The role of this task force is to advise and assist Dance/NYC’s disability initiative on behalf of the organization and the dance field in the metropolitan area. To learn more about these leaders and advocates, read their biographies below.
Additionally, Infinity Dance Theater presents a video, “Task Force," inspired by the task force and its membership.
Christine Bruno, Disability Advocate, comes to Inclusion in the Arts with a varied background as an actor, director and coach. She has represented Inclusion in the Arts at symposiums, forums, panels, resource events and radio outlets across the country and internationally at film and arts festivals, and serves as the organization’s representative on the Broadway League Diversity Committee. A proud member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA, Christine is the Chair of the New York Local SAG-AFTRA PWD Committee, served as the 2011 Co-Chair of the I AM PWD global civil rights campaign and is a member of the SAG-AFTRA National Committee for Performers with Disabilities and the Actors’ Equity EEO Committee. She holds an MFA in Acting and Directing from the New School, is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Skidmore College and is a member of the Actors Studio. As a performer and director, Christine has worked nationally and internationally in theatre, television and film, including Law & Order and the SXSW-nominated feature This is Where We Live. She most recently appeared in Jose Rivera’s adaptation of Genet’s The Maids at New York’s INTAR Theatre; toured England in the world-premiere musical, The Ugly Girl, and completed filming on the upcoming independent feature, Flatbush Luck.
Zazel-Chavah O'Garra is an accomplished dancer, actor, model, and brain tumor survivor. A Presidential Arts Scholar, she has performed with Mark Dendy Dance Company and Alvin Ailey II, as well as at the first Black History Month program on disability at the White House. A recipient of the John F. Kennedy Center (VSA) National Teaching Artist Fellowship, she teaches Modern, Jazz and African Dance master classes worldwide. She recently released a DVD, Dancing Beyond Disability, for individuals with mixed abilities. She is the Artistic Director of ZCO/DANCEPROJECT, which is comprised of dancers who are “Dancing Beyond Disability” with passion, drive, soul, and perseverance. She holds degrees from SUNY Empire State College, University of Michigan, and Fordham University.
Diane Duggan, Ph.D., ADTR, is a Registered Dance Therapist and Licensed Psychologist. She provides psychological counseling and conducts a therapeutic dance program at a special education high school in the South Bronx. She has created and presented numerous professional development workshops for New York City Department of Education staff members on Positive Behavior Supports (PBS), including a three-day workshop in PBS for Dance Educators. She is certified as a Senior Trainer of Life Space Crisis Intervention and a Trainer of Therapeutic Crisis Intervention. She joined the New York University Dance Education faculty in 1994 where she teaches the course Dance for the Special Child. She has taught extensively at the graduate level, including the Hunter Dance Therapy M.S. program, NYU’s Special Education program, and Hofstra University. She has published journal articles, book chapters and a book Out Here By Ourselves: The Stories of Young People Whose Mothers Have AIDS. She served on the Board of Directors of the American Dance Therapy Association and was an Executive Producer for the film Dance Therapy: The Power of Movement. Dr. Duggan received her Ph.D. in School/Child Psychology from NYU and M.S. in Dance Therapy from Hunter College.
Sharon Jensen is the former Executive Director of Inclusion in the Arts. Jensen and Inclusion in the Arts received the 2011 American Theatre Wing’s Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre award. In 2009, Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented Jensen with New York City’s “Made in NY” diversity award for Inclusion in the Arts’ “significant contributions to the City’s entertainment industry.” Jensen and Inclusion in the Arts champions the creative power of diversity and inclusion in theatre, film, and television. Jensen and her staff worked closely with arts and entertainment unions, guilds, trade associations, artists and other professional practitioners for full inclusion throughout the industry.
Montreal-born Heidi Latsky founded Heidi Latsky Dance (HLD) in 2001. HLD’s mission is to redefine beauty and virtuosity through performance, discourse, and educational activity. In 2006, Heidi began The GIMP Project, a body of work that includes dancers with and without disabilities. The Project has been presented nationally (August Wilson Center, Chicago Humanities Festival, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, TEDxWomen, Alverno Presents, Lied Center, Flynn Theater) and internationally (Nepal, Germany, Ireland, England) and is the subject of an Emmy-nominated news feature; an AP multimedia piece; CNN, NET and NPR stories; and a documentary short by Richard Move (Lincoln Center premiere, 2014). As part of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and by invitation from the Commissioner at the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, HLD will coordinate and participate in free performances in all five boroughs of NYC throughout July 2015. Upcoming performances also include the American Dance Festival, and the premiere of a site-specific work at The Atrium at Lincoln Center in Fall 2015.
