Run, Slip, Spring

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

27/06/2012 - 30/06/2012

Production Details

Since 1997, Touch Compass Dance Company’s artistic director, Catherine Chappell has been quietly re-directing the focus of New Zealand dance and theatre audiences to the genre of integrated dance, by creating and presenting professional dance works with a company of disabled and non-disabled dancers. 

Her persistence has finally paid off.  Fifteen years later, not only is the company now considered mainstream, it is also funded at the highest level by Creative New Zealand to create and reflect back the stories of New Zealanders to those in the wider community.  

To celebrate this remarkable achievement Touch Compass will be performing one of its most exciting programmes to date – three dance works – two of which have been created especially for the celebrations.  “We are intent on creating work that values diversity and redefines the dancing body” says Ms Chappell.  “The unique energy that each dancer brings to a work is the real strength of the company”, she believes.

On this occasion, Ms Chappell will be returning to her dance-roots, utilising the egalitarian dance form Contact Improvisation to make a new work for the company, but adding a twist that involves the use of bungee ropes to enable the contact between dancers to also have an aerial component.  Flying through the air on harnesses has long been an integral part of the Touch Compass’s dance repertoire, so combining the extra “bounce” of bungee with the spontaneity and chance elements of Contact Improvisation will create exceptionally exciting movement.

Also on the programme is a new work by UK-based, Australian choreographer Marc Brew, entitled Run.  The running in this case refers to “running away” – trying to escape the past or being fearful of what the future holds.  “I’m always trying to challenge the dancers I work with” says Mr Brew, “but equally, I want to be challenged when I watch the dance” he says.  He will work with the material of the dancers own stories to create the work, encouraging them to explore for themselves radically new ways of moving to express what they have to say.

Rounding off the programme is a work from 2010, created for the company by internationally acclaimed choreographer, Carol Brown, who is currently senior lecturer in dance at Auckland University.  Entitled, Slip I’m not falling I’m just hanging on as long as you hold me, the work features six songs especially composed by Russell Scoones, to profile an element of each dancer’s moving identity.

For further information on the 15th Anniversary Season please contact artistic director, Catherine Chappell: (09) 550.6464 or 021 989 447 or email


SPRING: Adrian Smith, Daniel King, Emilia Rubio and Suzanne Cowan; 

RUN: Alisha McLennan, Matt Gibbon, Adrian Smith and Sarah Houbolt

SLIP: Alisha McLennan, Emilia Rubio, Daniel King, Melanie Turner, Georgie Goater and Jesse Johnstone-Steele, with singer  Tracy Zuiderwyk

1hour 30 mins

Run, Slip and Spring, Q Theatre

Review by Bernadette Rae 29th Jun 2012

In its 15th anniversary celebration programme, a triple bill, mixed ability dance company Touch Compass shows just how far it has travelled in a decade and a half.

In their first ever performance a troupe of seven dancers included two in wheelchairs and one with Downs Syndrome, who collectively warmed and won hearts in a spirited instant….

Read the rest of the review





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The Doing of Dance

Review by Anna Bate 29th Jun 2012

Touch Compass, New Zealand’s leading integrated dance company, took to the stage at Auckland’s Q Theatre last night to present their 15 year anniversary show; Run, Slip, Spring. This triple bill featured choreography by Carol Brown (NZ/UK), Marc Brew (UK/Au) and company director Catherine Chappell (NZ).

Before I launch into the review I think it is important to briefly acknowledge the accomplishment of this company, as they have survived and continue to thrive at the ripe old age of fifteen. That’s ancient in New Zealand dance company years! The visibility this company has created for the validity of ‘all bodies’ expression within (and outside of) the NZ professional dance sector is remarkable. So, sending out many thanks to Catherine Chappell and company members past and present for your work and contribution to changing attitudes and lives through dance in NZ.

And now for the show:

The program opens with a re-worked version of Carol Brown’s Slip, I’m not falling I’m just holding on for as long as you can hold me (2010). The work revolves around a personal story from each of the six dancers; Alisha McLennan, Emilia Rubio, Daniel King, Melanie Turner, Georgie Goater and Jesse Johnstone-Steele – who are joined on stage by singer Tracy Z.

