Ballet AZ Blog

Q&A with Nayon Iovino: New York Choreographic Institute

9 May 2019

Q&;A with Nayon Iovino: New York Choreographic Institute

company dancer and choreographer
Ballet Arizona company dancer and choreographer Nayon Iovino.

Founded in the Spring of 2000, by Irene Diamond and Peter Martins, the New York Choreographic Institute promotes the development of choreographers by providing a space for them to develop their talents. The Institute’s spring session allows choreographers the opportunity to work with composers from the Juilliard School and together develop a brand new score. Over the course of two weeks, choreographers rehearse 3 hours a day with their dancers, advanced students from the School of American Ballet, which culminates in an informal showing of the brand new works, accompanied by live music played by recent Juilliard School graduates.

Ballet Arizona company dancer and choreographer, Nayon Iovino, participated in the Institute’s Spring 2019 session, so we sat down and talked about his time there and his new work, Pixie!

First, why did you decide to apply for the program?

I had heard about the Institute before and how it has helped choreographers get their names out there. But Richard Tanner, who is a former dancer and current ballet master/répétiteur, personally reached out and asked me to send some of my work to the Institute. I’m very thankful for this opportunity and support from friends like Richard and from Ib of course.

Can you talk about what that first day was like? Meeting the other choreographers, dancers, and the composers?

The first day, we watched the dancers in class and got a list of all the ones participating in the program. In the ballet class we were pretty much just learning the dancer’s names. After that, each choreographer had 45 minutes to share some material to help decide each of our casts. We all watched each other’s process and got to see how the students moved. Afterwards, we had a meeting with the staff of the Institute to finalize our casts. At the end, there was one extra dancer that had to be used, so I went ahead and added the extra person to my piece, so my idea adapted from 8 dancers to 9 dancers in the ballet. It was a nice challenge to have to adapt so fast. Then we had rehearsal for 3 hours directly after and finished the evening by rushing to the David H. Koch Theater to watch New York City Ballet’s mixed repertoire performance. That day was packed!

School of American Ballet Students, at rehearsal.
School of American Ballet Students, Nayon Iovino, Trey Makler, and Juilliard Musicians at tech rehearsal for “Pixie.”

Can you talk about the process and what it was like working with a composer?

The music was completed before I got there. I had started talking to the composer, Trey Makler, back in October and together we developed the 10 minute piece up until about 3 weeks before the program started. We were both very open in the creative process and it was great working with him. Although it was the hardest piece of music I’ve ever choreographed to…

We had rehearsal for 3 hours a day and we had many activities scheduled throughout the program. From a private tour at a museum exhibition, to meetings with a dramaturge, the music director of Juilliard, a theater lighting lab and so many different performances in the city. All 3 choreographers and composers were together for most activities, so we got to know each other.

This was my first time working with a composer and I definitely can’t wait to do it again. It’s great when the work is so fresh all around! I think we can give more depth to concepts that way.

a picture of Artistic Director
Ballet Arizona company dancer Jillian Barrell found a picture of Artistic Director Ib Andersen in New York City Ballet offices!

Tell us about the work you created – what was your inspiration?

The work is called Pixie and the inspiration was the music. Trey and I talked about where the music could lead us energetically and emotionally, and he crafted this piece with a storytelling quality that was fun and challenging to work with.

How does this piece fit within the realm of works you have already created?

This piece was completely in pointe shoes, which is something I had not done yet. That gave a very different quality of movement to how I usually choreograph.

Did the program change how you view choreographing?

Now, I would definitely feel more comfortable picking up a more complex piece of music. Pixie was a great challenge to put everything to counts and make it clear for students to understand.

students post performance
Nayon Iovino and School of American Ballet students post performance of “Pixie.”


Don’t miss next season’s “Director’s Choice” featuring a new work by Nayon, along with some of Artistic Director Ib Andersen’s most celebrated ballets!

Click here to learn more!

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