Simi Linton is the subject of the documentary film Invitation to Dance, directed and produced with Christian von Tippelskirch. She is the author of Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity; the memoir My Body Politic; and numerous articles on disability. Linton was on the faculty at CUNY for 14 years, leaving in 1998 to write, and to develop her consultancy work with filmmakers, artists, and cultural institutions to help shape the presentation of disability in the arts and to increase the representation of works by disabled artists. She holds an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and a Ph.D. from New York University.
Almost 29 years ago, Kitty Lunn slipped on ice, fell down a flight of stairs, and broke her back, leaving her a paraplegic. Having been a dancer her entire life, Lunn had to find a way to keep dancing. In the fall of 1995, she founded Infinity Dance Theater, a nontraditional dance company featuring dancers with and without disabilities. Infinity Dance Theater is committed to bringing the joy and drama of motion and movement to a new level of inclusion by expanding the boundaries of dance and changing the world’s perception of what a dancer is. To this end, she has developed a wheelchair dance technique strongly rooted in and growing out of the technique of Classical Ballet and Modern Dance and feels very strongly that without technique and the pedagogy to train dancers with disabilities, we truly discriminate against them.
Elisabeth Salzhauer Axel provides executive oversight for Art Beyond Sight (ABS) and collaborates with project leadership to ensure high-quality, innovative, and creative products and services that benefit ABS stakeholders. With more than 25 years of experience working with cultural institutions, she has lectured on accessibility at museums and conferences internationally; designed and implemented staff and docent training for numerous cultural institutions; and helped raise public awareness of the benefits of art education and art making for children with disabilities on radio and television, including appearances on The Today Show, CBS Morning News, and Good Morning America. For 15 years, she served as senior lecturer and curriculum designer at the Whitney Museum of American Art, during which she founded ABS. Salzhauer Axel is a past member of the Advisory Committee of the NYC Mayor’s Office for the Handicapped (now the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities). She served as Editor in Chief of ABS’s Art History Through Touch and Sound multisensory encyclopedia and Co-Editor of Art Beyond Sight Resource Guide to Art and Visual Impairment. She graduated from Tufts University with a degree in Art History and pursued graduate studies at Harvard University.
As a choreographer and dancer, Alice Sheppard is driven to create movement that troubles the conventional understandings of disabled and dancing bodies. Her choreography has been commissioned by MOMENTA (Chicago), presented in New York, and experienced in universities across the United States. After performing in works by Marc Brew, Sonya Delwaide, David Dorfman, Kim Epifano, Joe Goode, Shinichi Iova-Koga, Alex Ketley, Margaret Jenkins, Victoria Marks and Kate Weare, Sheppard began a freelance dance and choreographic career. She has danced in projects with Marc Brew, GDance, Ballet Cymru, Marjani Forté, MBDance, Infinity Dance Theater and Steve Paxton. She also performs solo work and academic lectures throughout the United States. Sheppard recently performed as a guest artist with Full Radius Dance Company, MOMENTA, and AXIS Dance Company. Presently, Alice is collaborating with maverick performing artist Baraka de Soleil on a duet project grounded in representations of disabled, racialized bodies.
Nicholas Viselli is the Associate Director of Theater Breaking Through Barriers, the only Off-Broadway theater dedicated to advancing the work of performers with disabilities. He has been a core member of TBTB since 1997 and has performed or directed in nearly every production since that time. He has also served as the company's sound designer and travel coordinator. In NYC, he has also worked with the Pearl Theater Company, Performers Access Studio, The Oasis Theater and The Riverside Shakespeare Co., to name a few. He studied at the Royal National Theater in London and is a graduate of Hofstra University.
Alexandria Wailes teaches American Sign Language with the Sign Language Center and is a teaching artist with Interactive Drama for Education and Awareness in the Schools (IDEAS). In addition, she is a docent for the Intrepid Museum and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and an educator at the Whitney. Wailes is an actor, and has worked on Broadway and upon stages around the world, in addition to making appearances on television and in independent films.