed Borders. While this work seems mostly inwardly focused, there is an engaging play with the idea of travel, time, and proximity between the performers. The lighting state really enhances the images within this work.

We witness two strong examples of champion male Highland dancers from The Highland Dance Company of New Zealand. Our first introduction to these adept dancers is their sword dance Blood On the Loch. The audience responds marvellously to their explosive jumps and beats. Their second offering Rhythm in Blue contrasts with the light ballon of the sword dance through the more grounded (but no less sharp) Irish hard shoe dance. Their posture and crisp footwork is rhythmic, and fierce.

Tupua Tigafua has created a nugget of gold in Just Say Hello. The tone of this work is playful, lively and a total crowd-pleaser. There is a precision in the sequencing of the movements, and an innovative mixture of styles slip into this piece. The guys certainly capture the high spirits of the song. 

Pay attention to Edward Clendon in wind-carry. He harnesses an impressive power, suspended close to the stage lights. There is a clean, articulateness to his leg movement that is coupled with absolute strength. This is fascinating to observe as he passes through a variety of graceful gestures and motifs.

Perri Exeter presents us with Beyond the Mat. The changing music provides a soundscape to the movements that we come to recognise. There is a sense of wrestling between people and ideas in this piece. Both fluid and strong, the choreography is well performed by Rodney Tyrell, Elijah Kennar, and Leighton Rangi.

In Bon Voyage we get to relax into the vision of pleasing virtuosic extensions that Paul Knobloch is capable of. He is smooth and dextrous. As a repeated image, I wonder what the beautiful leg extensions are saying? Of several interesting moments within this work, the two that stick in my mind have little to do with technique and everything to do with the break in movement. Face-planted to the suitcase and the plucking of light from the case seemed to hold more meaning and intention for us as observers.

I am no tapper, but Brandon Carter-Chanheld the audience's attention with his street style tap. Appropriately titled Sound, the dance plays with rhythm and generates lively audience involvement -do not worry, you will not have to get up on stage!

Father and Son returns some lightness to the show. The facials truly make this piece work as is expected with a name such as White Face Crew. The mime allows everyone into the work, with recognisable moments between father  and son.The piece comes full circle, in a pleasing way.

Without Regard presented by Jag Popham and Samuel Hall demonstrates their skill at partnering and moving with ease in and out of the floor. Moments of their music are reminiscent of a piano-version of the techno sandstorm track. With this they capture an intensity in their duet which exudes control over each other, and leads me to wonder is this about self-dialogue?

The Dust Palace tackle some hefty subjects in Derezzed  and The Adonis Complex. Both pieces deserve an essay written on how they unpack their concepts around the masculine self and what defines masculinity. There is definite potential in Derezzed  to delve into the theory by Donna Harraway (1991), however it satisfies with a spinning spectacle of light and action. Human movement layered with screen projection adds another layer to this cyborg-like performance. The Adonis Complex invites the audience to see these muscular women as they perform, and challenges us to see them doing strength tasks that are a display of paradoxically gendered actions.

A bare stage, a pedestrian style and precise technique makes Walk The New Walk an intriguing narrative of two men faced with the reality of their morality. Sounds deep, but Tim Podesta and Kimbrian Berg keep us satisfied with their ability to create humour and commitment to the movement score. This style of choreography may be a bit dense for non-dancers, however everyone agrees that it is a delight to see.

We see choreographer-performer Thomas Bradley revealed by a window of light as he writhes in From Form. Moving through a series of nuanced bodily articulations he compels us to ask 'what is it to [be] moved? There is a continual sense of morphing and re-working of himself to develop a studied, deliberate performance that takes full advantage of the lighting potential of the theatre.

The Bradas wrap up the show with their high impact hip hop performance. Gold is clean, entertaining, and exhibits the skill that led them to win their champions title at the World Championship earlier this year.  They continue to toy with movement and music to make exciting pairings. This set has a clubby feel at times, with the contrived facials that are present in the spectacle of hip-hop dance. Definitely a strong finish to Y Chromozone.

