Celebrating Inclusive Dance

Touch Compass is New Zealand’s only professional inclusive dance company, where disabled and non-disabled dancers meet on the floor, or in mid-air. The company’s performances have won international and national acclaim and challenged society’s notions of what dance is, and who can do it.

At the start of 2014 a donor of The Gift Trust provided three years’ worth of matched funding to Touch Compass. This donation will enable them to confidently renew their lease on their custom built, wheelchair accessible dance studio, with a spring-loaded floor. The matched funding will also help increase their fundraising ability to ensure their longer-term financial sustainability.

“The funds are a real boost for the company,” says General Manager Karen Fraser Payne. “It’s a life-changer in the employment of disabled dancers and choreographers, and a game-changer enabling us to deliver more high quality inclusive dance performances and community programmes in more regions.”

The company was founded in 1999 and has been growing through grant funding from Creative New Zealand. The company has two components: a professional performance function, and Encompass, their community and education programme. The dance company provides development training for dancers, and presents one major season or tour a year.

Encompass delivers inclusive community classes and dance education resources, as well as training for dance teachers to incorporate inclusive dance into their classrooms.

“For us, accessibility is about more than just venues,” says Karen. “It’s about changing people’s perceptions, attitudes and practices. It’s about respecting individual differences and encouraging and enabling individual creativity.”