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Touch Compass wheelchair dancers fly high

18 Apr 2011

This content is tagged as Dance .


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Touch Compass wheelchair dancers fly high with Creative New Zealand investment

The Touch Compass dance company which aims to change the way New Zealanders think about dance – and who can dance – has been granted leadership investment funding by Creative New Zealand.

Touch Compass will be in Wellington and Hastings in June to present its innovative contemporary dance-theatre show Triple Bill performed by dancers with and without disabilities.

In its 14 years of operation, Touch Compass has astounded audiences here and in Australia with its choreography and aerial work which sees wheelchairs and dancers suspended and performing above the stage as well as on it.

The quantum of the new Arts Leadership Investment will be announced in September.

“This is the first time the company has been awarded annual Creative New Zealand funding and it will enable us to develop our training and performance programme over a number of years. It is a wonderful recognition of the professional and ground-breaking work Touch Compass founder Catherine Chappell and the dancers have done since we started in 1997,” Touch Compass general manager Karen Fraser Payne said.

“We are a charitable trust and our vision is a society where all people are highly valued and where disabled and non-disabled dancers of all cultures seamlessly integrate in contemporary dance programmes that resonate profoundly with audiences.”

Triple Bill raises the bar by presenting three large scale performance works. These are the latest works by internationally acclaimed New Zealand choreographers, Jeremy Nelson (Six) and Carol Brown (Slip), and one of the highlights of the Tempo New Zealand Festival of Dance 2008, Grotteschi choreographed by Suzanne Cowan. Slip received a 2010 NZ Listener Arts Touchstone Award.



Auckland-based Touch Compass first performed its Triple Bill show in August last year with a sell-out season in that city. Jack Gray from Theatre Review said the show was “from the company with strong choreographic work that could sit anywhere in the world from London to New York.”

New Zealand Herald reviewer Raewyn Whyte called the show “sophisticated, technically and emotionally challenging integrated dance works. The eight Touch Compass dancers are artistically assured, responding sensitively to the interpretive demands of their material, showing a high level of polish and proficiency, and a new level of maturity as an ensemble.”


Triple Bill Performances

  • Hawke’s Bay Opera House, Hastings
    Saturday 4 June
  • Te Whaea National Dance & Drama Centre Theatre, Newtown, Wellington
    Thursday to Saturday 9-11 June

Slip I’m not falling I’m just hanging on for as long as you hold me: This work explores flying and falling and the in-between state of suspension, exposes the intimacy of support and the possibilities of surrender. The dancers wrote the titles for an album of songs about life-changing moments; they dress up and down, dance out of memories and move beyond the fear of falling.

Six: Inspired by the dancers, this work explores and discovers how apparent limitations are keys to open doors. Complex patterning, near misses and full body physicality drives this work which extends each dancer’s range of movement. Striking costumes designed in New York add an intriguing dimension.

Grotteschi: Two characters, Ava the Spider Woman and Argyle the Magnificent Mantis Man, explore the aesthetics of the classical body and the grotesque, referencing the old freak show tradition, and how to view and have fun with the subversive nature of “otherness”.