Truly, I could write five times as much about all of the performances in Y Chromozone. The show is testament to all the wonderful choreographic and performance work by, and for males in New Zealand. I commend the artists for tackling some huge subject areas, and also to those who remind us that dance for entertainment's sake is significant. I am wowed, and humbled by the expertise shown in Y Chromozone. Keep making work and sharing it with us!

Tuesday, 1 September, 2015

Acquisitions '15 - Touch Compass
21 August 2015, Playhouse Theatre - Hamilton

Reviewed by Sue Cheesman

Touch Compass’s Acquisitions tour began in Hamilton on Friday 21 August at the Playhouse Theatre, University of Waikato. This new ensemble of seven company dancers with a range of physicalities embodies the content differently, which makes this company so unique. Touch Compass has been challenging perceptions about what dance is and who can do it for 17 years now.

This latest programme is billed as mixed media. Two very contrasting works frame two short films with the intriguing commonality throughout being a large cube shaped wooden box. This provides a vehicle for a plethora of ways to relate to it both literally and symbolically.

The first work Undertide choreographed by Olive Beiringa and Otto Ramstad (Body Cartography) is introspective. We as an audience are invited to contemplate the dance as if looking at an old master’s painting that slowly morphs. This piece demands a different kind of attention, almost contemplative, and more akin to a Butoh sense of time.

It begins with a film projected on the back of the giant box with a geometrical grid carving up the image into rectangle squares making the viewing more 3D than fractionated. Bodies crease, fold, lean and lie as the overall picture slowly mutates.  Several times the tranquil state is splintered by shaking and trembling, which permeates across all dancers. The film zooms in on one dancer’s belly. The skin is rolled back revealing an internal green vestibule of stomach contents. Accompanied by a slurping sound, fingers clean out numerous small dark balls. The image is macabre yet compelling at the same time.  

On the other side of the stage the yellow sepia toned light grows on a beautiful opening tableau introducing the live part of the dance.  Bodies seemed to be jig sawed together as they intertwine around one another.  This striking image is somewhat under cut by too many single entries of dancers to the upstage, dimly lit revolving box, making it hard to sustain our attention.  Inside the box we see dancers leaning, sliding, stacking and restacking and shaking. Many of the images and motifs from the film repeat as the dancers introspectively navigate the inside of the box with a slow liquid dynamic.  

The accompaniment, full of intrigue, was composed by Claire Cowan.  

Undertide concludes with a stunning image of the dancers and the box equally spaced out turning on their respective spots reminiscent of whirling Dervishes.  It was perplexing to see this image fade and return again.

The two films form part of a series of dance box and the filming within the box captures a sense of confinement and oppression in different ways throughput each.  Lady Word Smith is very art house in its delivery and sees Alexandra Smith’s story go from confinement and caged within the box – writer’s block maybe to freedom as the pages of text cascade around her in the final shot.  Duncan Armstrong’s film Drumming is like Thunder immediately captures attention as this punk continues to drum out his stuff as the harsh reality bites and he is stopped from playing.  However Duncan triumphs over adversity finishing in true punk style with Duncan yelling, “LET’S DANCE, LET’S SING, LET’S DO A SHOW”.  

Watching Windows is lighter in mood and more upbeat built by co-creators, Catherine Chappell, Georgie Goater, Liz Kirk and Adrian Smith. Paper, scissors, rock, charades, swinging on climbing bars and the game of chase, spiritedly remind us of playground antics. At several points much to the audience’s delight, a music box sound is heard created by two dancers winding the toy.  The music for this piece, curated by percussionist Chris O’Connor underpinned the dynamic variation within the dance successfully.

In addition to the giant box this set has the addition of one medium and several other sized boxes, which are manipulated and played with as part of the piece.  Dancers hide, gaze out of, make sound on, slide on, balance on, open and close as they relate to these boxes.

