“Through touch we find the first glimpse of a primitive sense of self that provides a building block for social learning” Andrew Meltzoff, Researcher in Developmental Science (2018)

We are all touched hundreds of times each day, by loved ones, by strangers and by inanimate objects. Before our eyes develop outside of the womb, we learn the world through touch. Touch can connect, contain and stimulate. Touch is how we build relationships.

‘Touch’ is an improvised, interactive show where 2-4 performers gently encourage dancing, play and touch with the audience. Starting individually, the performers show themselves through solos which develop into duets and group dances between themselves. They explore types of touch; accepting and refusing; setting a precedent; being bold, dynamic and gentle. They gradually offer and ask for touch with the audience by placing a head on a leg or hand to hand. Through the process of building relationships and confidence moving together through touch, the whole audience is invited to dance together in the space.

The work was inspired by hearing about ‘no touch’ policies enforced within some schools and children’s centres. These policies discourage teachers and adult support workers from comforting and playing with children through touch because of the fear of these adults actions. The work is also being made in the time of increased awareness of sexual misconduct and transparency in many fields. I see this performance as a discussion between performer-performer, audience-performer and audience-audience in negotiating personal and social barriers to touch. It is a performance that negotiates community relationships, where the community is the people present in the room.

The work has currently been developed for children aged 0-3 and their adults, however we are interested in developing versions for different ages. We hope to make the show to tour to theatre venues, early-years settings and rural touring circuits. We are currently looking to secure commissioning partners and interested parties to support us to develop the full-length work for 2019.

In 2018, Rosie Heafford will also be working as a visiting lecturer at Royal Holloway University working with under-graduate and school students to research the work further. 

Please get in touch with if you are interested in further details about this project.

This project is supported by Polka Theatre, developed through the Hopper Early Years scheme with the support of Take Art, Surrey Arts, China Plate, Arts Partnership Surrey, and Paul Hamlyn Foundation and using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.



  1. Touch R&D excerpt