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Staff & Board of Directors

Alito Alessi

Founder // Creative Director

Any given time of the year you can find Alessi actively managing the big picture of DanceAbility from the DanceAbility headquarters office in Oregon, directing rehearsals for the DanceAbility Performance Company, or leading workshops and trainings in countries all over the world. 

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John Watson

Managing Director


As head of day to day operations, John keeps the wheels turning and directs the smaller divisions within the broad spectrum of projects, events and networks that make up DanceAbility International. 

Jana Meszaros

Master Teacher // Programs Director // Rehearsal Director


An artist, performer and movement educator, Jana currently works to grow the presence of DanceAbility in Oregon and is a Master Teacher of the DanceAbility method. A Contributing Choreographer and performer for JFDC, she also directs the company in Alessi's absence. She has mentored with Alessi since 2015.

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Jay Hall-Schnurrpusch

Certified Teacher // Assistant Administrator


Jay is a dance instructor in Oregon, USA with a focus on early childhood dance. She became a certified DanceAbility teacher in 2019 in Eugene, Oregon. She combines her passion for developmental movement with DanceAbility to teach classes that are accessible to all, aiming to encourage social-emotional growth and creativity. At DanceAbility, she helps with office administrative work and social media communications.

2021 Board of Directors

To learn about potentially serving on the Board of Directors of DanceAbility International, please contact us.

Connie Vandarakis, M.A., Master Teacher in DanceAbility, Vice-President, Board of Directors 

Frances Bronet, M.Sc President of Pratt Institute, Member of the Board

Celia Hughes, VSA Texas, Member of the Board


The DanceAbility International community is mourning the loss of our beloved Board of Directors President, Steve Christiansen. Steve passed away quietly in his home on July 17, 2020.


Steve enjoyed a rich and full life. His inquisitive and empathetic nature led him into a life as a videographer, a documentarian among his peers changing the world. And through the proliferation and ultimately international distribution of his work, he became one of the world’s quiet changemakers.


Steve and Alito met in the early 1970’s when they both became involved in the pioneering work of Steve Paxton, and his new dance form, Contact Improvisation. Steve toured with Steve and documented the work. Steve Christiansen’s videos of Paxton’s work created enthusiasm for it around the world.


In the 1980’s, Alito began employing the principles of Contact Improvisation to create a world where all people, regardless of ability or disability, could connect and communicate through dance. In 1987, both Steve and Alito found themselves living in Eugene, Oregon.  It was in 1988 that Steve filmed the first documentary of one of the first DanceAbility workshops entitled “Common Ground “. This documentary spread around the world and helped establish DanceAbility and the DanceAbility Method’s importance to the world of Dance. As Alito grew DanceAbility International and made its home base in the city of Eugene, Steve continued to support DanceAbility.


In the 2000’s Steve accepted Alito’s invitation to join the Board of Directors of DanceAbility. As a Board member, and later as President of the Board, Steve helped guide DanceAbility’s growth into the preeminent organization working in the field of inclusive dance. Through the work of Steve and others, DanceAbility was recognized in 2019 by the Essl Foundation’s Zero Project Impact Transfer awards as one of the top eleven organizations internationally working to create a world with zero barriers for those with disabilities.


“In working with Steve on executive matters of DanceAbility, he was a listener, a strategist, a big picture thinker, and always supportive. Kindness was one of his superpowers.” Connie Vandarakis, executive board member.

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