The piece is predominately a series of duets and solos interspersed with group work. The echoing of several motifs is played cleverly out throughout the interplay of roles in the various duets.

The last set of traverses is action packed and full of physicality as dancers cartwheel, leap, jump, tumble, spin, slide, swing on, through and of the boxes. Leading to a crescendo ending in the dancers drumming out an array of multi rhythms.

Strong performances by Alisha McLennan and Georgie Goater create an engaging stage presence particularly in their solo parts of this piece.

This new cast promises potential to fully embody these works.

Friday, 28 August, 2015

Touch Compass Dance Company's Acquistions is a lively, vigorous works

Dominion Post Review by Ann Hunt

Te Whaea Theatre, Wellington, until August 29

Touch Compass is a contemporary dance company comprised of disabled and non-disabled dancers and is based in Auckland. It is New Zealand's only inclusive dance company and their aim is to challenge people's perceptions of who can dance and what dance is.

Artistic director Catherine Chappell has curated this very enjoyable multi-media dance production, which features two performance works and a series of short films. The setting is an extremely versatile plywood box, known as the DanceBox. The company dances, literally and figuratively, inside and outside the box.

Undertide is a mixed media dance and film work by Body Cartography, United States-based choreographers Olive Beiringa and Otto Ramstad. The opening film sequence resembles beautiful sepia photographs. The minimalist movement is delicate and subtle, yet always intriguing.

Slowly, the film figures morph into live dancers who gradually ascend to the box and take over the performance. The ending, with the dancers turning and turning, is a lovely image. Claire Cowan's mysterious and slightly melancholy music adds to the hypnotic quality of this inventive work.

In this and in the other performance work, images of people squashed into boxes that don't fit them,  is a telling metaphor for situations in which many disabled people find themselves – boxed in and confined by societal expectations.

In another film, drummer/dancer Duncan Armstrong begins playing on a drum kit, only to have the drums removed one by one, until he is left with just the sticks. Finally these are taken away and all he has is his hands.  But he keeps on drumming - on the floor, the walls, and will not be stopped, until he is joined by one, then many, in a vigorous scene of energy and hope.

Watching Windows concludes the evening. A lively work created by the company dancers in collaboration with Chappell, Georgie Goater, Liz Kirk and Adrian Smith, it plays with scale and space, again utilising boxes of various shapes and sizes. The excellent music is by Chris O'Connor. 

 - Stuff

Friday, 28 August, 2015

Choreographers: Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad with composer Clare Cowan; Catherine Chappell with composer/percussionist Chris O'Connor; videographer Alyx Duncan.

at Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington
Until 29 Aug 2015 
[1 hour]

Reviewed by Sam Trubridge, 28 Aug 2015

I first saw Touch Compass a few years after they had formed, at the 1999 Celebration of the Performing Arts in Auckland. It changed my perception of dance from that of an art-form beyond the reach of common expression. Until then dance had seemed to me more athletic than polemic, more technique than content. However, watching the amazing Touch Compass dancers moving together on stage through their unique ways allowed me to see the broader potential for dance as a live and powerfully expressive artform.

16 years later and Touch Compass are a class act. This year's Acquisitions Tour features some fantastic dancers and collaborations to create a moving night of movement. The set design remains consistent throughout each work: in the two choreographed works Undertide and Watching Windows, as much as in the three featured film sections. This elegant construction of one large cubic space on elevated wheels and other various boxes of various sizes helps bring the whole evening together. Windows, hatches, and doorways provide spaces within these spaces, portals between, spaces of passage, and frames for the bodies that pass. It is a shame that this design (and the lighting) is not credited in the programme because it is an incredibly strong and sophisticated contribution to the work, allowing the whole set to perform in collaboration with the choreographers and their seven dancers.

