Ayako Kato ART OF NOW

Editor's Note:  Ayako Kato, one of Chicago's leading choreographers, has shared her searingly intelligent insights with Picture this Post readers before-- about Merce Cunningham and more.  (Click here to read a Ayako Kato review of Joffrey Ballet.)

Picture this Post has also included reviews of some of her recent works by fellow choreographers:  Sara Maslanka on Humanscape    and Kris Lenzo on Blue Fish.

Here, Ayako Kato (AK) shares her thoughts on dance and improvisation in general, and the recent STUCK FOOT, OPEN HAND, RUNNING MOUTH performance, reviewed by choreographer/dancer Tuli Bera.

Ayako Kato ART OF NOW
Ayako Kato Photo courtesy of Ayako Kato

What inspired the Art of Now series?

Art of Now workshops emerged to share my methodology of dance/movement improvisation and reintroduce it as a rigorous art form.
Every human seeks out freedom and freedom of choice. Yet in order to make this happen we require practice and discipline. Interestingly, to perform good improvisation, our mind and body needs to be attuned and ready. It is similar to getting things done in our daily lives.  Also, we need to be empty, as well as full, so that you can actualize anything coming down upon and through us in the moment.
Through Art of Now, I introduce somatic exercises to prepare ourselves to perform improvisation by aligning, connecting and opening space through the body. Then, I offer improvisational exercises to develop physical and mental awareness to perform improvisation --or actually even just to perform--based on my notion that humans and the body are moving and transforming as the fractal part of nature and the universe. We are all ephemeral and disappear sometimes. Or, metaphorically speaking, we are actually appearing/living and disappearing/dying every moment through the different states of being.
In this sense, Art of Now is inspired by this notion of urgency to focus on the beauty of life and living especially in these times. 

The works in STUCK FOOT, OPEN HAND, RUNNING MOUTH are described as being disparate. But are there ways in which they are also similar? How does this performance compare to Art of Now I and II?

The similarity is the experimental spirit. Art of Now (AON) III is focusing on the creation of experimental movement/dance work.
Choreographers often feel lonely, or rather, the creative process can be very lonely. As a contemporary experimental choreographer/dancer, I often feel lonely—yet that must be the nature of art creation. 
Here in Chicago, there is a strong tradition of dance and performance art thanks to well-known colleges and universities. Yet, after graduation, people who have different strength from their own background practice most often by themselves, sometimes taking technique classes and other workshops. There is not much time/space to develop, have conversations with colleagues to nurture each other's work, as well as produce their own work to the public. This is why I wanted to create such a space to meet with other people of the same spirit. 
In the AON I & II, as well as  or my previous workshop Transformation I - XI, many interesting people/artists were involved and I had the privilege to witness so many beautiful moments while they were moving. So I thought it would be a very good idea to do this creative workshop with a self-produced concert that doesn't involve a heavy financial risk/burden. This was possible thanks to Chicago Moving Company's Arts Partners Program supported by Chicago Park District.
Ayako Kato ART OF NOW

What can audiences see in this series that is unique?

The artists/people presenting their work themselves are unique in the sense that they have their own voice and sizzling feeling that they have something to express and share. Watching their in-workshop showing, I feel they have been preparing the work they present for this concert, not only during this workshop period but throughout their lives.
Performers bring everything we can to the moment. As we discussed in the workshop, I encourage artists to imagine and present their own mandala-like intricate and refined world of being in motion. As it's subtitled, "Metaphors are real," their movement work is the honest reflective and metaphorical reality. So I hope you will enjoy by finding yourself in them.

How did you select the artists’ whose work appears here?

I didn't select the artists. They are all workshop participants who are interested in experimenting with this opportunity.
Artists (and their work) are:

-We Are Monsters by Sara Zalek & Molly Whedbee; 

-In other words by Wilson Tanner Smith;

-Formosan Wood by Mitsu Salmon;

-Nonsense Point Mutant by Harlan Rosen; 

 -GRASP by Chrissy Martin;

A Life Well Lived (?) by Mark Kater;

 - Surface by Corrine Imberski;

 -a drop in the dark by Rose Bouboushian;

 and Aurora Tabar performs the Existential Coat Check in the lobby.

Read more articles about dance from Ayako Kato's choreographer colleagues in Chicago--Choreographers' Eyes: Dancers Explain Dance.

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