As an audience member I zoom in to encounter the re-telling of life changing events, and then back out to view the expanded picture, a group at play. Whilst individuals are highlighted the group remains visible, supporting as back up dancers to an album of life’s greatest hits. What appeals to me in these narrative accounts is that they are told through multiple mediums and that the ‘whole’ is never revealed in an easily definable way. We are instead exposed to partial stories through differing forms of expression: original song (Russell Scoones), costume (Christina Houghton), and movement (Carol and dancers). The proficient integration and layering of these elements, at times produces poetic moments of poignancy, emerging skillfully from the ever-changing rhythm of the work and revealing a depth of human experience that resonates clearly in the performers’ bodies.

In particular I am drawn to Dan preparing to tell, Georgie shedding the cotton-wool skin of her dress, and Alisha suspended and ‘falling’ whilst openly supported by the weight of the group. However some moments, for me, lack the impact that I think was intended. In particular I struggle with the more up-beat sections of the work, they feel forced and the dancers appear to lack a physical connection to the material in these instances, (Jesse being the exception). I wonder how these sections may be approached choreographically and performed in a way that is more genuine and in keeping with the sincerity that permeates most of the work?

Following this is Marc Brew’s choreography, Run, self-described as a work that explores escaping the past whilst fearing moving towards the future. From this image I expected a standstill of sorts, riddled with tension and Run most definitely delivers on this front. Conveyed through sharp, direct and at times mechanical movement Adrian Smith, Daniel, Georgie and Suzanne Cowan perform this choreography with committed gusto. I enjoy the punchiness of the vocabulary and am intrigued and drawn into the floor work that exhibits a skillful knowledge of low-level movements that my body is not accustomed to.

The musical score by Drew McMillan is a driving force, emotively conjuring tension and suspense. This music teamed with the other production elements, black and silver costumes and rectangular boxes of light, has me making associations with action movies from the 90s. I am however not sure if this aesthetic is intentional? And think that perhaps these stylistic choices (costumes and lights) need to be re-considered, because, for me, they don’t support the work as effectively as they could.

In talking of the work Marc emphasises ‘challenge’ as being an important factor within the choreography. This ‘challenge’ is evident in the physicality of the performers as they navigate difficult movement pathways. However there is ease in my watching of the work, as I follow the ride, witnessing a whirl of tension, I begin to question how Marc might also catch me out with a challenge. Despite these criticisms, on the whole I feel that the performance traverses and explores a particular physical state, and does so with success, exhibiting a skilful rigour in the rehearsal direction and performance of the work.

Concluding the program is company director Catherine Chappell’s new work Spring. For me this choreography is a quiet surprise – a spaciously rich work that demands a kind of attention from both performer and audience that I had not previously experienced at a Touch Compass show. Spring was devised through an exploration of the bungee equipment the company have recently acquired. It appears that the quality of movement that this equipment generates infiltrated the entirety of the work: the music (so carefully crafted by Eden Mulholland), the performance design, and the open attentiveness that oozes through the dancers (Alisha, Matt Gibbon, Adrian and Sarah Houbolt) bodies from beginning to end.

I admire Catherine’s simple approach to this work, both in the opening pre-amble as bodies playfully position themselves in space and in the choices of material performed on the bungees. I expected loud overt tricks but receive gentle subtle ones instead. In particular I enjoy watching the way in which the action and elasticity of the bungee cord reverberates through each of the performer’s bodies with such liquid ease. And how the act of working with these cords, in such close proximity to another body, requires unfaltering attention and constant moment-to-moment decision-making. They were not showing, they were doing and this I like.



val smith June 29th, 2012

yes indeed, huge congrats to Catherine Chappell and Touch Compass on your 15th anniversary. Well done for sticking with the vision and achieving all that you have. I felt a sense of pride on opening night, and really enjoyed the warm family spirit in Q.

I really just wanting to say how much I enjoyed Catherine's choregraphy on the bungees in Spring. Just gorgeous, moving, sweet, innocent... i really liked this piece alot. so simple and i loved its messiness and unpredictability. i hope it doesn't get too tidied up into the future, there was something very interesting and powerful about this aspect.

one issue i have though is how partnering always seems to match an 'abled' person with a 'disabled' person. i want to see a love duet between two 'disabled' bodies damn it!


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