How A.I.M Company Member and Choreographer Keerati Jinakunwiphat Uses Self-Reflection When Creating

August 16, 2023

Keerati Jinakunwiphat balanced dance training with figure skating and gymnastics during her childhood in Chicago. As a BFA student at SUNY Purchase, she met two influential mentors. “I never thought of choreographing until I was introduced to composition class in college with Doug Varone,” recalls Jinakunwiphat, who became the first Asian American woman commissioned by New York City Ballet to create a new work in the company’s 75-year history last winter. “Doug has this approach of going with your instincts, which makes choreographing really playful, and he taught me that there was so much inside of my head and my body already.” Purchase also introduced Jinakunwiphat to Kyle Abraham, whose company she joined shortly after graduating in 2016. In 2019, she choreographed Big Rings, her first piece for A.I.M by Kyle Abraham. “I’m really grateful for him and for the A.I.M staff and dancers,” she says. “I’m one of those people who loves the work, so I’m used to being busy and traveling. But spending time by myself and reflecting is important because it helps me to study my art and emphasize intentionality and clarity.”

a woman wearing a white track suit with black stripes smiling at the camera
Keerati Jinakunwiphat. Photo by Quinn Wharton.

Why Choreographing Appeals to Her:

“I’m generally a dance nerd when it comes to learning new techniques, but I love working my mind in that way of observing and seeing things and finding ways to speak about dance and share.”

From Assisting Kyle Abraham at NYCB to Creating Her Own Piece:

“Kyle is someone who really looks out for me as a dancer, choreographer, friend, artist—all things. That experience assisting Kyle on The Runaway was really cool because it was such a new world for Kyle at the time too. I met a lot of cool people, and I also got to see what that institution and the ballet world was like on the inside.”

Making History With Fortuitous Ash:

“Making a piece on New York City Ballet is still pretty surreal. I absolutely felt the pressure, but I tried to remember that if I wasn’t ready, I wouldn’t be here—pressure creates diamonds, they say.”

How Her Thai Heritage Influences Her Work:

“I like to live and present loudly and proudly of who I am, which is many things. Sometimes my work might not seem so blatantly ‘Asian’ to some people, but to me, it always is because it’s just who I am.”

Her Pre-Performance Routine:

“I keep it chill. Sometimes I like to have a warm glass of tea, and then it’s whatever I feel like will get me to that point of being grounded and calm.”

How Music Inspires Her:

“I love my music, and I usually create playlists that relate to certain times in my life or just how I’m feeling on certain days. If I’m more low-energy or it’s like a sleepy morning, I’ll play something like Lauryn Hill’s MTV Unplugged album. Or, I love Tierra Whack’s ‘Whack World Instrumentals’ as background music if I’m reading.”

When She’s Not Dancing:

“I love spending quality time with loved ones and eating good food. I like taking in the sun and going for walks, or even just running my errands. Then I binge-watch my shows like everyone else. Right after The Joyce season, I binge-watched ‘Beef’ on Netflix, which was great, and I caught up on some ‘Barry’ and ‘Succession’ on HBO.”