Mixed-Abilities Dance
Mixed-ability dancers demonstrate how structures and architectural bodies influence one another in a DanceAbility performance.

The University of New Mexico School of Architecture & Planning and the College of Fine Arts are co-sponsoring a lecture, “Feel the Force,” on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 5:30 p.m. in George Pearl Hall, located on Central and Stanford NE on the UNM main campus. The performance, “Don’t Leave Me,” followed by a Q & A session, is Friday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m. at the Keshet Center for the Arts, located at 4121 Cutler Ave. NE in Albuquerque.

Frances Bronet
Frances Bronet

DanceAbility method founder Alito Alessi and Frances Bronet, senior vice president and provost, Illinois Institute of Technology, discuss how physical and architectural bodies can influence each other. The tendency is to design to increase the efficiency of people with disabilities (i.e. prosthetics), but also a possibility of celebrating human variability just as it is. Alessi and Bronet discuss the implications of how the structures in the “Don’t Leave Me” mixed-abilities dance pieces are only stable if the dancers hold them together with their hands or manage where their bodies and shifting weight are placed. How high can we climb? The collective musculature are part of the architecture. If we cannot feel the force that we exert on each other, sometimes by just leaning on your next-door neighbor, or through the vehicle of an unstable structure, then there will be failure. If you leave me, I will topple. If I feel the right forces, I can do more.

Alessi and Bronet were lead collaborators on the “Don’t Leave Me” mixed-abilities dance piece. The piece premiered in Eugene, Ore. and will continue to the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. following its performance in Albuquerque.

Alessi is a Guggenheim Fellow and Fulbright Senior Fellow for his choreography and dance pedagogy achievements with the DanceAbility method. He is artistic director of Joint Forces Dance Company and DanceAbility International. He is known internationally for connecting people of all disabilities and abilities into dance, both at a recreational level and in critically acclaimed choreography. He was also a U.S. State Department designated Arts Envoy to Mongolia, the Philippines and Indonesia, and won Hong Kong’s Choreographer of the Year Award.

Alito Alessi
Alito Alessi

Bronet has a deep interest in “design in movement.” She has designed with several nationally significant choreographers, from Doug Varone to Ellen Sinopoli, and as dean of the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts, and then as acting provost, supported the Adaptive Athletes section of the Product Design Program. She was also a distinguished professor, Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. Previous to her positions at Illinois Institute of Technology, she was acting dean of architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic.

She has been developing and publishing work on multidisciplinary design curricula connecting architecture; engineering; science, technology and society (H&SS); dance; and electronic arts for the past 20+ years. She has received extensive funding from NSF, NEA and NEH/FIPSE for work on new pedagogical models using design for technical and/or interdisciplinary learning.