Dance review: Run, Slip and Spring, Q Theatre

By Bernadette Rae

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The Touch Compass Dance Company in action. Photo / Supplied
The Touch Compass Dance Company in action. Photo / Supplied

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. This season presents a company of 10, including three who use wheelchairs and that same indominatable ambassador for the talents and charms of Downs Syndrome people, Jesse Johnstone-Steele: which is not so different a mix.

But gone are the warm fuzzies of a cute community dance collective - and the heartfelt rapport. Touch Compass today looks like a fully professional dance company, sophisticated, even avant garde, and begging no favours at all for the fact that not all its members are built in long limbed and lean perfection.

The programme begins with choreographer Carol Brown's 2010 creation Slip! I'm not falling I'm just hanging on for as long as you hold me, in a colourful flurry of dressing up, dressing down and stripping off which exposes the vulnerability and parades the strengths of its six dancers, their independence and inter dependence, though the opening sequence of stage setting with neat piles of clothes seems overlong.

The dancers' individuality is celebrated in a set of gorgeous original songs, composed by Russell Scoones and performed live by Tracy Z in haunting refrains with key phrases like "the best day of my life...." and "I always did my best..." and "little one, silent forever, it's all gone..." then ends with brave and beautiful Alisha McLennon suspended in a paradigm that makes perfect sense of the whole.

Second up is Marc Brew's Run! with four dancers readied for frenzied flight, wheeled and not, in sleek black lycra embellished with silver icons and lead by the sizzling partnership of Suzanne Cowan and Adrian Smith with Daniel King and, on opening night, Georgie Goater.

Artistic director Catherine Chappell pioneers the new technique of aerial bungee in Spring! as an alternative to the rope and harness rigging used previously by the company. Matt Gibbon partners Sarah Houbolt, and Adrian Smith Alisha McLennon, in a romantic double duet of dream-like swing and flight, leap and languish, with streaks of circus magic and a spinning, intertwined finale. At times the dancers look slightly unsettled with their new and reportedly demanding technique. So there is further work to be done here.

But when did Touch Compass ever sit still for long or rest on its considerable laurels?

What: Run. Slip. Spring, with the Touch Compass Dance Company
Where: Q Theatre, to June 30

- NZ Herald

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