Undertide is choreographed by Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad from The Body Cartography Project. It is wonderful to see their trademark sensitivity to tiny shifts and touches, initiating small changes in energy within a group that share a strong empathic connection through each movement. After a video introduction, the dance starts outside the largest of the wooden boxes, in a knot of bodies that slowly emerges from the low light. The box becomes a stage within the larger stage of Te Whaea's auditorium. Alisha McLennan's departure from the group to enter this space is a lovely and poignant act that highlights the decision to be seen, to perform, and to do something that is seen. As other dancers follow her, they unite in a liquid, tidal investigation of this small interior together, rolling past and over one another, like bodies at sea. Sometimes they join in a trembling that shakes the walls and floor of this enclosure. They finally break the bounds of this little space and spin like dervishes, one hand to the heavens and one hand connecting to the earth below. It is testament to Bieringa and Ramstad's sensitivity and tenderness as choreographers that the final exit is so moving – as the dancers turn and simply walk out, with each body comfortable in its own gait, its own rhythms. It is beautiful.

Two videos come next: Alyx Duncan's Dancebox is a stunning play between small and large scale, with stunning symbolism and theatrical image-making filmed entirely within the boxes. Another video features Duncan Armstrong in a jubilant play on the percussive character of the same boxes. They make a powerful interlude in the evening of live performance.

The last work brings to life the whole array of the cubes that have been arranged around the larger ‘home' box. It is a playful work of acrobatic engagement with the architectural arrangement on stage. The dancers spring through small openings, pace around the larger ones, they slide through hatches, emerge from the ceiling, twist under the elevated flooring, and glide over another's own bodies. Gravity, a sense of up and down, beneath and above, is often inverted, rotated, and unsettled by this tumbling weave of movement through the compartments and contained spaces. It reminds me of Malia Johnstone's own use of boxes in Miniatures (2007), and Ross McCormack's recent Age for the 2014 NZ Festival. These works all express a certain New Zealand relationship with home and landscape: a miniature, temporary, or fragile enclosure in the large open terrain of the theatre/landscape. At the strongest moments Touch Compass bodies pace these spaces, look out, and examine tender, awkward, or solitary relationships inside each enclosure.

Sometimes it is not clear what the boxes are meant to be, other than a jungle-gym for this very strong and adept group of performers. A mime sequence with smaller boxes seems to evaporate a lot of the powerful symbolism these boxes have accumulated throughout the evening. This is not so strong, but other scenes bring things back to life, when a box vibrates as it is pushed on stage. It is then turned to reveal Georgie Goater crammed into the tiny interior. Her drumming on the box infects the rest of the cast, and in the final victorious moments of the performance everyone hammers on the walls of various pieces of the set. Others clatter the smaller components together, shaking the walls, swinging the doors, and animating this little settlement of cubic shapes with their collective energy. It is a fantastic finale. 

Monday, 24 August, 2015


Theatreview review by Brenda Rae Kidd, 24 Aug 2015

Playhouse Theatre, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Hamilton
19 Aug 2015 

Touch Compass is New Zealand's only professional, inclusive dance company working with able-bodied and non-able bodied dancers redefining dance and preconceptions as to what dance is.

Acquisitions comprises of two works with several short films as an interlude.  The films are whimsical yet reflective, the highlight been dancer Duncan Armstrong playing a frustrated punk rocker who finds a way to carry on the music whilst his very instrument is taken away from him. 

The first work ‘Undertide' by US based choreographers Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad is a mixed media effort incorporating dance very successfully with film.  Backed by a minimalist yet haunting musical score by composer Claire Cowan, ‘Undertide' is a modern urban work exploring how we adapt to our environment, specifically crowding, whether it be physical or spiritual.  The dancers writhe and contort as bodies morph from position to position in a fight for space – to breathe.  It is an intriguing work, as a shaking pulsing green light emanates from a dancers third chakra, one is left to ponder the significance.  Located around the navel in the area of the solar plexus, the third chakra is a source of personal power and governs self-esteem, warrior energy, and the power of transformation.  I may be off track completely but this work does allow one to interpret as one sees.

