Founder / Executive Director / Artistic Director
Alito Alessi is the Artistic Director of DanceAbility® International and
co-founder of DanceAbility®. Alessi has been involved with the
evolution of contemporary dance for the past 30 years, and is
internationally known as a pioneering teacher, choreographer, and
mentor. Although his work spans the field of dance, he specializes
in working with diverse populations, utilizing tools from the study of
improvisation and contact improvisation, the latter of which he was
present during its development.
Alessi was selected for a Guggenheim Fellowship (2005), an Ashoka
Fellowship, and is a Fulbright Senior Specialist (2007). In 2017, he was
selected as a keynote speaker for International Dance Day in Shanghai,
China and he has been a US Arts Envoy in several countries. He pioneered a project with architect and President of the Pratt Institute Frances Bronet that served to redefine access, inclusion and design in a series of lectures, demonstrations, and dance performances that toured the United States in 2016. Other recognition includes the Hong Kong Choreographer of the Year Award (2006), Choreographer’s Fellowships from the American National Endowment for the Arts (1992-1993& 1995-1996) and from the Oregon Arts Commission (1991), as well as numerous other OAC grants. Under Alessi’s leadership, DanceAbility International was awarded a Fentress Endowment Award (2005) and a National Endowment for the Arts Exemplary Grant (1991) for DanceAbility.
Alessi has dedicated his career to the development, refinement and implementation of a methodology for inclusion and integration of people with and without disabilities. This method uses dance and movement as the tool for social impact. The DanceAbility method strives to create, within any group of people, a functioning democracy that creatively speaks to change in a social environment. The DanceAbility method is currently practiced worldwide. He began training teachers in DanceAbility in 1996, and since, has conducted these month-long DanceAbility Teacher Certification Workshops all over the world. Notably, the DanceAbility Teacher Certification course is a regular occurrence at the Vienna International Dance Festival known as Impulstanz. Throughout these trainings, movement facilitators from around the world are taught to facilitate the DanceAbility curriculum. The trainings occur through experiential learning supported by written DanceAbility method manuals that detail the work. More than 600 dance artists, people with disabilities, and those interested in working with people with disabilities have attended, and there are continuing DanceAbility programs in over 45 countries as a result of the Certification program. Additionally, Alessi teaches educators in various disciplines how to make their classes more accessible to people with disabilities. He continues to work closely with several integrated dance companies he helped found or start in more than seven countries as a consultant, co–teacher and choreographer. A highlight of this work includes the DanceAbility students who choreographed and performed in the opening ceremonies at the Paralympics in Torino, Italy in 2006.
Alessi performs throughout the world, receiving local, national and international recognition. He has choreographed pieces for and performed and/or taught at International Dance Day in Shanghai, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C.), the National Building Museum (Washington D.C.), at the International VSA Arts Festival, the Governor’s Arts Awards in Eugene, and at many festivals, schools, universities and other venues around the world, including Dance Umbrella in Boston, Jacob’s Pillow (U.S.A.), DanceExchange (Washington D.C.), Vienna International Dance Festival, International Festival of New Dance (Brasilia), Bern Tanz Tage Dance Festival and “Festival of Freaks” (both in Switzerland), and Contact Arte (Italy). Residencies include Mexico’s National Academy of Dance, New Mexico School of the Deaf, the New Dance Lab of Minneapolis, and New Territories Performance Festival in Scotland, University of Hawaii, Manoa, University of Oregon, and University of Minnesota. Other recent commissions for Alessi to create performance pieces have been completed at SESC in São Paulo, Brazil, Arts with the Disabled Association in Hong Kong, Amstelrade in the Netherlands, and Theater Marie (formerly Freies Theater M.A.R.I.A.) of Switzerland.
Since 1995, Alessi has performed in schools for tens of thousands of children with Emery Blackwell, principal dancer who uses a wheelchair. These performance assemblies educate children about arts and the potential of people with disabilities. Another unique way he reaches broad audiences is with his "Street Performance Parades." These publicly-sited performances with people with and without disabilities have been performed at the Duomo and the Galleria (Milan, Italy), in Wan Chai (Hong Kong), the Museums Quarter (Vienna, Austria) and in many other locations around the world.
Alessi has overseen the production of three documentaries of his work: “Common Ground,” a video of a DanceAbility workshop, which won a Silver Apple in the 1991 National Educational Film and Video Festival and was a finalist in the 1991 American Film & Video Association Festival; “All Bodies Speak,” showing performance pieces with disabled & non-disabled performers;and “Joy Lab Research,” a documentary of rehearsals and performances on-stage and in a Street Parade in São Paulo, Brazil. His writing on dance has appeared in Contact Quarterly magazine and is forthcoming in November 2008 in Dance, Human Rights, and Social Justice--Dignity in Motion, edited by Naomi Jackson and Toni Shapiro-Phim. He is currently authoring a book, “The DanceAbility Method: Connecting People of all Abilities.”