Elena Alexandra is the Director of Match-A-Friend programs. In this role, Elena is responsible for pairing the Match A Friend candidates to young adults with autism as well as contributing to the development of programs and services based of the Art of Connection, the guiding principle of Autism Unites.
Elena is an artist, dancer, teacher, and advocate. She is the co-founder of Autism Unites, formerly known as Dance Into Unity (DIU) and the Executive Producer of three successful Broadway-cast dance productions to raise autism awareness: “El Corazon del Tango” (2006), “Tango Adamor” (2008) and “Through the Heart of Tango” (2012).
Elena has been working with young adults with autism since 2006 with the focus of teaching the “Art of Connection”. She collaborated with the Unity In Diversity Arts Foundation to create the “Magic of Tango” themed workshops, and these workshops evolved into “Through the Heart of Tango”, an all-inclusive workshop series which helped young adults with differences connect to their neurotypical peers by focusing on the importance of connection. The workshops were documented by Joey Travolta’s Inclusion Films and the following year the documentary “Through the Heart of Tango” was presented at five film festivals. Elena latest workshop series was “Beautiful” which is currently in post-production.
Video above: Program "Magic of Tango" in West Hollywood where Elena created a series of workshops for adults to improve health and quality of life.
Currently Elena is developing a range of educational programs for youth using the “Match A Friend” model (MAF) for enhancing social and vocational skills of young people with autism. Utilizing the medium of performing arts and dance, Elena creates all-inclusive programs guiding young adults how to develop their friendship through an enriching and meaningful journey.
Through the Heart of Tango documentary trailer: eight young adults with and without autism discovering the Art of Connection.
Elena completed her undergraduate work with a B.A. in Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, realizing that her road lay in her life-long fascination with the human psyche and its potentials. Elena continued her graduate studies at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she received her M.A. CMHC, Masters Degree in Psychology specializing in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
During her internships, Elena had the opportunity to work with various populations representing a spectrum of states of the human condition – including adult outpatients diagnosed with substance abuse and psychiatric disorders, emotionally-behaviorally challenged teens at an urban junior high-school, and a broad and varying range of college students coming through a counseling center at one of the biggest universities of the country, right in the heart of Boston.
Upon moving to California in 2001, Elena was offered a position at the American University of Complementary Medicine, where she taught Introduction to Psychology, Theories of Personality and Abnormal Psychology, and eventually put them all together into a class that came to be known as a favorite of students called “Personality Profiles”.
At that time Elena’s love for performing arts and specifically dance brought her to the world of Argentine Tango. Elena immersed herself into dance, connecting with an international tango community, attending dances called “milongas” and absorbing the technique, style and flavor of it all right on the dance floor. What attracted her most is what lies at the very core of this dance: CONNECTION.
The experience gave Elena the idea to write a fairy tale called “Dance Into Unity through the Heart of Tango” which was put into choreography in 2006 by Broadway tango legend Miriam Larici.
Video above: "El Corazon del Tango" dance production to raise autism awareness took place in November 18-19, 2006 in Wishire Ebell Theatre.
In 2012 Elena employed “Match A Friend” concept on the large scale. She developped workshops for the group of young adults with and without special needs teaching them the art of connection through the medium of Argentine Tango. She proved that Argentine Tango greatly improved focus, coordination, build self esteem and empowered social skills of the young adults.
The experience was captured by Joey Travolta’s Inclusion Films in the documentary “Through the Heart of Tango”, a captivating film that has been nominated for the Best Documentary Short at the 2013 NY City International Film Festival and at the same year was invited into five other international and national festivals.
Elena is the co-founder of Autism Unites, Inc. where she combines her educational experience with her love for dance and the arts to empower social skills of young adults with autism.