I particularly like the use of the box throughout Acquisitions, as a metaphor for space, or limit of, and the way the dancers break free from the confines of the box using it as a springboard for movement and release.  To me, the box is symbolic of shackles and conforming.  The dancers entice us to look outside the square.  The lighting is worthy of mention, subtle yet present..

‘Watching Windows' is a lighter more accessible work choreographed by Catherine Chappell, Liz Kirk and Adrian Smith with collaboration from the dancers themselves specifically the graciously statuesque Georgie Goater.  Remaining with the theme of box versus expansion, the dancers vault,  and stretch in and around boxy and straight shapes. I really enjoy this work, there is a feeling of freedom and joy whereby ‘Undertide' feels ever so claustrophobic.  One delightful moment is the playing of little music boxes that harmonise with a piano tune.  Playful and wonderfully abundant.


Tuesday, 26 August, 2014

Acquisitions '14 - HUMANITY EXPOSED
Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad with music by Claire Cowan; Catherine Chappell with music by Chris O'Connor

at Q Theatre Loft, Auckland
From 6 Aug 2014 to 10 Aug 2014 
[1 hour]

Reviewed by Dr Linda Ashley, 7 Aug 2014

Curated by Touch Compass Dance Company director Catherine Chappell, Acquisitions '14 layers dance with film, music and very clever boxes.

Beginning in the Q foyer, the DanceBox project is led by film director Alyx Duncan and supported by the Ministry of Social Development Make a Difference Campaign. This online project, launched on International Dance Day (April 29), is a clever strategy to engage with as many dancers as possible, including some in Wellington and Christchurch. Designed to shine a light on special personal milestones of change, the stories in these mini-dance films strike both profound and amusing moments. You are invited to join in. Watching these personal and enchanting films, with coincidentally a couple of company dancers jamming in front of them, is a real treat. The interactive short dance film installation is the start of many boxes.

Undertide, by NZ/USA Minnesota-based directors of the BodyCartography Project Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad, is a sepia study of dynamic sustainment and a sustained study of intense confinement. Beginning as a film (director Alyx Duncan), seven dancers communally jostle for position within the confines of a box, viscerally. Bodies ripple, nerves jitter and energy flows successively like the blood within. A gory filmic moment reveals the viscera; the audience make uncomfortable noises.  Morphing into real time, dancers slowly leave the box only to cling to each other as the empty box spins. Magic and trickery? Returning to the confines of the cube brings reversal and echoes through time. Ending with the dancers return to real time, planetary spinning leaves us in calm, contemplative absorption.

The score by Claire Cowan cradles the dance, showing off the minutiae of the movements, as music that is good for dance should do. It is hollow, deep, squelchy, lunar and evokes the steady flow of body and ocean fluids that we see in the dancers' bodies.

Watching Windows, co-created by Catherine Chappell, Liz Kirk and dancers Georgie Goater, Adrian Smith, Tess Connell, Jesse Johnstone-Steel, Alisha McLennan and Zildjan Robinson, plays with the ideas of physical boundaries and limitations of several boxes. We are gifted a mischievous, childlike and yet grown-up whimsical series of solos and duets that delight in a playground of appearances, disappearances, balances, slides, glances of touch, astonishing suspensions, gestural conversations, making full use of (to use some old Laban language) moving over, under, around and through the boxes. Watching Windows exemplifies how to make full use of a set-prop and provides a lesson in how thoughtful transitions enhance the balance, pacing and flow of choreography.

Chris O'Connor provides a sound score that choreographers and dancers can only dream of – 'loving the musical boxes, the mix of live percussion and recorded sound that supports the quicksilver final section.  

Lighting design (Jane Hakaria) and production (Romola Lang) add value to the whole. I would love to know who made those clever boxes. There is much to watch in this production and a second viewing could prove equally rewarding. Physical restrictions disappear in Acquisitions '14 and Touch Compass unequivocally meet their mission of making a difference in terms of who can dance.

