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Rubrik: Freak Aktuell
31. Oktober 2007

Interview Alito Alessi


Katharina Zabransky met the Founder of DanceAbility at Vienna ImpulsTanz Festival.

Alito Alessi

Freak-Radio, Katharina Zabransky:
When you think about dancing what's the goal of it? Is there something to reach for everybody?

Alito Alessi: I´ll answer more specifically, because it´ s a pretty broad question.
I don't necessarily know that dancing is for everyone. But dancing should be available to anyone who wants to dance. So any person who is interested to explore their own body, in a way of developing a deeper relationship to their own body and relationships to other people and other bodies through movement and communication through movement, nonverbal kinds of communication, that is what I see, dance is being. And I am not sure that it is for everybody but I can teach anybody.


And the main philosophy of my work is that the body itself is never a limitation to dance, never, and that the sorts of limitations to dance are more people's and social attitudes about what they believe dancing is. In terms of dance the limitation is not the condition of someone is body the limitation is when a person is isolated.
And in the isolation they have no accessibility and they have no choice. And I just see dance and movement as another choice that should be available to any person. So the goal is not necessarily: oh, I want to teach people to dance for some reason. The goal is, I want to make dancing available to any person who wants to.

Freak-Radio: When did you start working with able bodied and disabled people? Have you been influenced by a certain thing?

Alito Alessi: Well, I began the mixed abilities work - It depends on how you mean that question, because I began working with people with disabilities probably around 30 years ago. That was in various forms of movement and therapy with children in a school setting. And I at the same time had a contemporary dance company that was beginning. And I didn´t really have an interest to pursue working with people with disabilities, but they were in my life, because I had three people in my family who had disabilities.

And also in my work there where people with disabilities and it was not about till eight years after I started my dance company that I thought: Oh it would be really interesting to fulfill my own personal values about what I believe movement and dance really is. And I believed that it was for all people, so I thought I just got to take a chance for two reasons. One, to fulfill my own values and my believe in a democratic setting within the context of art. And two, to see if I could learn how to move differently, from what my own habits and patterns of movement had led me to.

Because I found out that if I keep moving the same way, probably I think the same way, probably I feel the same way. And I began to experience my own life and my own limitations within my own attitudes, within my own feelings, within my own believe system. That was not really healthy for me.
So the goal to consider dancing differently was really to change how I moved. So hopefully I could change other parts about myself as well. And so I had the idea: what if I move with people who move differently, maybe I could learn to move differently. ? And I was absolutely right.


When I started moving with different people, it was never a limitation but absolutely much greater opportunity for me, to learn to arrive in a moment where maybe I didn't really know what would happen next. And that was a really exiting place to be, to then really listen to myself and whoever I was dancing with, to see, where would this communication go next.

And so, if you don't know, then your habits can't really lead you some place, you have to listen, and hopefully you involve yourself into a different person, into a different direction of your own interest, of your own desire.
It is a part of the underlying philosophy of the work, to understand that dancing is some kind of predecessor to language, and that language come from the body, and all kinds of languages come from the body, that which started society arose from the body.

So my teaching arises from the body of people. And if I limit the bodies that I teach then I create another limited society. And we already have one that doesn´t really work very well. So my interest is this, to create a model that can show a more expensive and honest reflection of what our society is. And then, show in a creative environment using movement as a foundation, that we can actually function together as equals and create a sort of new social culture, sort of inside the classroom setting that actually works very well.

And so if you see a model that works then you can start looking at the other model and what doesn´t work. So the social model that we have now which doesn´t work has to do with attitudes, has to do with architecture, has to do with prejudice and not accepting difference.

So it just became a goal, through dancing to question some of those things and see if, when people had a real experience of diversity, if maybe some of their ideas and assumptions that organize their ideas and their prejudice in the first place could disappear, because they had a real experience rather to have some thought process to support their prejudice.

I think most people isolate people not because they are bad people but because they are afraid. And they are afraid, not because they are bad people either, but because they had never had an opportunity to relate to different kinds of people.

So I create an opportunity through dance to relate to all kinds of people, and fears disappear very quickly.
And so, that might be the answer to that question.

Freak-Radio: What is the difference between moving and dancing?

Alito Alessi: Well, for me movement is kind of a way to allow people? Also people who are coming into the world of dance have a prejudice like: Oh I can´t dance for example.

So they won´t come to a dance class. So if you say: Oh I am teaching a movement class, all people move. So maybe they feel a little bit more comfortable to come and explore their range of movement.

Teaching differently...

Dancing gets categorized into specific venues like tap dancing, ballet dancing, salsa dancing or break dancing. But there is movement inside of all of them. So I think dancing can be specified to a specific form and identified.
I am more interested in working with movement that don´t identify with the specific forms, just physically disabled and able bodied people in a room. There is, everyone understands language and speaks and hears.

Then you teach a specific way. If you then add people with mental disabilities to that same group then there is a little different orientation. So, as never to teach in a way that isolates or leaves anybody out. So, your method changes a little bit.
If you then bring, let's say half of that same group has mental disabilities, then the method changes a little bit more.

