Ballet dancer couple share art and life

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The life of a ballet dancer can be grueling on both the body and the mind. Before the pandemic, we got the chance to follow a couple who are also performers with Ballet Arizona, to see what it is like to walk in their ballet shoes.

The couple, Jillian Barrell and Nayon Iovino, start their day with an hour and a half class as their warm up. Following that, they have about six to seven hours of rehearsals. Iovino says that this is essential to make sure their steps are perfect and they’re acting cohesive. They shared that maintaining a healthy life style is important to them. They enjoy growing their own food from their home to help them maintain this goal.

Barrell mentions that her professional life and her personal life are always clashing together as she works most of the day with her husband by her side. She says that working with your partner in any capacity is, “a whole other skill you have to learn.”

Barrell has been a professional ballerina for 13 seasons. She mentions that when she tells people that she performs for Ballet Arizona, not many people understand that it is a full time job. Barrell says that she thinks ballet is a lot more rigorous and physically demanding than what most people think.

“The art form of ballet is just so special because it’s a reflection of the music through our bodies. So I almost picture that it’s a sculpture. For a fraction of a second…it syncs with the music and then it dissipates. So I think it’s just like the life and death of the music instantly,” Iovino said.

The couple says that ballet is also very emotional and Iovino mentions that performing is a perfect time for him to let go of any emotional pain and just be in the moment.

Jillian Barrell, Ballet Arizona;
Nayon Iovino, Ballet Arizona

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