“And nothing stopped a performance of the most significant, I’d say the greatest, opera of our time.”

-Mark Swed, LA Times


"It’s a sleepover to beat all sleepovers. Food, stories, discussions, dances and, after an opening ceremony
and a two-mile walk, settling down for the night on a 4,000-square-foot bed of quilts."
- Gia Kourlas, NY Times



"Johnson’s works dwell in the liminal space between memoir and dream, intimate and mythical, dance and installation, continually working away at the boundaries between performers and audience."
- Eleanor Savage, SHORE Essay




"Before the lanterned darkness empties us back out, let’s take more time to listen to these ingenious muscles, nerves, and bones that channel the migrating fish, the statuesque fox, the eternal swaggering bear."
- Siobhan Burke, Performance Club 



"a stunning example of an emerging contemporary American aesthetic"
- Houston Chronicle









PRAISE FOR Niicugni 

"...a fusion of gorgeous dancing, costumes and live music with the spirit, and visual manifestation of the King Salmon. It glitters like the scales of a living fish." - Metro New York

"If you manage to un-guard your heart and pay attention to subtle things--which is what the title, Niicugni, explicitly invites--you will perceive a gracefully-integrated, seductive work of art at the core of which is one rare, exquisite and charming performer, Emily Johnson." - Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Infinite Body

"Before the lanterned darkness empties us back out, let’s take more time to listen to these ingenious muscles, nerves, and bones that channel the migrating fish, the statuesque fox, the eternal swaggering bear." - Siobhan Burke, Performance Club 

"Images emerge with the intricacy of dreams. The women hopping and stamping as if the peaty ground has the springiness of a trampoline and vibrating with the thumping, breath-eating joy of their exertions." Debra Cash, The Arts Fuse

"...another of Johnson’s engaging and involving examinations of personal and collective identity and humanity’s responsibility to the planet." - This Week in New York

"[Niicugni] summoned the senses...And Johnson drew upon her deep-felt connections to the natural world to interweave poignant fables, the kind whispered in the middle of the night." - Caroline Palmer, Mpls StarTribune

"Dreamtime is what came to mind. And never left." - Camille LeFebre, MN Artists

PRAISE FOR The Thank-you Bar

"..Emily Johnson's "(The) Thank-you Bar" is as disarming as they come." -Gia Kourlas, New York Times

"...a powerful performance that allows you to see the boundaries of your own aesthetic territory." -Culturebot

" delightfully fresh and invigorating, so new, that you want to shout about it from the rooftop and out windows so everyone can know about it...dazzlingly original..." -This Week in New York (

"a stunning example of an emerging contemporary American aesthetic" - Houston Chronicle

"She becomes each of us for a moment, as we become her. We lose ourselves for a moment. We discover new selves." - Culture Rover

"Emily Johnson scoops you up and plunks you down in the living, breathing lap of displacement..." - Time Out Chicago

"The beauty and simplicity of the song and story together are transportive. We listeners are alternately cast inside a memory of unbearable heartbreak and the sublime." –

"simultaneously vulnerable and commanding, mythical and wry." - Dance Magazine

"the complex wail of our collective past screamed in a back room somewhere" – Daily News


Audience Responses 

"I feel disconnected from my culture. This brings me back."

"By the end of the event, you arrive home, and in arriving home, you also learn about what home is: it’s a familiar place rendered strange, a strange place made familiar; it’s a persistent reminder of something you have forgotten but whose impossible recovery is itself inscrutably comforting. It’s a rustle of leaves."

"Stellar production and performance. The synergy of the music, dance, text, lighting, and staging made for a transformative experience. The use of the theater was brilliant, giving a visual dimension that hauntingly underscored the themes of the work. There were many moments when I felt I was inside a dreamscape, such as Emily's entrance on stilts and all three performers sing Patsy Cline's I Fall To Pieces. I loved the questions/struggles around identity and fear and the silencing effect of racism, which felt authentic not didactic or surface. I loved the stories and use of story and will forever have the image of the melting blackfish in my mind. The dance solo by Emily that happened after the audience turned our seats to face the other way, before Sally joined in, was deeply moving. The gesture of hand to heart and then out, repeated with such intensity, did reach my heart. This work reminds me why I love art." -Eleanor Savage





"Emily Johnson, of course, doesn't have to explain what she does. She does most everything with such clear intention that we believe - even during the more absurd moments - that she's making perfect sense." 

– City Pages


– The Gothamist

"Uncompromising intensity" 

– Gay City News

"Fresh and fierce, evocative and disciplined." 

– Dance Magazine

"...a sensibility with remarkable depth and clarity." 

– Star Tribune