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Alito Alessi

An all-state cross-country runner in New York, Alito Alessi came west to run for the Ducks in 1972. "But my personal politics had changed," he says. "I didn't want to compete." Instead, he studied community education -- "exactly what I do now!" -- and joined the Eugene Dance Collective at the WoW Hall. "I grew up in several inner cities," he notes. "I always danced." In 1979, he co-founded Joint Forces, a pioneering contact-improv dance company. Since 1985, he has performed and taught contemporary dance in Europe and the Americas. With three disabled members in his own family, Alessi became aware that he was dancing with an exclusive group of able-bodied, white, middle-class people. "I wanted to lead a dance class that wouldn't leave anybody out," he says. DanceAbility began in 1988 as a workshop for a Mobility International exchange group from Germany. "It was really fun," says Alessi, who was soon exporting his methods. "The focus is on mixed-ability groups." DanceAbility has since become an international movement. Following a month-long course for teachers in Eugene, Alessi is currently teaching at the Full Moon Dance Festival in Pyhäjävarti, Finland.

happening people

photograph and story by Paul Neevel

Eugene Weekly / 31 July 2004

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