Emery Blackwell, 55, dancer, choreographer, musician, composer and teacher, retires from 25 years with DanceAbility International this fall. A giant figure in the local dance scene and a representative of disability rights around the globe, Blackwell will perform onstage one last time with his longtime dance partner Alito Alessi, as part of Vanessa Martin’s Xcape Dance Company’s premiere piece, Love!
Blackwell’s journey hasn’t been easy. Born with cerebral palsy, a disability that affects the motor control centers of the brain, Blackwell never expected as a child that one day he’d be a dancer. “Other people put limits onto me,” he says.
A world traveler, Blackwell has shared his gifts, as a teacher and an artist, with people with and without disabilities all around the globe. Blackwell says he’s motivated to help people find and develop their talents and abilities, the way he found his.
In his 25 years working as a dancer with DanceAbility International, Blackwell has challenged audiences “to see in a different way,” he says. “To think in a different way.”
As a teacher and mentor, Blackwell offers sage advice: “Just be who you are,” he says. “And don’t worry about other people.”
Looking back over his career, Blackwell says the spark that has kept him going, that continually motivates him, is “when I see people find their own power.”
And when asked what’s next after retirement, Blackwell is upbeat: “I don’t know what is next,” he says. “Change, and I will see.”
DanceAbility International hosts a retirement party for Emory Blackwell 6 to 7 pm Saturday, Nov. 15, in the Hult Center lobby; free.