Jarrvis C. McInnis, Ph.D. and Iyun Ashani Harrison,MFA,Reflect on Ballet Ashani's adaptation of James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room

Duke University professors, Jarvis C. McInnis, Ph.D., and Iyun Ashani Harrison, MFA Reflect on Ballet Ashani's adaptation of James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room 

Event Description: This conversation will provide biographical information on James Baldwin and the literary historical context of Giovanni's Room. It will situate the novel within Baldwin's oeuvre, paying specific attention to the intersections of race and sexuality in the book. Finally, the event will end with a conversation between McInnis and Harrison, discussing the text's adaptation into a ballet. 


Jarvis C. McInnis is the Cordelia & William Laverack Family Assistant Professor of English at Duke University. He is a proud graduate of Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi, where he earned a BA in English, and Columbia University in the City of New York, where he earned a Ph.D. in English & Comparative Literature. McInnis is an interdisciplinary scholar of African American & African Diaspora literature and culture, with teaching and research interests in the global south (primarily the US South and the Caribbean), sound studies, performance studies, visual culture, and the archive. He is currently completing his first book manuscript, "Afterlives of the Plantation: Plotting Agrarian Futures in the Global Black South," which is under contract with Columbia University Press and will be published in the "Black Lives in the Diaspora" series. This study aims to reorient the geographic contours of black transnationalism and diaspora by interrogating the hemispheric linkages between southern African American and Caribbean writers, intellectuals, and cultures in the early twentieth century. McInnis's award-winning research has been supported by numerous grants and fellowships, including the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, the Ford Foundation Pre-doctoral and Dissertation Fellowships, Princeton University's Department of African American Studies postdoctoral fellowship, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture's Scholars-in-Residence Program, among others. His work appears in journals and venues such as CallalooMELUSMississippi QuarterlyPublic BooksThe Global SouthAmerican Literature, American Literary History, and Comparative Literature Studies.


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 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 Harrison's movement aesthetic and laid Ballet Ashani's foundation.

His 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. 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, 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), Harrison moved his company to Durham,

NC rebranding it Ballet Ashani – A Contemporary Ballet. His choreography has been commissioned by the Juilliard Dance Ensemble, Ailey School, Ballet Hispanico School of Dance, Boston Conservatory, 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 (BDS). Harrison and Kate Mattingly are co-editors of Antiracism in Ballet Teaching (Routledge Press).


Wednesday, April 24 at 7:00pm

Hyman Forum of the Athenaeum
1021 Dulaney Valley Rd, Towson, MD 21204, USA

Event Type

Dance, Speaker/Lecture/Reading, Public

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