Friday, 8 August, 2014

Reviewer: Bernadette Rae - NZ Herald 

Hypnotic work is one out of the box

The opening work in this most mesmerising of programmes begins with a filmed section projected on to a large wooden cube which contains and catapults the dancers into action for the whole of the show's duration.

Choreographed by Americans Olive Beiringa and Otto Ramstad of the BodyCartography Project, whose long-term interest is an exploration of the spaces we inhabit, both internal and external, Undertide presents a tableau of some seven bodies in an evolving tangle of pale limbs, beige undergarments and impassive faces.

It's like a Grecian frieze come to gradual life, each arrangement revealing more of the inner story. The pace is hypnotic, so the sudden appearance of a dark object on an exposed belly and its slow excavation by worm-like fingers is a shock.

The live section of the work arrives, pale body by pale body, to create another sculpted tangle on a shadowy stage. The clever cube spins at increasing speed and the dancers join its illumination one by one to continue their somatic conversation: Tess Connell, Georgie Goater, Alisha McLennan, Zildjian Robinson and Adrian Smith, with understudies Aloalii Tapyu and Monique Westerdaal providing the momentum.

Suzanne Cowan and Renee Ball perform in the filmed sequence only. The intriguing soundtrack is by Claire Cowan. Alyx Duncan directed the filming.

The second item is Watching Windows, a collaboration between artistic director Catherine Chappell and company dancers, this time including Touch Compass favourite Jesse Johnstone-Steele.

Touch Compass work exclusively in contact improvisation style. The cube adds another robust point of contact as the dancers explore its planes and angles, trapdoors, windows and skylights.

The main body of the work consists of three pairs: Johnstone-Steele and Robinson in blokey balance; quicksilver McLennan with the gorgeously athletic Goater; and Connell and Smith in a close and breathtaking connection in which Smith's extreme flexibilities are more than matched by the spirited Connell. It's a graphic demonstration that the differences imposed by a foreshortened limb, extra chromosome or unusually wired nervous system defy judgment as artistically "less-than".

The full extent of the Dance Box project is also on show in Q's foyers.

Thursday, 7 August, 2014

 - The New Zealand Herald -

Framed, contained, confined, compressed? Or maybe the 3m square plywood boxes that delineate space in Touch Compass' Acquisitions '14 are treasure chests?

Three separate works are on show in the mixed ability dance company's new season, beginning with a multimedia display from the Dancebox project that spawned the cubical theme, playing in the theatre foyer.

Undertide, choreographed by American choreographers Olive Beiringa and Otto Ramstad, consists of a filmed section made during their last visit to New Zealand, with seven dancers, plus a live segment completed via Skype, under the guidance of artistic director Catherine Chappell. The third item is Watching Windows, a live exploration by three couples of the opportunities and limitations a boxed-in space presents.

The theme emerged in April this year, at a series of community workshops funded by the Ministry of Social Development, that were to produce a series of short films.

The "very organic and collaborative process" used in making the work is obvious during a rehearsal in which Touch Compass stalwart Jesse Johnstone-Steele and Zildjian Robinson practise their moves. A sequence has evolved and Chappell is concerned that they are moving too fast for the length of their music. "Pose ... hold ... now move," she says.

But just as often come invitations to "play with that movement" to find what fits.

"For every issue that comes along, different people will find different solutions," she says.

Next up is Tess Connell, rehearsing today with an understudy. Her dance partner, Adrian Smith, is away performing with Dust Palace.

Connell was born with arms that finish just past her elbow.

She is tiny and flexible but the lightness of her upper limbs means she works without a normal counterweight as she somersaults through planes of defined space, relying instead on exceptional core strength.

"Tess has a really good way of ordering her body," says Chappell. "Most people need to be trained in the technique of Contact Improvisation - Tess does it naturally."

Connell first performed with Touch Compass as a 12-year-old, appearing in the 2003 documentary Timeless and short film The Picnic. Before that she studied ballet and contemporary dance at Tapac. Then, in an adolescent "identity crisis" she ditched dancing for soccer.

