Aretha Aoki is a choreographer, performer, and teacher originally from unceded Coast Salish territory (Vancouver, B.C.) and currently residing in the Wabanaki Confederacy on land belonging to the Abenaki, and Arosaguntacook Peoples (Maine). Her research as a choreographer is grounded in improvisation and collaboration with artists both within and outside the field of dance. Her work has incorporated highly structured choreography, next to improvisation, next to a range of art forms: video, sculpture, spoken text, sound, and dance criticism, to name a few. Themes that emerge include authorship, lineage, and the body as a medium for the residue of the past.
Aretha’s work has been performed at La Mama La Galleria (NYC), the Powell St. Festival (Vancouver, BC), Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME), Kraine Theater (NYC), Judson Church (NYC), Portland Ballet Theater (ME), Franco Center (ME), School for Contemporary Dance and Thought (Northampton, MA), Brooklyn Studios for Dance, A.P.E Gallery Ltd. (MA), Danspace Project (NYC), the Academy of Music (MA), Movement Research Festival (NYC), Center for Performance Research (NYC), Catch (NYC), Exit Art Gallery (NYC, Culturebot’s “Ephemeral Evidence”), New York Live Arts (2011/12 Fresh Tracks artist), the Kitchen (NYC, Emily Roysdon’s A Gay Bar Called Everywhere), the Chen Dance Center (NYC, 2010 Newsteps artist-in-residence), the Firehall Arts Centre (Vancouver, BC), AUNTS (Brooklyn, NY), the 92nd St. Y (NYC), and Studio 303 (Montreal, QC, 2007 Vernissage-danse artist in residence). She was the Dance Consultant for the theater production, Babette’s Feast (2018), which premiered at Portland Stage (ME) and had an Off-Broadway run at the Theater at St. Clement’s.
Aretha is part of the 2021/2022 artist cohort for the Regional Dance Development Initiative: New England Now. She was an artist with the inaugural Seed Program (2015/2016), a residency exchange with Vermont Performance Lab and Studio 303. She has received funding through the New England Foundation for the Arts (2016/2017), Maine Arts Commission (2021), Northampton Council for the Arts (2014) and the National Association of Japanese Canadians (2006).
Aretha was a dancer and collaborating performer with Emily Johnson/Catalyst Dance for seven years (Terrible Things, the New York performances of The Thank-you Bar, Niicugni, SHORE, and Then a cunning voice and a night spent gazing at stars). As a performer, she has worked with robbinschilds, Rebecca Serrell Cyr, devynn emory, Vanessa Anspaugh, Heather Kravas, Juliette Mapp, Daria Fain, Maura Donohue, Elizabeth Ward, Martin Lanz, Faye Driscoll, Lisa D’Amour & Katie Pearl, Kokoro Dance, Silesian Dance Theater, and others.
Since 2016, Aretha has held the position of Assistant Professor of Dance at Bowdoin College. Since 2014, she has been leading the workshop, The Dancer is a Haunted House, based on her choreographic and performance research throughout the country. Aretha was Associate Editor at Contact Quarterly (CQ) from 2013-2016, and co-curator of the 2016 Movement Research Spring Festival in NYC. Her lyric essay, “The Practice of Form: A Class by Ralph Lemon” appeared in CQ W/S 2016. Aretha holds a BFA from Simon Fraser University and a MFA from Smith College.