Ayako Kato/Art Union Humanscape offers dance audiences experiences which can give vitality to humanity. By informing the vulnerable, sensitive and elusive state of human beings, the company reevaluates the fundamental beauty of our ephemeral being, its intrinsic value and the strength. The company strives to respond to the contemporary society and searches the creative apparatus that increases social change through dance.
Artist Philosophy and History
Grasping dance as an art of being, Kato seeks the contemporary way of liberating human mind and body to reveal the beauty of being beyond the moments of struggle and hideous state of being. Kato's works create prominent ephemeral moments and offer contemplative environment informed by Taoism, Buddhism and Japanese traditional arts by being aware of Ma - space, silence and stillness. Kato choreographs energy through moving bodies and convey movements as intrinsic “incidents” through space. As much as butterfly effect can explain, Kato's current choreographic approach is to overlap phenomena in nature with physics in human bodies among their environment.
Kato has been interested in both Chinese meridians and western anatomy studies, especially under dance anatomy scholar Irene Dowd since 2007. Also she has been studying not only western movement forms such as classical ballet and modern dance, but also ones from east such as Tai Chi, Noh theater dance and butoh, under one of the founders, Kazuo Ohno. Western forms have strong focus on physical techniques and eastern forms have strong focus on mental states of being in order to move. As a result, combined with her knowledge in anatomy studies from east and west, her current movement interest is to unite internal physical and mental as well as external formative representation of movements.
Originally being inspired by traditional Japanese aesthetics of furyu, “wind flow" or “the beauty of being as it is,” which is an intuitive translation, Kato has been creating her movement works since 1996. Furyu is an affirmative artistic and melancholic expression of the ephemeral and eternal facts of cyclical and transitory being. Through dance, Kato reveals the human movements of trying to find the balance between the conventional and spiritual states of being. With the flow like the wind, Kato hopes for audience to sense the expansion and contraction of the universe and begin to perceive our holistic being.
Often fused with western music/sounds, particularly J.S. Bach, free jazz, experimental music and improvisation, Kato’s choreography, which looks simple, yet multilayered in meanings, encourage active participation from audiences through their imagination, memories and experiences.
Kato considers improvisation over the concept of yin-yang in Taoism: composition and improvisation cannot exist in a vacuum, but rather include the other aspect in different degrees in the entity of a single dance work. In other words, when improvisation matures, it seeks out the form of composition and when composition matures, it seeks out the form of improvisation. Butoh master Kazuo Ohno observed that one must: "improvise the same thing one hundred times, and then you start to see the truth in the movement." This means, if you improvise about "flower," after one hundred times of improvisation, you start to see something that can be called the law of nature or the law of the movement. And that is recognized as the essence of composition. When Kato performs and creates a dance work, she keeps seeking to encounter these absolute moments of being, and that's how she copes with and balance improvisation and composition in her dance work.
Ayako Kato is a dancer, choreographer, teacher and curator who hails from Yokohama, Japan. Highly acclaimed by the New York Times, the Village Voice, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Reader, and Time Out – Chicago, Ayako has been an artistic director of Art Union Humanscape (AUH) since 1998 and presented over 140 interdisciplinary collaborative productions with musicians and artists in the United States, Japan and Europe. In January 2014, she was selected as one of The Players 2014: The Fifty People Who Really Perform in Chicago, in the field of theater, dance and performance, by the Chicago arts weekly Newcity. Her works have been presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago; Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago; Dance Theater Workshop, NYC; Joyce Soho, NYC; Die Pratze Dance Festival, Tokyo; Musée d’Art moderne et contemporain, Strasbourg, France; Chicago Jazz Festival; The Other Dance Festival, Chicago and other festivals and venues. Kato has received awards and honors, including Audience Architects Dance: A Moving Canvas as a part of Dance/USA Engaging Dance Audiences (EDA) program supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs Special Event, The Japan Foundation, Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Award, The Puffin Foundation, Illinois Arts Council, Crosscut Music and Dance Collaboration Award from Links Hall and Experimental Sound Studio.
Ayako is an advocator of neuromuscular anatomical approach for movements and has been studying with Irene Dowd since 2007 and has been attending five consecutive teacher’s courses in summer since 2009. Since 2010, Ayako is an artist in residence at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theater as a part of the Chicago Moving Company's Dance Shelter Program. Since 2012, Ayako has been also teaching through Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE) for Chicago Public Schools, and enjoying to introduce fundamental knowledge upon modern/contemporary dance and its history (prezi.com/-roly2jv8yay/dance-history-tree).