School of Theatre & Dance

2016 VSA Florida's New Definition of Dance Conference Artists

New Artists in 2016

Roya Abdolhosini, a.k.a. Roya the destRoya, is a talented Australian performing artist who specializes in hand balancing, crutch dancing and break dancing.  She does not let having one leg stop her from achieving her goals and has participated in cheerleading; break dancing; and circus, rhythmic and artistic gymnastics. Roya has been featured in various types of media including television and radio programs in Australia and Canada such as 'CTV News', 'CBC News', 'CBC Radio', ‘The Project’, ‘Totally Wild!’, the 2011 AFL Grand Final Footy Show Skit, and the 2nd Episode of ‘Gymnastics Victoria’ Doco. Her performing credits include the Australia Day Voyages concert, International Day of People with Disability, Melbourne Fringe Festival in both ‘Circalicious’ and ‘Laced’ shows, local festivals, Cabaret Vertigo, and break dancing battle events in Australia and Canada.

Alito Alessi is the Artistic Director of DanceAbility® International and co-founder of DanceAbility®. Alessi has been involved with the evolution of contemporary dance for the past 30 years, and is internationally known as a pioneering teacher and choreographer in the fields of contact improvisation, and dance and disability. Alessi was selected as a Fulbright Senior Specialist (2007), received the Hong Kong Choreographer of the Year Award (2006), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2005), Choreographer’s Fellowships from the American National Endowment for the Arts (1992-1993 & 1995-1996) and from the Oregon Arts Commission (1991), as well as numerous other grants and awards.  Alessi began training teachers in DanceAbility in 1997, focusing on how educators in various disciplines can make their classes more accessible to people with disabilities.  Alessi performs throughout North, Central, and South America, Europe and Asia, receiving local, national and international recognition. He has choreographed pieces for and performed and/or taught at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C.), at the International VSA Arts Festival, the Governor’s Arts Awards in Eugene, Portland’s “Artquake” and at many festivals, schools, universities and other venues around the world, including Dance Umbrella in Boston, Jacob’s Pillow (U.S.A.), Vienna International Dance Festival, International Festival of New Dance (Brasilia), Bern Tanz Tage Dance Festival and “Festival of Freaks” (both in Switzerland), and Contact Arte (Italy). He is currently authoring a book, “The DanceAbility Method: Connecting People of all Abilities.”

Marc Brew trained as a professional dancer at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School and The Australian Ballet School. He has been working internationally for the past 20 years as a dancer, choreographer, director, teacher and speaker with the Australian Ballet Company, State Theatre Ballet Company of South Africa, Infinity Dance Theatre, and CandoCo Dance Company. He was a guest performer, collaborator and media spokesperson for the London Hand Over Ceremony for the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony. In 2014, Marc was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Performance (Individual) at the prestigious Isadora Duncan Awards for his solo piece “Remember When.” Now based in Glasgow, Marc’s work has been toured to critical acclaim across the world. His Unlimited Commission Fusional Fragments was part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and a collaboration with world-renowned musician Dame Evelyn Glennie. Marc has also produced work for a number of high profile companies such as the Scottish Ballet, Indepen-dance 4, Ballet Cymru, Candoco Dance Company, Scottish Dance Theatre, Touch Compass (NZ), Axis Dance Company (USA), Amy Seiwert’s Imagery (USA), Velcro Dance Company, GDance, DadaFest International, Without Walls Consortium, Greenwich and Docklands International Festival, Liberty Festival at Trafalgar Square, East London Dance for The Big Chair Dance as part of Big Dance 2008, London Contemporary Dance School Graduation Dance Season, Small Dances at Stratford Circus, Resolution!, Choreodrome and Touch Wood at The Place.  Marc is currently Guest Artistic Director at AXIS Dance Company and Associate Artistic Director at Ballet Cymru.

In 1986, Hai Cohen became paralyzed from the chest down following a sharp jump into the shallow water of a swimming pool, which damaged his spine. In 2000, Hai got involved in mixed ability dance workshops in Israel with the Vertigo Dance Company.  In 2001, Hai was invited by Vertigo Dance Company to take part in a new mixed ability work, titled “The Power Of Balance”, choreographed by Adam Benjamin. The piece had more than 50 shows in Israel and abroad. Since 2002, Hai, along with Tali Wertheim, has taught mixed ability workshops, classes and other projects for adults, youth and children in Israel and abroad, including New York, Pittsburgh, North Ireland, Latvia, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Germany, France and Turkey.  Hai is well known for his choreography and dancing, co-choreographing and performing in “Translation” with the Echo Echo Dance Company in North Ireland, “Intimate Duet With Video” and “11,711 Stone Steps At Nikko” (which was performed at the Latvia dance festival “Time To Dance”, the Ukraine dance festival "Free Dance", and in Dusseldorf, Germany).  He also performed with the DIN A 13 Dance Company (Germany) on a full-length piece named “HOMEZONE” that was shown in Israel and Germany in 2013.

