Dancer-choreographer Ayako Kato tackles the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster


Bryan Saner and Ayako Kato - DANIEL GUIDARA
  • Daniel Guidara
  • Bryan Saner and Ayako Kato

The meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011 is still raw in the minds of many. That's partly the basis for Blue Fish II, a conceptual performance piece from Chicagoan and native of Japan Ayako Kato of Art Union/Humanscape. The latest installment of her Blue Fish series takes place November 14 and 15 at the Chicago Cultural Center as part of the third annual SpinOff contemporary dance series, presented by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

For Blue Fish II, Kato teams with performance artist/activist Bryan Saner to reflect on what she calls the "dysfunction and equilibrium of human behavior," particularly in the realms of nature and "oppressive economics, militarism, and segregation." During trips to Fukushima in 2012 and 2013, Kato says, she gained insight into the struggles between locals reeling from the disaster and Japanese officials struggling to contain it (a subsequent commission charged with investigating the accident found that, despite the earthquake and tsunami that launched it, the nuclear disaster was "manmade," its direct causes of the accident all foreseeable). It struck her as a topic she wanted to tackle through dance. She recruited Saner to add a new dimension to the work, previously conceived as a solo.

For Kato the change was a matter of equilibrium. She recalls the conversation with Saner that prompted their collaboration: "He said, 'Evil never goes away. Yet the arts will never go away, either, as long as humans exists,'" she says. "Art functions as balance. My instinct kept telling me that I needed one more person to make this piece."

Blue Fish II shares the bill of this program of works in progress with excerpts from Honey Pot Peformance's dance-theater work Ma(s)king Her. SpinOff concludes next weekend with Chris Schlichting's Stripe Tease

Blue Fish II Sat 11/14, 6 PM, and Sun 11/15, noon, Chicago Cultural Center, dance studio, 78 E. Washington, 773-871-0872,, reservations recommended, free.

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