Since then she has studied psychology and sociology at university, and is completing her last paper in post-graduate psychology. Her driving force as a dancer is a desire to be physical, she says, to experience "that part of the world" and, she confesses, a strong urge to prove people who doubt her capabilities are wrong.

Watching the dancers in rehearsal in their boxes is like peeping through a window at something still private, not yet open for public view.

Connell sums up that sense and important aspect of the show.

"It is about humanity exposed."

NZ Herald




Friday, 28 July, 2017

Congratulations to Duncan Armstrong who received a highly commended for the Arts Access Award performing arts at parliament on 4 July 2017.

Read more about Duncan at

Friday, 28 July, 2017

Congratulations to Rodney Bell who received the Arts Access Artistic Achievement Award on 4 July 2017 at parliament in Wellington.

Read more about Rodney's story:



Wednesday, 31 December, 2014

Congratulations to Touch Compass dancer/choreographer Suzanne Cowan who won an AMP Scholarship!

Suzanne will use the award to fund her PHD study at Auckland University. 

Tuesday, 11 November, 2014

Congratulations to Alisha McLennan, who won the 2013 Attitude Awards for Artistic Achievement. 

Enjoy this quick video of her talking about her passion for dance. 

The annual Attitude Awards were held on the 3rd of December 2013.


Friday, 20 July, 2012

Congratulations to two of our dancers!

Our newest company member Sarah Houbolt was awarded the inaugural Big ‘A’ Artistic Achievement Award 2012, recognising her outstanding achievements and contribution as an artist with a sensory impairment. A Highly Commended certificate was presented to long standing company dancer Daniel King.

The 2012 awards ceremony were held in the Banquet Hall at Parliament on 18 July.


Friday, 9 September, 2011

The founder of Touch Compass Dance Trust, Catherine Chappell, has been awarded the 2011 Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellowship.

Worth $65,000, it is the largest choreographic award or fellowship available in New Zealand and provides the resources and time for established choreographers to commit to a period of investigation, experimentation and research.

Auckland-based, Catherine Chappell’s professional dance career spans 25 years and a variety of roles, including dancer, teacher, choreographer, mentor and producer.  Following on from a strong background in contact improvisation, Catherine established Touch Compass in 1997 – New Zealand’s first integrated Dance Company for mixed-ability performers.   From the first performance, Touch Compass has developed ‘aerial work’, which sees wheelchairs and dancers suspended and swinging above the stage.  This work has earned Touch Compass the reputation of being a pioneering and ingenious contemporary dance company.

Download full media release



Tuesday, 1 March, 2011

Jesse Johnstone-Steele and Duncan Armstrong attended the World Down Syndrome Day Masquerade Ball and both received an Achievement Award in March 2011.

Monday, 1 December, 2008

Touch Compass received two Tempo Dance Festival awards in 2008 for: 
Best Costume Design: 
Grotteschi-- Suzanne Cowan (from Touch Compass' Harmonious Oddity) 
People's Choice Award for "Best in Show:" 
Touch Compass' Harmonious Oddity

Monday, 1 December, 2008

Winner: Suzanne Cowan - Touch Compass choreographer and dancer
Congratulations to Suzanne Cowan for winning the Attitude Art Award. These were the first Attitude TV Awards, designed to honour the outstanding achievements of people living with disabilities, in the Arts, Sport, and Business.

Suzanne was nominated by Touch Compass, for her outstanding work as a choreographer and dancer, most recently choreographing and dancing in the acclaimed duet Grotteschi. Suzanne is also a Touch Compass Board member, and is completing a Masters (MCPA) in Dance at Auckland University.

Monday, 1 December, 2008

Winner: Suzanne Cowan - Touch Compass choreographer and dancer
There were 8 categories of Attitude Awards - Youth, Employer, Enterprise, Arts, Community, Sportswoman, Sportsman, and Spirit. Form each of these categories, one Supreme Attitude Award winner was selected. Congratulations Suzanne!