Tali Wertheim began studying Classical Ballet, Flamenco and Jazz at the age of nine and has taught dance for over 20 years.  Since 2002, Tali, along with Hai Cohen, has taught mixed ability workshops, classes and other projects for adults, youth and children in Israel and abroad, including New York, Pittsburgh, North Ireland, Latvia, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Germany, France and Turkey.  Tali is well known for her choreography and dancing, co-choreographing and performing in “Intimate Duet With Video” and “11,711 Stone Steps At Nikko” (which was performed at the Latvia dance festival “Time To Dance”, the Ukraine dance festival "Free Dance", and in Dusseldorf, Germany).  She also performed with the DIN A 13 Dance Company (Germany) on a full-length piece named “HOMEZONE” that was shown in Israel and Germany in 2013.
Karen Peterson and Dancers
Dance is a shared human experience based on the physical body’s impulse to move. Karen Peterson and Dancers, founded in 1990 believes that through dance, we can better understand our common humanity by exploring and appreciating this impulse to move and how it elevates the human spirit to do so freely, regardless of perceived or real barriers. KPD is dedicated to the development, education and presentation of dance through inclusive workshops, professional contemporary dance performances and fostering courage and resilience in the hearts and minds of the company and patrons alike. Founded by Artistic Director, Karen Peterson Corash, KPD creates and presents “mixed-ability” dance, promotes International Cultural Exchange and facilitates “The Talent Showcase,” a twenty-week residency program for Miami Dade Public School teenagers with special needs.

Sarasota Contemporary Dance
Leymis Bolaños Wilmott and Rachael Inman began working together in Florida State University’s graduate program in 2000. Not only did the two share an Arabic heritage, most importantly, they shared a vision to collaborate, create and celebrate through life experiences. They both spent time developing programming for the FSUdanceSARASOTA initiative, and in 2002 Bolaños Wilmott and Inman founded Fuzión Dance, the first professional contemporary dance company in Sarasota. In 2006, they formed Fuzión Dance Artists as a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. After a decade of establishing its presence under the continued Artistic Direction of Leymis Bolaños Wilmott, Fuzión Dance Artists became Sarasota Contemporary Dance. The organization felt it was time for a change, and under this new name have become a mainstay arts organization in the region. Sarasota Contemporary Dance (SCD) is recognized for its extraordinary level of high-energy, contemporary dance and collaborative performances with artists of various genres. Additionally, the company offers a variety of physically integrated dance and movement modalities to people in different stages of their lives and abilities, including an established ongoing bi-weekly Dance for Parkinson's class at the Parkinson Place.

Returning Artists-

At the age of 14, Sidiki Conde lost the use of his legs as the result of polio. In his village in Guinea, West Africa, disabled people commonly were banished from their homes in order not to bring shame or bad luck upon their family, so he was sent to his grandfather’s village deep in the forest. Knowing that he would not be able to participate in the coming-of-age ceremony if he could not dance, Sidiki reconstructed the traditional steps using his hands instead of his feet. He became so adept that he was able to travel to the capital city, Conakry, and form Message de Espair, an orchestra of artists with disabilities he recruited from the city’s streets. In 1987, he was asked to join the prestigious troupe, Les Merveilles de Guinea, for whom he composed and directed musical arrangements as well as served as Director of Choreography. In 1988 Sidiki came to America. He formed the Tokounou All-Abilities Dance and Music Ensemble and teaches children in public schools. Sidiki received a National Heritage Fellow Lifetime Honors from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2007. 

Hanna Harchakova and Ihar Kisialiou are World and European champions in Wheelchair Ballroom Dancing. They have performed in many dance arenas in the world including China, Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Poland. Ms. Hanna Harchakova was recently elected Chairwoman of the Minsk Regional Society for People with Disabilities, a group that unites more than 20 local grassroots organizations. She is a well-known wheelchair athlete and public figure in Belarus who uses dance as a method of social adaptation and rehabilitation for people with mobility limitation.  In 2012, Ms. Harchakova founded the successful “Dar” Dance School that offers a unique opportunity for young people to practice wheelchair dancing in an inclusive environment. 

Frank G. Hull is a power chair dancer, choreographer, singer, and theatre artist. His work interrogates the relationship between body and mobility devices in ways that challenge traditional (mis)representations of disabled people. Frank’s career as a dancer was launched in 1999 at the Betty Oliphant Theatre in Toronto with his debut performance in THE CARETAKER. He then was awarded a scholarship to train with Cleveland Ballet Dancing Wheels in Ohio. Frank has since choreographed and performed numerous original dance performances across Ontario, as well as in New York State. He has developed both solo performances and ensemble shows, with Toronto-based artists Spirit Synott and Kazumi Tsuruoka and Ottawa-based artist Alan Shain. Frank has developed dance instruction for people with mobility impairments, including those who use manual or power wheelchairs. He continues to train each year with the Steffi Nossen School of Dance in White Plains, New York. Frank has also been instrumental in the Rolling Dance Chair Project serving as a “test” dancer/research participant and providing input for the new wheelchair technologies for dance being developed at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. 

Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli was born with Arthrogryposis, a rare disorder that causes limited joint movement and poor muscle growth, as well as scoliosis. While growing up in Maryland, Luca never let his disability slow him down; actively participating in everyday activities such as swimming, diving, skiing, horseback riding, sailing, and skateboarding. In 1999, at the age of 15, Luca discovered “B-boying” also known as Breakdancing. Although quite challenging at first, he began to learn moves and modified them to create his own unique style that incorporates both extreme upper body strength and the use of crutches. “Lazylegz” was born. In 2002, Lazylegz moved back to Montreal, where he had a massive impact in the Montreal dance community and began representing Canada in top-level international events. In 2004, Lazylegz joined forces with Canadian breakdance crew, Illmatic Styles. They performed and competed throughout North America and were featured as one of the top acts on NBC’s America’s Got Talent. In 2007, Lazylegz created ILL-Abilities, an international crew consisting of the world’s best “ill-abled” dancers from Canada, USA, Chile, and Holland. The goal of the team is to show the world that as long as you are positive, creative, and willing to adapt yourself to any situation, anything is possible. Together, they continue to perform all over the world and spread the message “No Excuses, No Limits”. 

Marcie Ryan worked with the nationally esteemed, Dancing Wheels dance company in Cleveland, Ohio from 1996 – 2001, under the artistic direction of Sabatino and Barbara Verlezza. She spent a year as a trainee and then danced and toured with the company doing significant main stage and lecture performances. Marcie also studied wheelchair ballroom under the direction of Rubin Zacharanov for approximately two years and competed in the Ukraine, coming in 5th place out of 8 couples. Marcie has participated in the Moving Wheels and Heel summer dance workshops out of the Steffi Nossen School of Dance in White Plains, NY since leaving Dancing Wheels. Marcie has also been instrumental in the Rolling Dance Chair Project serving as a “test” dancer/ research participant and providing input for the new wheelchair technologies for dance being developed at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. 

Liu Yan is a classical Chinese dancer who has performed in many dance dramas and won many dance competitions in and outside China. When she was 10 years old, Ms. Liu gained admission to the Beijing Dance Academy middle school. She later enrolled at the Beijing Dance Academy at the age of 18 and majored in classical Chinese dance. Ms. Liu has performed alongside some of the nation’s most famous people and won numerous awards for dance and drama. Ms. Liu was chosen to be the lead dancer in the “Silk Road” segment at the Beijing 2008 Olympics opening ceremony. Twelve days before the actual performance, Ms. Liu fell from a malfunctioning moving platform during an evening rehearsal at the Beijing National Stadium. She was rushed to a local military hospital to undergo six hours of surgery. Her accident resulted in nerve and spinal damage, paralyzing her lower body. In March 2010, Ms. Liu established the Liu Yan Arts Special Fund to help children in poverty-stricken areas, orphans, and migrant workers’ children through art education. She has a doctorate degree in Dance Theory from the Beijing Dance Academy. 

Dwayne Scheuneman was an accomplished wheelchair Track and Field athlete when in 2002 he sought out dance as a means of cross training.  The physicality and the creativity of dance quickly leaped to the forefront of Dwayne’s interest and he began taking dance classes and performing with Asher Dance Eclectic in Tampa Fl.  It was also at this time when he began taking workshops and attending dance festivals with internationally recognized "Physically Integrated" dance companies such as AXIS Dance Company, CANDOCO and others.  In August of 2005, Dwayne started REVolutions dance in Tampa Florida, an inclusive dance company that creates professional performance and training opportunities for both adults and children with disabilities.  Since that time, Dwayne has collaborated with choreographers and dancers around the US to create and perform in numerous dance performances. Dwayne has worked in several international collaborations as a guest teacher and performer in Russia, Palestine and Israel.  In 2014, Dwayne moved to Oakland to join AXIS Dance Company with whom he continues to teach and perform.  
About the Dancing Chair Project

The Rolling Dance Chair Project was initiated by Merry L. Morris, faculty member in the College of the Arts at the University of South Florida. The intent of the project has been to design and develop several assistive mobility devices for application in both dance and daily living contexts. The rolling dance chair is unique from other types of wheelchairs in that it offers different movement and control options. It is an omni-directional, smartphone-controlled powered wheelchair. It possesses the following integrated movement options: height adjustment, omni-directional movement (forward, backward, diagonal, side-to-side, and r/l turning motion), seat rotation, and a freely mobile smartphone - tilt control which can be placed virtually anywhere on the body or held by hand. When worn on the chest or upper back, the individual is hands-free and simply directs the chair by leaning their body forward/back/side, etc. The simple tilting action of the phone propels the device. 

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