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DanceAbility Celebrates 25 Years

Karen Daly and Molly Everts dancing Alito Alessi’s ‘One Another’. Photo: Michael Brinkerhoff.
Karen Daly and Molly Everts dancing Alito Alessi’s ‘One Another’. Photo: Michael Brinkerhoff.

Twenty-five years have passed since Alito Alessi and his dance partner Karen Nelson pioneered DanceAbility (DA), an internationally-renowned dance method that employs movement to explore artistic expression between people with and without disabilities, and Dec. 7 marks the beginning of their week-long anniversary celebration with a free First Friday ArtWalk event, 6:30 pm at the Broadway Commerce Center including performances by disabled and able-bodied dancers. The goal of DA is to challenge misconceptions and prejudices that people have about themselves and others. “I wanted to see in action, the idea that all people can dance,” Alessi says.

The Dec. 7 event will include a silent art auction with donations by local artists such as Jerry Ross, Brian Lanker, Bob DeVine, Jill Atkin and Shannon Knight. The artwork will be displayed in wheelchairs in the Broadway Commerce Center. Emery Blackwell, a professional dancer with cerebral palsy (he’s been with DA for more than two decades), will be dancing and donating art Emery is also a graphic artist who crafts digital art by employing his feet to use a computer mouse.

DanceAbility Week continues with a free video presentation and discussion hosted by Alessi, currently the artistic director for DanceAbility International, 5 to 6:15 pm Thursday, Dec. 13, at the Eugene Public Library. The presentation will include documentaries about dance workshops, examples of award-winning DA choreography and dancers with and without disabilities will be available for questions.

The celebration comes to a close with the DanceAbility 25th Anniversary Workshop, 12:30 to 3:30 pm Sunday, Dec. 16, at WOW Hall. Both Alessi and Blackwell will be leading participants through choreography. This will be a rare opportunity to learn from Alessi, an award-winning choreographer who was selected as a Fulbright Senior Specialist and a Guggenheim Fellow. The workshop has a sliding scale entry fee of $15 to $45. The event is free for veterans. Some scholarships are available; email info@danceability.com or call 342-3273.