Ayako Kato is an award-winning Chicago-based dancer, choreographer, improvisor, teacher and curator who hails from Yokohama, Japan. Her trio “The Incidents” was selected for “Best of Dance 2014” in the Chicago Tribune. Since 1998, she has been an artistic director of Ayako Kato/Art Union Humanscape (AUH) and has presented and performed her works extensively in the United States, Japan, and Europe. Heavily influenced by traditional eastern and Japanese view of nature, Kato's movement reveals it as energy flow internally and externally through the body and space, reading and listening to Air.


Her choreographic works and her sound and movement collaboration with more than 40 renowned musicians, including duet with double bassist Jason Roebke, has been highly acclaimed by the New York Times as well as major Chicago press. Kato’s works have been presented at International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, CT; Chicacgo Jazz Festival, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Tahito Art Meeting Festival, Fukushima; Pivot Arts Festival at Loyola University, Chicago; Chicago Cultural Center; WHITE WAVE John Ryan Theater, Brooklyn, NY; Links Hall/Constellation and beyond. 


In summer 2014, she received Chicago-Lucerne Art Residency Grant through Chicago Sister City program as well as LinkUp with Dance at Illinois Artist in Residence supported by Links Hall & University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Kato has received funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, The Japan Foundation, The Puffin Foundation, Illinois Arts Council, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), the Chicago Dancemakers Forum, Experimental Sound Studio and Links Hall.


Since 2010, Kato has been an artist in residence at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theater under Chicago Moving Company’s Dance Shelter Program. She has been studying dance anatomy under Irene Dowd through summer intensive annually since 2007. In addition to classical ballet and modern dance, she also studied Tai Chi, Noh Theater, and Butoh with master Kazuo Ohno, one of the founders. She holds MFA in Dance from the University of Michigan and a certificate from the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance of Wesleyan University. www.artunionhumanscape.net




Ten Nights Dream: Sound and Movement Mandala was inspired by Ten Nights of Dreams, a novel written 100 years ago by Japanese author Soseki Natsume. Mandala is a Buddhist geometric figure representing the universe. Mandala also means “circle” or "completion" in Sanskrit. This dance performance took place in the Nave of historic Epiphany Episcopal Church in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. Live music played at the Sanctuary. Arranging movable pews and eight of ten yard long white half-see through fabric screens, the space was formed a three-dimensional mandala with 21f scaffold tower and 50 miniature object gardens by Japanese installation artist Nobuki Yamamoto. The space invited viewers to experience them as a part of it.  With the sense of urgency to recall the ephemeral, yet eternal sense of nature, the work represented the dream of human "enlightenment" in the fast paced contemporary life.


Soseki's Ten Nights of Dream is a true warning as well as a love letter addressed to modern and contemporary people from one hundred years ago. The path Japan took as industrialization and militarization has been remaining and the prioritizing economy is still current. Among the same mental drive in the world, Soseki's love letter is still valuable. 


Choreography and Direction: Ayako Kato

Music: Jason Roebke (double bass), Brian Labycz (koto/electronics), Josh Berman (cornet)

Dance: Julia Rae Antonick, Asimina Chremos, Angela Gronroos, Margaret Morris, Mary Willmeng, Ayako Kato

Installation Art: Nobuki Yamamoto

Lighting Design: Chris Wooten

Costume Design: Carol Genetti


Triggered by the nuclear power plant tragedy in Fukushima, blue fish project is in progress and will premiere in March 2017. Followed by her first work-in-progress solo blue fish I in 2014, Kato has been working on blue fish II - practice of being in collaboration with performance artist/activist Bryan Saner since spring 2015. Through the movement dialogue, Kato as fish and Saner as human observe, recall and manifest the differences and similarities between them to reflect upon human relationship to nature. During the piece, members of the audience were invited to participate in the circle dance to metaphorically sense the impact of human movement upon the environment. The work contemplates upon the dysfunction and equilibrium of modern human behavior within nature.


The blue fish project offers a series of events including documentary film screenings; exhibits of artifacts, photography and videos from my related travels to Fukushima, Iwaishima and beyond. In addition, "practice of being" movement workshops and other participatory workshops involving farmers, fishermen and urban ecologists; e.g. water path hiking to locate the origin of our water sources will happen. 


The blue fish project will comprise a composite of the process of understanding, tracing and modeling my own awakening, and representation of action in life as a way to celebrate the dignity of life and nature.


Kato's ongoing collaboration with musicians has been happening with not only highly achieved music improvisors/experimental musicians in Chicago, but also Swiss saxophonist Urs Leimgruber,  Instant Composer Pool (ICP) Orchestra from Amsterdam, classical guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan based in Boston, Chicago's Tsukasa Taiko lead by Tatsu Aoki, and conductor Carmen-Helena Tellez.


Upcoming blue fish events:

SpinOff: work-in-progress showing on May 7 & 8, 2015 on November 14 & 15 at the Chicago Cultural Center:


"practice of being" movement workshop by Ayako Kato and Bryan Saner, November 14, 2015


"Origin of Water" Hiking lead by Nance Klehm, November 21, 2015




Ayako Kato/ Art Union Humanscape URL: www.artunionhumanscape.net

ayakodance (workshop blog): https://ayakodance.wordpress.com


blue fish II - "practice of being" work-in-progress excerpt: https://vimeo.com/132265656

The Incidents excerpt: https://vimeo.com/102584017

Dear BACH - Goldberg Variations: https://vimeo.com/55571356