"I want to make work that looks at identity and cultural responsibility — that is beautiful and powerful — full of myth and truth at the same time," choreographer Emily Johnson explains in her mission statement. "I want to be grounded in my heritage, supported by my community, and giving back — always." Born in Alaska of Yup'ik descent and based in Minneapolis, Johnson has been creating site-specific dance installations in collaboration with visual artists and musicians since 1998, exploring ideas of home, identity, and the natural world through different modes of storytelling. Her latest multimedia performance piece is The Thank-you Bar, running at New York Live Arts from November 9 to 12.
Over the course of a week, SHORE includes volunteer actions in partnership with community organizations, a curated reading by local authors, theatrical performances that begin outdoors and move into the theater, and a festive, culminating potluck/Feast. SHORE premieres as part of Northrop's grand re-opening celebrations in June 2014, in conjunction with the Dance USA conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Tickets onsale now!
SHORE is our next performance installation, the third in our current trilogy of works that began withThe Thank-you Bar and Niicugni. It will premiere at Northrop Auditorium in Minneapolis in June 2014.
We are in Alaska, where Niicugni was born. It is good to bring it home! It's also good to share this place I love with Aretha, James, Heidi, Max, and Russ! As I write this to you, they are out on the ocean with my parents, fishing. Eagles perch on the roof of our theater everyday. We've had breakfast with my grandma, spent time with my niece and nephew, walked on a few beaches. How lucky we are!
Niicugni is many things. It is a dance. It is a story made of many. It is a word that instructs us to listen. There is hope here, and death; monsters and laughter, salmon, bear, blood, and a never ending attempt to pay attention.
We are so humbled and honored to have been awarded a Bessie Award for The Thank-you Bar for our November 2011 performances at New York Live Arts. Huge, heartfelt thanks to Carla Peterson and all the NYLA staff, to Aretha Aoki, our NYC "secret" dancer, to everyone who has supported this work, and to everyone who attended the shows - we are really blown away. Emily and James attended the awards ceremony at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, and that alone was a huge thrill.
2012 is nearly half done, can you believe it? And I have been meaning to write to you since it began. Woe! My steady friends who purposefully or inadvertently signed up on my mailing list - either way - oh, my friends I meant to write to you in January, then February, March....and maybe it was a good thing you didn't have another email or two in your inbox - I understand how that is - but I have missed you. I make these dances for you and I think of you all the time! Last week someone told me that it'd been two lifetimes since we'd seen one another. Lives within lives. That's how it goes sometimes.
This has been happening my whole life. Salmon brings me to harvest with my family, brings me across Kachemak Bay in Alaska to learn fish-skin sewing from Audrey Armstrong, brings me to awe as I watch them swim upstream, brings people to my table again and again, and brings me here, toVermont Performance Lab. Of course, in this case, we had to arrange for the wild salmon to be here.
We're having a benefit to support and preview our new dance installation, Niicugni (Listen), and celebrate the release of our THIS IS DISPLACEMENT exhibition catalogue. Enjoy live music, poetry, and dance performances in the theater, h'ordeuvres and cocktails in the lobby, a crafted silent auction, and DJ Jen Downham's Groove Garden. Please join us!
We enjoyed a wonderful, sold-out premiere tour of The Thank-you Bar in Alaska in October. BLACKFISH performed 4 concerts in conjunction with this tour (a new CD is forthcoming!) and we celebrated the opening of the related exhibit, This is Displacement: Native Artists Consider the Relationship Between Land and Identity. Thank you to all of the artists who were part of this exhibit and to our audiences in Anchorage and Homer!
Catalyst premieres The Thank-you Bar at Out North, in Anchorage, Alaska October 8 – 11, 2009, along with the accompanying art exhibit THIS IS DISPLACEMENT: Native Artists Consider the Relationship Between Land & Identity (co-curated with Carolyn Anderson) and concerts by BLACKFISH. See our upcoming shows page for more information!
THE THANK-YOU BAR, which is a new solo I am working on with composers James Everest and Joel Pickard will have its pre-premiere at Franconia Sculpture Park (MN) in September, 2009 and then its official world premiere at OutNorth Contemporary Art House (Anchorage, AK) in October, 2009.
2007 is almost to a close and I could list the many performances Catalyst had throughout the year, and give you a heads up on what is to come, and this would probably be the smart thing to do....but, I am not in such a directorial, strategizing mood (I often am not) - and I looked up from my computer and I saw this poem and it seems more important to share than any news I have at the moment.
June brings the entire Catalyst dance company to the eastern coast of the U.S.A.; we’re performing in New York City for the first time: Heat and Life at Dance Theater Workshop June 28- July 1. We’re cooperating with New York’s “Citizens Campaign for the Environment,” holding post show discussions and conversations on the subject of global warming. They’re a great organization that has really helped us get the word out about the show. Find out more info on them at www.cce.org.
Catalyst enjoyed a fine 2006 with performances at the Rogue Buddha Art Gallery in Minneapolis (thank you RBG,) at Dance Theater Workshop in New York City, on the banks of the Missouri River in South Dakota, on a farm in Nebraska, along 35W in Iowa and as part of KICK! in Montreal, Quebec.
I'm starting out the new year with an intensive travel schedule, heading to Amsterdam to study with Julyen Hamilton, Brussels to visit the P.A.R.T.S studios, and Berlin - mostly to check out the scene. I hope to return to Minneapolis invigorated and inspired, ready for 2006.