Iyun Ashani Harrison is a dance maker, educator, and executive director of Ballet Ashani. Born in Saint Andrew, Jamaica, Harrison first trained in acting, classical ballet, modern technique, and Jamaican folk dance. He is a graduate of both the Juilliard School (BFA) and Hollins University (MFA).
Harrison danced with the Dance Theatre of Harlem under the artistic direction of Arthur Mitchell. It was at Dance Theatre of Harlem that he developed a love for neo-classical ballet, dancing choreography by George Balanchine, Glen Tetley, Michael Smuin, and Billy Wilson. This experience deeply influenced Harrison’s movement aesthetic and provided the foundation for Ballet Ashani.
Harrison’s other professional credits 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. Harrison’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, Harrison founded, 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), Harrison moved his company to Durham, NC rebranding it, Ballet Ashani – A Contemporary Ballet.
Harrison’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.
Harrison 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.
Harrison and Dr. Kate Mattingly are the co-editors of Antiracist Ballet Teaching, a forthcoming text for Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. Harrison will premiere Giovanni’s Room, a ballet adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel by the same name, in September of 2023 at Duke’s Von Der Heyden Studio Theater.