Saturday, October 19, 2019
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People Involved

These are the key people who have influenced and developed the Alessendre Special Needs Dance Achool (ASNeeDS)

RonHeavey 150x150Dr Ron Heavey
"Pioneer, visionary and inspiration"
angelina 150x150Angelina Alessendre MBE
"Director and founder"
elisabeth 150x150Elisabeth Blackwell
"Executive Assistant"

Elisabeth Blackwell

elisabeth 150x150Elisabeth has been involved with the dance school and company for many years, since her daughter Rebecca attended as one of the first pupils in the school.

Elisabeth is fantastic support behind the scene when the Larondina Company and school members are performing in public. She keeps the dancers in order, focused and calms them.

She has accompanied the Larondina Company abroad on many occasions.

Angelina Alessendre MBE

Angelina AlessendreAt just three years old, Angelina Alessendre started training in classical dance at the much-acclaimed Vaccani School in London's Knightsbridge, where, for instance, various members of the royal family attended classes in ballet, ballroom and Scottish dancing.

In her teens while still training, she performed on the West End stage, elsewhere in England and abroad. At the same time, she studied the Martha Graham style of modern dance, but her passion remained classical ballet.

She gave up dancing early to concentrate on bringing up her two children. Later, she rejoined the Vaccani School to teach dance alongside her childhood ballet teacher.

During this ten-year period, the Royal Ballet invited Angelina to a special needs school in London¹s Barbican centre to witness a trial course in dance and mime for youngsters with a variety of physical disabilities.

She expected this to be a rather sombre experience but was delighted to find happy, well-adjusted children in an atmosphere of joy and optimism. All the children were eager to learn, and even those with quite severe problems were able to participate, often miming the part they were given.

This experience reminded Angelina of the time when as a teenager in 1959 she lived in Hungary , where her father had been posted as a foreign correspondent. She witnessed the work of Budapests internationally-renowned Peto Institute. Its structured and disciplined exercise regime transformed the lives of many children with cerebral palsy and allied conditions.

Angelina saw plainly that the Peto offered abundant hope for its charges by gently stretching them until they reached their highest possible potential.

The Barbican special needs dance course together with her recollection of the Peto Institute, so moved and inspired Angelina that she determined to start her own dance school for those with learning difficulties.

She began to write a syllabus which would create an atmosphere of normality and fun, an objective reinforced by a young boy she met who had attended a variety of therapy classes. He told her:

"I'm sick of being theraped,"

-- a novel but telling variation on a word.

Angelina then worked extensively in special needs schools before starting her own classes. for children with a variety of disabilities.

Later, she saw on television two Down’s Syndrome youngsters dancing to a number from Phantom of the Opera. In attendance was the star of the show, Michael Crawford, who made a moving presentation to the dancers.

Angelina rang the BBC which put her in touch with Dr Ronald Heavey MBE, the dancers¹ teacher. He had won world-wide renown for the brilliance of his work. His dance company had performed across Europe and even in the White House in Washington.

Impressed with Angelina¹s ability and dedication, Dr Heavey made her his protege and taught her his unique syllabus, which she blended with a number of her own ideas to form the core of her curriculum.

The Alessendre Special Needs Dance School and the Larondina Dance Company were born...

She, herself, was given the MBE in the 2010 New Years Honours List for services to people with learning difficulties.

Dr Ron Heavey

Dr. Ron HeaveyA pioneer and visionary, Dr Ronald Heavey MBE dedicated his life to convincing an often sceptical world that many special needs children, far from being an embarrassment to be sidelined, could be radically transformed into citizens of confidence and worth with good physical, mental and language skills.

As a young man Dr Heavey's strong humanitarian principles were outraged when he visited a special needs school. Apathetic pupils were locked in a room with an equally apathetic teacher. It was considered inadvisable at that time to allow the children to run free.

Dr Heavey vowed to change this retrograde thinking. Over the years, he succeeded in that and much, much more.

His early working life was spent as a top West End dancer, but he was forced to quit the stage after developing asthma and angina. He turned to teaching, obtained a doctorate, and decided to work with special needs people.

He eventually became headmaster of Mill House School in St Helen's, Lancashire. He now had the scope to put his visionary ideas into practice. Those with special needs, he contended, should not lead isolated and inactive lives.

They should be gently but firmly stretched; and the medium of dance was the ideal way because of its marked power to enhance mental, physical and social abilities while using methods that were soothing and entertaining.

All aspects of the learning process would be affected -- language, numeracy, social, and even geographical skills (folk dance would teach much about the cultures of other countries).

The end product would be an individual whose brain and body had been stimulated in such a way that permanent and highly beneficial change had been effected. Out went apathy. In came a heads-up confidence born of new-found abilities.

Experts and parents alike were so impressed and moved by Dr Heavey's signal achievements that they pressed him to disseminate his methods as widely as possible. So he formed a dance company that travelled nationally and internationally to demonstrate conclusively that those with special needs often had latent but very real artistic and other abilities that could, with patience and devotion, be uncovered.

Proficient in ballet, modem dance and tap, the company highlighted how its repertoire could be adapted for use with any special needs difficulties.

The company's reputation grew to the point where the President of the United States invited it to perform in the White House.

And film actors Arnold Schwartzenegger and Danny de Vito had two of the dancers appear on stage at the premiere of their film The Twins.

Dr Heavey died in 2001 but his great pioneering work continues to be spread by his protege and named successor, Angelina Alessendre.