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DanceAbility Emeritus
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Emery Blackwell

DanceAbility teacher // Principal Dancer


Emery is a dancer, musician, choreographer, designer and educator who has taught and performed all over the world. As Alito's dance partner for much of their careers, the two spoke, danced, and presented groundbreaking mixed abilities work together for over 30 years. Emery is also a key activist for disabilities rights advocation and has been a driving force in many policy changes in his lifetime, most notably ADA airline regulations for solo travelers with physical disabilities. Although semiretired, Emery still performs and choreographs sporadically with the company. 

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Steve Paxton

Founder of Contact Improvisation // Consultant


Steve Paxton is credited as having founded and developed the form of Contact Improvisation, which is a technique that is now highly respected all over the world, from studios to academic settings, to professional fieldwork. Steve acted as a consultant throughout the development of the DanceAbility method and is a contributing writer and supporter of the method's philosophy and growth to this day. 

"Contact Improvisation offers a form of improvisation to everyone, their abilities tailored to their dancing duet by the choices they make.

With DanceAbility, Alito Alessi put this idea to work with people with disabilities -- any disabilities -- and discovered that it works, and it erases the assumed distinction between able/disabled.

Looking around, I see that this distinction is used almost everywhere: in language, in education, in government. It is the common assumption, and becomes the common attitude, the common thing for children to learn, to grow up holding, and eventually, to design and legislate with, as they mature. It is like a toxic cloud hovering around the fact of disability. 

Toxic? How would assignment into a separate and somehow inferior social status affect you?

Cloud? Always in the shadow, in society's estimation. 

DanceAbility has the power to lift this cloud. Using the art of dance, the art of the body, it begins with the facts of the body -- the facts of any body/mind -- and slowly, gently, shows the partners in a dance how to find common ground.


An event occurs which can only occur with the participation of these two people, an invention which assumes the opposite of what is normally assumed, and which is a path to healing the divisions we find everywhere installed -- the normal 'default' setting -- in our environments, in our minds, in our hearts.

DanceAbility is a kind of healing; not to 'heal' the disabled, but to heal the able and disabled at once, in one forum. For a time, the separation is dissolved. For our minds, the separation can no longer have unquestioned power over our thinking. For our hearts, a connection is forged between the creative partners. Try it. You will be moved."


Steve Paxton

Mad Brook Farm, VT

16 April 2011

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