One of Milwaukee’s own is coming home to perform. Catey Ott, dancing since the age of 4, honed her artistic skills in the rehearsal studios and classrooms of UW-Milwaukee’s Dance Department, where she received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She currently serves as artistic director of the Catey Ott Dance Collective in New York, which will be debuting its newest piece, Elixir, for the “Dancemakers Redux” during the Fall Dance Festival at UWM’s Mainstage Theatre on Saturday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m.
How would you describe your choreography?
My work is very physical and abstract. It typically has either a narrative or an emotional core. But then, through the process of it becoming choreography, it is made into phrases and variations and takes on a life of its own.
What are some of your inspirations?
I have been working for some time now with very abstract versions of yogic philosophy.
Is that seen in your newest piece, Elixir?
The piece I’m doing for the show is based on yogic philosophy and is told like a folk tale. It’s the story of how angels were talking to the gods about not having enough strength to ward off the demons. The gods told the angels to put earth, air, fire, water and ether into the ocean and stir it with the serpent. From that concoction, the ocean first became poisoned. Shiva, one of the gods, offered to drink the poison out of the water, and when he did, his skin turned blue. Underneath the poison was the elixir of life. The gods then distributed the elixir of life to the angels and they received eternal life.
Who will be performing the piece?
Along with me, I will have three New York dancers and five Milwaukee dancers that have worked with me before, all of which are women. I definitely create the work with the dancers in mind.
Are you collaborating with any musicians?
I’m using the music of the Robin Cox Ensemble, a quintet that includes a clarinet, cello, violin and marimba. I’m really lucky to have so many great composers in my life. It’s allowed me to almost always use original music for my work.
After receiving your undergraduate degree from UWM, you lived in New York for almost nine years. What inclined you to return to your alma mater and attend graduate school?
I came to a turning point in my life. I needed some new tools. I was trained very well to be a dancer, but then at some point, in order to focus more on the teaching and choreography, I needed to go back and break down the hows and whys of dance. I needed to balance out my creativity and physicality with articulation and academics. After receiving my MFA, I stayed in Milwaukee a little bit longer because I wanted to put what I learned into action and ground some of my learning. I feel like I got to own the information before coming to New York and putting it to use here.