“American Dance Asylum presents…” first appeared in 1972 on posters for a dance concert coordinated by choreographer Lois Welk, Jill Becker and other graduates of the SUNY Brockport Dance Department. Following a sojourn in San Francisco, Welk headed back east with colleague Jill Becker to study Contact Improvisation with Steve Paxton. She was invited by Richard Bull to teach a workshop at the Brockport Dance Department. Only two individuals participated - Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane. In 1974, the ADA incorporated as a non-profit, co-directed by Bill Jones, Lois Welk and Arnie Zane based in Binghamton, NY. Living a collective life style and challenging regional audiences, the American Dance Asylum quickly earned a reputation for its innovative and often controversial productions. From 1974 - to 1979, the American Dance Asylum produced all the early works of Arnie Zane, Bill T. Jones and Lois Welk. Clive Barnes (NY Times) wrote in 1977, “The Dance Asylum shows the value of collective experimentation.”
Since 1980, the ADA has been under the sole artistic direction of Lois Welk, producing over forty original works, most noteworthy are the site-specific projects including The Parking Ramp Dances (1978,1980,1981,1984 and 1996), The Train Station Dances (1987, 1988), The Carousel Dances (1990,1993), The Hiawatha Island Dance (1991) and The Pavilion Dance (1989). From 1977- to 1989, the ADA supported the work of other artists by presenting their work in upstate New York (among them Richard Bull, Daniel Nagrin, Elizabeth Streb and others) and by providing creative residencies through the Space for Choreography program (1986-1989).
For nearly twenty years (1984-2003) the ADA’s 5,6,7,8… Dance!, an in-school program linking choreography with music theory, toured to elementary and middle schools in upstate New York providing thousands of young people their first exposure to contemporary dance.
In July 2005, the ADA became the administrator of The NYS DanceForce, a state-wide network of individuals and organizations working to connect artists with communities funded by the New York State Council on the Arts. Curt Steinzor currently serves as the Director of the NYS DanceForce.
In 2003, the ADA launched its first international festival - a cultural bridge between the island of Sardinia, Italy and New York, directed by Paola Bellu. Ichnusa Festival was a model for integration of humanities, fine arts and community development. In addition to performances and other events, the festival offered opportunities for young people to learn and practice the English language through art activities in a very rural area.