Artistic Director Biography
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 and choreographer in the fields of contact improvisation, and dance and disability.
Alessi was selected as a Fulbright Senior Specialist (2007), received the Hong Kong Choreographer of the Year Award (2006), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2005), 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. DanceAbility International has been in residence at the University of Oregon Dance Department since 1992.
Alessi began training teachers in DanceAbility in 1997. He has conducted these month–long DanceAbility Teacher Certification Workshops in Eugene (Oregon), Buenos Aires, Milan, Amsterdam, Trier (Germany) and Vienna (at the Vienna International Dance Festival, also known as Impulstanz). More than 300 dance artists, people with disabilities, and those interested in working with people with disabilities have attended, coming from 18 different countries to attend the DanceAbility Teacher Certification workshops in the above locations. Many have continued teaching DanceAbility in their home communities. He also 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 North, Central, and South America, Europe and Asia, receiving local, national and international recognition. He has choreographed pieces for and performed and/or taught at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C.), at the International VSA Arts Festival, the Governor’s Arts Awards in Eugene, Portland’s “Artquake” and at many festivals, schools, universities and other venues around the world, including Dance Umbrella in Boston, Jacob’s Pillow (U.S.A.), 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. 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, Chemeketa Community College, 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 a dance partner in 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 including Eugene, Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands.
Since 1982, Alessi has produced over 20 dance festivals in Eugene and other American cities, featuring the work of internationally-renowned and local dancers, and dance artists with disabilities.
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.”