The Ballet Ashani adaptation of James Baldwin's
Iyun Ashani Harrison presents his latest ballet, Giovanni's Room, on September 8th and 9th at the Rubenstein Arts Center hosted at Duke University's von der Heyden Theater. Bring your family and friends to enjoy an evening of spectacular dancing, while delving into Baldwin's captivating novel set in Paris during the 1950s. This intimate ballet explores the life of David who grapples with love, passion, and despair and he investigates his queer identity.
Iyun Ashani Harrison
Iyun Ashani Harrison (artistic director & choreographer) is a dance maker, educator, and executive director of Ballet Ashani. Born in Saint Andrew, Jamaica, Iyun first trained in acting, classical ballet, modern technique, and Jamaican folk dance. He graduated from the Juilliard School (BFA) and Hollins University (MFA). Harrison danced with the Dance Theatre of Harlem under the artistic direction of Arthur Mitchell. At the Dance Theatre of Harlem, he developed a love for neo-classical ballet and dancing choreography by George Balanchine, Glen Tetley, Michael Smuin, and Billy Wilson. This experience profoundly influenced Iyun's movement aesthetic and laid Ballet Ashani's foundation. Iyun's professional credits also include Ballet Hispanico, Buglisi Dance Theatre, Ailey II, National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica, and guest appearances with Connecticut Ballet, Flint Institute of Music, Collage Dance Collective, Seattle Dance Project, and St. Louis Black Repertory Theater. With these companies, he danced choreography by Jirí Kylián, José Limón, Paul Taylor, Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovitch, Donald Byrd, Edwaard Liang, Talley Beatty, and George Faison. Iyun's television credits include PBS' Setting the Stage 2007, NBC's 20th Hispanic Heritage Awards, PBS' Who's Dancin' Now? – Arts Education in Your Community and The South Bank Show in England.
A precursor to Ballet Ashani, Iyun founded and served as the executive director and resident choreographer for Ashani Dances (2011 – 2018). The Seattle Times wrote of Harrison, "Ashani Dances showcases an artist of diverse talents with sophisticated musical tastes and an understanding of how to use a bare stage to full effect." Most recently (2019), Iyun moved his company to Durham, NC rebranding it Ballet Ashani – A Contemporary Ballet. Iyun's choreography has been commissioned by the Juilliard Dance Ensemble, Ailey School, Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Collage Dance Collective, Men in Dance, American Dance Festival, Boost Dance Festival, University of Florida, Henderson State University, Pomona College, Goucher College, Webster University, Cornish College of the Arts, Jamaica School of Dance, and University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, Barbados. Iyun has held several academic positions, including professorships with Cornish College of the Arts, Goucher College, Webster University, and Pomona College. In addition, he has taught on the faculties of Pacific Northwest Ballet, Peabody Conservatory, The Ailey School, and Maryland Youth Ballet. Iyun and Dr. Kate Mattingly are the co-editors of Antiracist Ballet Teaching, a forthcoming text for Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. Iyun will premiere Giovanni's Room, a ballet adaptation of James Baldwin's novel, on September 8 & 9, 2023, at Duke University's von der Heyden Studio Theater.
Ballet Ashani provides a platform to promote the artistic excellence and creative innovation of underrepresented peoples within contemporary ballet. We curate, collaborate with, and present the work of artists of color, women, gender non-conforming individuals, and differently-abled creatives who explore intersections between art, technology, and modern life to construct new modalities in contemporary ballet. Our goal is to create experiences in ballet that increase racial and cultural representation while expanding the art form's reach to new audiences.
Alice Kaderlan The Seattle Times
"Ashani Dances Is On The Rise ... Harrison, with three very different works. Together, they showcased an artist of diverse talents with sophisticated musical tastes and an understanding of how to use a bare stage to full effect. Appearing at the Broadway Performance Hall, Harrison relied on lighting, rather than expensive sets, to enhance the mood and energy of his ballets. The costumes were simple but effective ..."
Amaris Man and Phoenix Chapital
"Ballet Ashani’s “Giovanni’s Room” is a poignant and fresh success. Bridging the gap between classical ballet, literature and the contemporary conception of sexuality, Ballet Ashani reimagines Baldwin’s characters and brings life to present-day Paris. Fusing modern fashion and music elements with Baldwin’s central message, Ballet Ashani presents the fluidity of sexuality and the societal pressure thrusted upon it."
"The result is a company [Ashani Dances] on par with Seattle’s elite in contemporary dance: Spectrum Dance Theater and Whim W’him, Harrison’s international experience and classical background present a refreshing niche in Seattle’s contemporary dance market; his technical, virtuosic dancers are appealing to both dance aficionados, as well as the general public."
"Time spent with Ballet Hispanico, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Ailey II, alongside a Julliard education, have given him great facility with the current hybrid combinations of ballet and contemporary dance. Neo-Funk Ballet, the James Brown-inflected closer, serves Harrison and the company well, giving the performers a showcase for their freshly minted virtuosity."