Dear Bach . . . Love, Ayako Kato | Dance Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Dear Bach . . . Love, Ayako Kato

Dancer-choreographer Ayako Kato waxes eloquent in "Existencia Esencia"


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Dancer-choreographer Ayako Kato set herself a huge challenge with Dear BACH—Goldberg Variations, a 50-minute solo now receiving its U.S. premiere as part of an evening titled "Existencia Esencia." Kato's dancing is so eloquent that it easily justifies her temerity in taking on Johann Sebastian's mathematically complex Goldberg Variations. Though Kato also performs Dear BACH to Gustav Leonhardt's harpsichord version of the Variations, the piece comes across with particular power when done to the brilliantly idiosyncratic 1981 recording by pianist Glenn Gould, who can be heard crooning as he plays. Kato's gift for channeling unseen forces—for distancing herself from herself yet remaining uncannily invested in the moment—pays off here. She inhabits and embodies the obsessiveness, the fierce jubilation, sadness, and resignation of both geniuses, Bach and Gould. (The Leonhardt is on Thursday, the Gould on Friday.)

Also on this Art Union Humanscape program is Kato's Incidents II (2011), which she performs with Precious Jennings and Maggie Koller. Set to a pinging, bubbling recorded score by Brian Labycz and Jason Roebke (Kato's partner in AUH), the piece comprises a labyrinthine set of gliding figure eights that subtly highlights the performers' femininity. And four dancers and eight free-jazz musicians deliver Octet, a polyphonic—and potentially cacophonous—improvisation structured by Kato.

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