Monday, August 08, 2022
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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.