If you are working with all people who have cognitive or developmental or mental disabilities it is another orientation. Then if you bring physically disabled, able bodied people, some people with mental disabilities and blind people in the room then there is a little different method for the same principles.

If you involve hearing impaired people, it is another orientation. If you involve people that are physically disabled but cannot mobilize themselves from one place to another, then there is another set of things that you need to consider.
And always to teach so that everybody is involved as an equal and nobody gets isolated.


So, having said this, I will tell you the basic principles that fit into that specific populations, so that you can always teach.
You have sensation that is yourself, that is your experience of your own movement your physical experience: when you move you feel a sensation.

The next is relationship, when you move your body speaks, your body is a living involving language. Some of it is identifiable, some of it is recreating new in a moment. So you have sensation then you have relationship with yourself and with another person or people. So how do you communicate through the experience of your own movement, nonverbally, which then we would call dancing?
So we have sensation, relationship?

Then we have time. Each person has a different relationship to time. Not the clock time cause that controls you. I am more interested in involving your own sense of how long does it take you to take an action, how long does it take me.
That is a very valuable difference to come to really understand time as it exists, not as we have been conditioned to relate to it. So that deepens your relationship with other people.
And then you have to know the time of a wider group of people beside yourself and one other person. You have to understand your community.

My method...

So you have sensation, relationship to design, individual relationship and then community. So, sensation, relationship, time and design, are four different concepts that we work a lot with, over and over and over and over, in many different kinds of exercises. - So that ultimately you experience yourself while you move. You have a relationship with at least one other person. While you are in that relationship, you don't forget the other people that are in your community. That's the time, the sense of the whole group and you will begin to notice how your community affects the environment nature. So those are four basic principals of improvisation, four basic principals that I teach in my work, in my method.

It starts with a warm-up, how to prepare each person to dance or move and that leads into a lot of different exercises to teach. Primarily improvisation, first in a sort of open structure where you invite anybody to come and it's a beginning class, a couple of days, three-four days. And in the beginning class your intention and orientation is just to facilitate people to experience their body as it is.- And to have a good time, and to inspire them to move. If you teach longer, the methodology then goes deeper and starts orienting small groups to collaborate with each other. So in their collaborations they are not being told what to do from the teacher, they have to learn from each other. They have to learn to communicate, they have to learn to create and validate themselves inside a smaller group. That's in the next length of a workshop. The next length of a workshop involves people who maybe say: Oh I would love to be more interested in performing. So then there are not only the first two things, but then a performance orientation.

And then the last one is, what if there are people, who want to have more than fun, who want to know how to collaborate, who want to perform and who want to teach. So then there is also the methodology of presenting a wider spectrum of the information, so that people of all abilities can become teachers of this work.
So that's the sort of foundation: sensation, relationship, time and design.

Impuls Tanz Festival Vienna

Freak-Radio: I have seen the street parade yesterday, what do you think about the reactions of the spectators? Was there something you expected to happen?

Alito Alessi: The goal is, to show a community of people that happened to see who we are as a community by chance, to show who we are as a diverse creative community of dancers and movers within the context of an internationally renowned dance festival the "Impulse dance". They didn't have to pay anything, some of them maybe knew about it and came to see it...

And no other goal except that: to put what we do on the streets, because some people can't get inside the theatre, some people can´t afford the theatre. And because we all are a part of nature to put dance in our society inside this social structure that we live in.

Because the interesting thing is that many people with disabilities can´t travel around and get in places and get on things or reach this or go to the bus. So we have said, Well let us create art and travel where we can all go as equals. Present ourselves as sort of living bodied embodiment of a true reflection of our society, of all people.

And show that a community can function in a society, should you design were you go. And then maybe that could be a little reflection or education ultimately that any facility could be designed so that everybody could go anywhere. And then those kinds of things could happen in other places. So that is a little bit the philosophy. But the ultimate goal is just to have fun as a community of people and show who we are and what is possible.

I would just like to say that it is a great opportunity to teach and spread information, that sort of the Impulse dance festival has given the DanceAbility project by allowing us, by inviting us. I mean we give something to them as well, we broaden their horizons even if they are not sure of that yet. But they also give us a great opportunity to present our work inside an internationally respected festival.

Freak-Radio: There are some other international festivals?

Alito Alessi: Sure. There are a lot of them in the world. And I have worked and taught at many of them in different countries. The DanceAbility work now has mixed abilities communities in probably between 12 and 15 countries.
So the work is really growing internationally. There are communities in 15 different countries specifically with DanceAbility. But the mixed abilities work, that means other people also teaching movement and dance with people with disabilities outside of DanceAbility is also really growing. So it is really a lot of fun and it is open to really anybody.

If anyone is interested in Vienna, they can contact Vera Rebl. And also in other cities throughout Austria, there are other people who have been trained in the teacher is training here at the Impulse dance festival. And next summer 2008, I will also give a teacher's training here at the Impulse dance festival. If anybody would be interested in that, who is hearing this interview, they could also reach Vera and find out more information. Or they could go to my website at . And then they could find my contact information there and e - mail me. And if they speak German they can do it with Vera who could also translate or help them in the right directions.

Freak-Radio: So thank you very much.

Contact to DanceAbility in Austria:
e-mail, Vera Rebl:


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