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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.

About
Iyun Harrison Headshot, Contemporary Ballet Company Director, Choreographer, Talent, Dance

Iyun Ashani Harrison

Iyun Ashani Harrison (Artistic and Executive Director) 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.

LEADERSHIP TEAM

Artistic & Executive Director

Iyun Ashani Harrison is the founder and executive director of Ballet Ashani. He is also the director of undergraduate studies and an associate professor of the practice of dance at Duke University.

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Development Diector

Anthony "Otto" Nelson Jr. is a dynamic professional who wears many hats, seamlessly blending his roles as an administrator, artist, and performer. With a rich background in the arts, Otto previously contributed his talents as the Development Assistant for the American Dance Festival for two years. His experience in dance admin laid the foundation for his continued passion in the arts. In the academic realm, Otto showcases his versatility as the Pre and Post Grant-Award Tech. for the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department at North Carolina State University. As an individual artist, Otto's creative endeavors have been recognized with the Artist Support Grant from North Carolina's Durham Arts Council, supporting the premiere of his work at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in 2022, marking a significant milestone in his artistic journey. Otto also takes the stage as the character of Jacques in Ballet Ashani's work of Giovanni's Room, and also serves as the Development Manager for the company. Otto’s multifaceted contributions leave an indelible mark on the worlds of arts administration, academia, and performance in his hometown of Durham, North Carolina.

Company Manager & Rehearsal Director

Lindsay Fisher Viatori is an associate professor of dance at Slippery Rock University, in Western Pennsylvania, where she is the Artistic Director of Slippery Rock University Dance Theatre. She serves on the boards of the American College Dance Association, Ballet Ashani, and Helen Simoneau Danse. In 2015 she co-founded the FORGE Summer Dance Intensive (which she directs) and since its inception, it has grown to include college internships, choreographic residencies, and has hosted international students.

Marketing Director

Melina Bezanis has worked in marketing and communications for five years, specializing in social media management, content creation, and event promotion. Melina currently manages Ballet Ashani's online presence, including its website, social media, newsletter, and tour promotion. Melina is the current Marketing and Communications Director for Heights Ironworks LLC. She has experience as the 2021 Advertising, Marketing, and Operations Intern at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, and the 2022 Marketing and Public Relations Assistant for the real estate company, Barcelona Home.  

COLLABORATORS

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