Emily Johnson/Catalyst: Niicugni
Emily Johnson has been busy exploring her Alaskan heritage and traditions. Her award-winning 2010 work, "The Thank-you Bar," interwove strands of her life as a person of Yup'ik descent from Alaska who now lives and works in Minnesota with the displacement she feels being part of two cultures. That performance layered live music, storytelling, film, and, especially, dance. Objects such as an igloo, a child's swimming pool filled with fallen leaves, an Alaskan blackfish, and that (currently in rehab) old barn Northrop Auditorium were referenced, creating a palimpsest of memory, art, and intersecting cultures. A co-production of the O'Shaughnessy and Northrop, "Niicugni" (meaning "listen" or "pay attention") also layers dances, live music, stories, and a light and sound installation of 51 handmade fish-skin lanterns. The work asks: "Can we pay attention to the ways we do and do not listen to our bodies, histories, impulses, and environments?" These heavy queries are taken on with wry humor by dancers Johnson and Aretha Aoki, a host of musicians and designers, and some ordinary folks making guest appearances. Of its premiere in New York last January, critic Brian Seibert opined, "The choreography is strongest when the two women are moving together like the fish, bears, and foxes in the show's fables." Johnson's forays into her heritage have so far yielded work that takes on issues of identity, enlarging and enriching their scope. For her, the body is a site that contains multitudes: myth and reality, ancestral histories, and cultural identity (and a hearty laugh or two). (Photo by Cameron Wittig)
Sun., April 21, 7 p.m., 2013
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