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Touch Compass on the radar / 14 March 2009

I was very excited at the prospect of seeing Touch Compass, having met several of the artists from the programme whilst I was in Auckland where the company is based. Tim Turner, Rodney Bell and Suzanne Cowan all talked about their work with such passion and commitment. When disabled artists (or artists with disabilities as is the preferred term in Australia) take their work into a professional arena they are driven to give several hundred per cent. There is an extra determination needed. Having heard Rodney Bell speak at Momentum with such warmth and candour about his process of development as a dancer under the mentorship of director Catherine Chappell I had a sense of the company as a place where dancers are pushed to find the limits of their artistic expression. 

Rodney talked about his first attempts at creating intent within his dance movement by using mundane actions like making toast. As he developed confidence so he levitated to explore his psyche in greater and greater depth. What he showed us at Momentum was very much derived from his Maori heritage.

Often dancers will stay for a very long time - more than a decade even - with the same company. This happens partly because of the lack of opportunity to perform with other dance companies. It also happens because of the need to build up relationships over time, to develop an original expression. There is a greater need for peer support when working within a disability or integrated context. However with Touch Compass all three of the dancers I've met thus have either moved on or have other strings to their bow. Rodney Bell is now with Axis Dance company in California. Suzanne Cowan has come to Touch Compass after having spent a couple of years with Candoco in the UK. Tim Turner works with Touch Compasses' educational programme, but also sustains a career as a visual artist.

Having seen two Touch Compasses performances at Art of Difference I have been greatly impressed by the work of Suzanne Cowan. To read my review of Touch Compass please return to these pages later.