100 Creatives

Nayon Iovino of Ballet Arizona on the Freedom of Dancing Lead Roles

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 42. Nayon Iovino.

Nayon Iovino didn't choose dance. "Dance was the one who chose me," the 26-year-old says. "It was completely out of my control."

Growing up in Goiania, Goias, Brazil, the young dancer gained a national audience at 17 when he competed in the Youth American Grand Prix, the intensive international ballet competition held in New York. He won a scholarship to study at the Washington School of Ballet and came to the States in 2007. He went on to dance in the Houston Ballet's second company, rejoin the Washington Ballet as a professional dancer, and then moved to Phoenix to join Ballet Arizona in 2012. 

Dance is part of his daily life, inextricably so. Iovino spends eight hours a day dancing, whether full-length classical ballets or contemporary works. "Performing leading roles has been very fulfilling," Iovino says of his center-stage work in productions including Napoli. "I really enjoy experiencing that freedom on stage."

He also choreographs for Ballet Arizona. His piece 9 O’Clock, inspired by Latin American telenovelas, was performed to acclaim during Innovations, a program that showcased Ballet Arizona's burgeoning choreography talent. 

"Choreographing for Ballet Arizona's Masters of Movement program was also an accomplishment of which I'm very proud," he says, citing his most predominant influences as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev, Ohad Naharin, and Crystal Pite. "Ib Andersen, the artistic director of Ballet Arizona, has been a big influence in my career, too."

The key to Iovino's expanding choreography repertoire and improvement as a dancer, he says, is constantly learning. "It frees my mind for new ideas and concepts for new choreography," Iovino says. "As a dancer, I strive to improve and perform better with every new role. When I see visible results, it inspires me to keep pushing my self."

Teaching helps, too. Iovino leads classes at the School of Ballet Arizona several days a week, but he makes sure to carve out time for non-dance activities as well.

"Most evenings I cook dinner, play guitar, and relax," he says, adding that some nights are devoted to practice with his band, the Wild Swings. "If I am choreographing, I spend time preparing and thinking about what I will do the next day. Occasionally, I paint with acrylics."

I came to Phoenix with a lot of enthusiasm to dance with Ballet Arizona.

I make art because it's fulfilling to see something from my imagination come to life.

I'm most productive when I'm being challenged in rehearsals. As a choreographer, creativity comes to me randomly.

My inspiration wall is full of people who don't believe in their limitations.

I've learned most from my family, my teachers, and my mistakes.

Good work should always be full of the artist's soul.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more collaboration and more exposure.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
62. Joya Scott
61. Raji Ganesan
60. Ashlee Molina
59. Myrlin Hepworth
58. Amy Ettinger
57. Sheila Grinell
56. Forrest Solis
55. Mary Meyer
54. Robert Hoekman Jr.
53. Joan Waters
52. Gabriela Muñoz
51. ColorOrgy
50. Liz Magura
49. Anita and Sam Means
48. Liz Ann Hewett
47. Tiffany Fairall
46. Vanessa Davidson
45. Michelle Dock
44. Nia Witherspoon
43. Monique Sandoval
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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski