Dancer Ayako Kato moves from protest to perseverance in the face of environmental disaster

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Ayako Kato in Blue Fish - HUGH SATO
  • Hugh Sato
  • Ayako Kato in Blue Fish

Watching Ayako Kato dance, it's as though she's suspended in time. Slow and deliberate, the Japanese-born Chicagoan is meticulous in Blue Fish, her world premiere about "balance," "equilibrium," and "humanity's relationship to nature." The piece dates as far back as 2013, when Kato began developing it in response to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster that in 2011 forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate their homes. The surrounding region has been virtually uninhabited ever since.

"I imagine [the fish] as a single life, swimming in the cloister [of the area], where people are protesting the nuclear power plant for 35 years now," Kato says of the piece. "Those people are mostly fisherman and farmers."

Knowing that, it's easy to think of Blue Fish as an elegy for a planet suffering from man-made wounds. It almost was. A previous experimental solo was rife with dark, melancholy shadows; another version featured performer Bryan Saner as "the human" in relationship to Kato's "anonymous, unknown life" existing below the water. The final product—now back to a solo—seems much more hopeful. The stage is adorned with a small tree, lit by a white spotlight. In the opposite corner: Kato, dressed in black, reacts to a rippling soundscape that mimics the sounds of small rocks rattling as they bounce on top of one another. Her trancelike state gives the impression that what Kato's after is a story of perseverance in the face of environmental disaster—"like Standing Rock," Kato says.

Blue Fish Fri 4/21-Sat 4/22, 7 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Randolph, 312-742-1168, seechicagodance.com, free.


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