Thursday, February 18, 2016

Body Shift and DanceAbility!

Hello, friends!  This is Olivia, project coordinator for Body Shift, VSA Texas’ acclaimed mixed-ability dance project.  I can't believe it was 12 years ago that Silva, who is originally from Finland, and I first met in the DanceAbility course in Trier, Germany.  By good fortune we are now here in Austin teaching together.  The DanceAbility method has been devised and reined by Alito Alessi over the past 30 years.  Along with Celia Hughes, VSA Texas' executive director, I recently organized the DanceAbility Teacher Certification Training in Austin.  Many locals as well as people from across the country and Mexico came together to take part.  The course was successfully completed in December and Austin now has 17 people of all abilities certified to teach DanceAbility!

Check out highlights from the “informance” directed by Alito Alessi and featuring the participants of the teacher certification course:

So what is DanceAbility?  DanceAbility is a form of movement training that uses the fundamentals of dance improvisation and choreography to make movement accessible to people of all ages and abilities.  Founder of DanceAbility, Alito Alessi, explains, “DanceAbility is a dance method.  It is not a form of therapy.  In therapies, which happen for all people but particularly for people with disabilities, there’s always an idea about ‘How can we help you?  How can we change you?  How can we teach you to conform to what is the norm?’  And that process of moving in that direction is usually about teaching someone how to function better.  We [DanceAbility International] value expression over function.  We have been taught how to see and it’s not really seeing.  It’s assumptions that organize the way that people see something.  So one of the interests in our work is to show them things they’ve never seen before.”

Watch this video of Alito and his long time dance partner Emery Blackwell explaining the philosophy of DanceAbility:
Alito working with participants of 2013 DanceAbility
teacher orientation in Austin
In DanceAbility we work with four principles – sensation, relationship, time, and design – to develop increased body awareness, understanding of non-verbal communication, strategies for moving in new ways beyond habitual movement patterns, and awareness of how to present work to an audience.

Besides having fun dancing together, one of the main benefits I have noticed for myself as well as our regular participants is that improvising using the DanceAbility method encourages mindfulness.  Mindfulness is paying attention or noting whatever is happening in the moment with a gentle and open mind.  It involves being present in the moment, the one you’re in right now.  Mindfulness can help lower stress and builds resilience so you can meet the demands of your day with more ease. It allows you to have more clarity to solve problems.  Mindfulness can help you be patient with yourself and others.  And it can make you more effective and feel happier.  I also find that people discover new and unique ways of moving their body they would not otherwise experience.  Jana Meszaros, a participant in the Austin DanceAbility certification course and teaching artist for DanceAbility International, said, "When you grow up training vigorously to be a professional dancer you gain a lot of closed minded ideas about what it is to dance and this sort of work and this sort of teaching completely shatters all of those ideas."

You can experience the DanceAbility method when you join us for our semi-monthly Elements of Dance class at the Townlake YMCA every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month!  Check our website for more details:

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