Time to rethink first impressions

Melbourne’s first Yirramboi gathering tackles outdated ideas. BY JOHN BAILEY

Choreographer Emily Johnson used to set herself a solid rule: never use the words "tradition" or "contemporary" when discussing her work. Simple enough, you would think, but when you're an indigenous artist - in Johnson's case, of the Yup'ik people of the Alaskan peninsula - it amounts to defying a world that wants to pigeonhole your art into one of those two categories.
"They really stick us into these spaces that don't necessarily relate to our work," she says.
Johnson's work certainly elbows its way out of any restrictive space into which you might try to shove it. Take SHORE, a 10-day durational dance performance that includes a day of direct action - audiences planting trees or fixing bikes - a night for local storytellers and songwriters to present their creations, a feast where audiences bring dishes of personal significance and somewhere in there, apparently, Johnson and 40 local performers even do things on a stage. Forget "traditional" or "contemporary". How is it even dance?...Read more