Ayano Elson is a choreographer and designer. Ayano was born on Okinawa—a small island in southern Japan—and through process-based collaboration, her choreography creates ever-changing landscapes. She works with queer, feminist, and multiracial artists as a way to empower marginalized bodies while creating dark and dreamy spaces for her audience.

Ayano graduated from Connecticut College with majors in dance and art history. Since moving to New York in 2013, her work has been presented by Center for Performance Research, Gibney Dance (Work Up), Movement Research at Judson Memorial Church, Roulette (lec/dem), Triskelion Arts (Split Bill), and AUNTS at Arts@Renaissance, Danspace, Mount Tremper Arts, and the New Museum. She has been fortunate enough to be an artist-in-residence with AUNTS at Mount Tremper Arts (July 2015) and Holes in the Wall (July 2016), and a guest lecturer on performance and social media for Movement Research Studies Project (February 2016). Ayano is a 2018 Movement Research Van Lier Emerging Artist of Color Fellow.

As a dancer, Ayano has had the privilege to perform with Phoebe Berglund, Bell + Clixby, Kim Brandt, Jessica Cook, devynn emory, Glass Ghost, and Steven Reker in venues like BAAD!, BRIC, Guggenheim Museum, Invisible Dog, the Kitchen, Lincoln Center, Movement Research at Judson Memorial Church, New Museum, Pioneer Works, Roulette, and SculptureCenter.


Choreography allows me to create a landscape that I can fall into and hide within. Motivated by the desire to use performance as a material to evoke the quiet yet dramatic landscapes of Okinawa, Japan, my work investigates the ways in which the body and physical space can articulate environmental phenomena and intangible concepts. The research I’ve conducted addresses a cluster of physical, aesthetic, and sociopolitical concerns: the performance of silence, the construction of the female body in motion, and the value and division of time.