bios | catalyst, dances by emily johnson
emily johnson • choreographer/director
Emily Johnson is an artist and writer who makes body-based work. Originally from Alaska, she is now based in Minneapolis. Since 1998 she has created work that considers the experience of sensing and seeing performance. Her dances function as installations, engaging audiences within and through a space and environment – sights, sounds, smells – interacting with a place's architecture, history, and role in community. She works to blur distinctions between performance and daily life and to create work that reveals and respects multiple perspectives. Emily received a 2012 Bessie (New York Dance and Performance) Award for Outstanding Production for her work, The Thank-you Bar at New York Live Arts. She is a 2012 Headlands and MacDowell Artist in Residence, a 2011 Native Arts and Cultures Fellow, a 2012, 2010 and 2009 MAP Fund Grant recipient, and a 2009 McKnight Fellow. Her current works, The Thank-you Bar and Niicugni are supported by National Dance Project and the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC). The 2012/13 tour of Niicugni brings it to Florida State University/MANCC, MassMoca, The Redfern Art Center at Keene College/Vermont Performance Lab, The Coil Festival/PS122, Tigertail, Arizona State University/Gammage Theater, Northrop Auditorium/O'Shaughnessy, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, and Bunnell St. Gallery in Homer, Alaska. Emily's next work, SHORE, is the third of the trilogy beginning with The Thank-you Bar, and is commissioned by Northrop Concerts and Lectures at the University of Minnesota.
Emily grew up in her native Alaska playing basketball and running long distance. At 18 she left rural life, moved to Minneapolis, and quite by accident, learned to become a choreographer and performer. For the past 18 years, city living has swirled around her, dragging her away from the physical space of Alaska; the summer and fall family rituals of hunting and fishing, then smoking, drying, canning and freezing food. She is pulled back when Midwesterners and others ask her if she lived in an igloo (myth), if she has an Eskimo name (no), and if it is OK to say the word "Eskimo" (rarely). She is of Yup'ik descent, though she does not speak the language – yet. Emotionally, she is tied to the landscape of South Central Alaska where she was born and to the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta where her family is from.
Her work includes commissions by both the performance and visual arts departments at the Walker Art Center, PS122, Northrop Auditorium, Out North, Franconia Sculpture Park, Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, and the McKnight Foundation. Venues that have presented her work include the Walker Art Center, The TBA Festival, ODC Theater, New York Live Arts, DiverseWorks, Northrop Auditorium, The Dance Center at Columbia College, Vermont Performance Lab, PS122, Franconia Sculpture Park, Links Hall, Dance Umbrella, Velocity, and OutNorth. She has toured with Scuba and NPN and self-presented in numerous venues including Dance Theater Workshop, Rogue Buddha Art Gallery in Minneapolis, and The Que'Ana Bar in Clam Gulch, Alaska. She has embarked on performance projects in Montreal and St. Petersburg, Russia and her dance films have screened at the Walker, DTW, Chicago Cultural Center and university film festivals. She is co-curator of THIS IS DISPLACEMENT, a visual art exhibit featuring the work of forty-six artists from nineteen Tribal Nations, which toured from 2009 – 2011. She published an exhibit catalogue of the same name in 2011.
Emily has made large cast dances for public spaces with people of varied genders, ages, cultures and physical abilities. She has collaborated with musicians, visual and video artists, sculptors, writers and geothermal scientists. She draws inspiration from the annual migration of salmon who swim upstream for thousands of miles because they must. She has watched these salmon swim up waterfalls and believes humans are also called to do amazing things. She has been told that she makes dance for "dance-lovers" and for "people-who-generally-don't-like-dance." She would like to think this is true; that her dances are for every body and that maybe they enlighten small aspects of our existence.
carolyn anderson • visual artist
Carolyn Anderson's artwork shows how the "developed" world contrasts to the natural world's beautiful, less visible, underlying order. She uses acrylic to create images that explore the Euroamerican battle against the "wild" and their obsession with straight, squared edges, and trimmed lawns. She studied visual art at the University of Minnesota. She has exhibited at the Ancient Traders Gallery, the Bockley Gallery, the Susan Hensel Gallery, and the Gage Family Art Gallery at Augsburg College. Carolyn is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. She lives and works in the Saint Paul, MN.
aretha aoki • dancer
Born in the Pacific Northwest, Aretha Aoki moved to the States to pursue an MFA at Smith and upon graduating, moved to NYC where she is currently based. In Vancouver, she was a part of the collective Kitchen, with visual artist Cindy Mochizuki and theatre artist, Tricia Collins, a collective which for her sparked and cultivated an interest in interdisciplinary collaboration and an exploration of how bodies negotiate conflicting histories, languages and geographies. Now living in Brooklyn, Aretha is dancing in work by choreographers Emily Johnson, Vanessa Anspaugh and Juliette Mapp, and she has had the privilege of dancing and collaborating with other incredible artists throughout her performing practice. Her work has been shown at Aunts, Chen Dance Center, 92nd St Y and Studio 303, where she and Anspaugh were artists in residence, and various spaces and places in MA and Vancouver. Aretha is interested in connecting and animating the subtle currents of the body in relationship to the self, larger surrounding space, language and other bodies, and finds there is much potential in these kernels of being.
karen beaver • visual artist
Karen Beaver, Eagle Eyes Woman, was born January, 22, 1972 in Bethel, Alaska. She is a member of the Yup'ik tribe in Alaska and Mandan/Hidatsa tribes from The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Named for a bird, she is a Bird Clan member of the Hidatsa tribe on her mother's side. The Bird Clan is one of thirteen Hidatsa clans in North Dakota. With her grandmothers guidance, Karen created her first beaded belt at age twelve out of desire to dance at a Pow-Wow. Karen is a mostly self-taught artist though she credits her elders and friends for instructing her. Such people as her grandmother Bernice White Owl; Lakota elders Annie Yellowhawk whom she called Grandma, Carrie Willcuts and Clifford Black Bear; Fellow artists Fred Menard-Blue Legs, Paul LaRose and Todd Bordeaux. Upon the completion of a piece her elders would carefully inspect the piece by lightly touching the top to check if all the beads were flat and not irregular. Of them she says "They are gifted, generous and kind people who share what they know and what they have." In 1995 she passed on what she knew to Todd Bordeaux who is also a award-winning artist. In addition to creating art, each summer Karen makes ceremonial items for her uncle's sundance ceremony. Karen endeavors to create pieces that reflect the highest ideals of cultural expression. Karen is known for her collages and intricate beadwork. Most of her pieces are considered contemporary art that is rooted in her heritage. Her mixed media collages are made with beadwork, ink, paint, and color pencil. Her Plains Indian heritage is often reflected in a lot of her beadwork that is sewn to deer hide and decorated with shells, fur and bells. She also creates miniature beaded Yup'ik masks that are decorated with feathers, wood, and deer antler.
Today Karen works out of her home in the Swift Bear Community, White River, SD and continues to travel to art shows and markets.
lisa d'amour • playwright/director
Lisa D’Amour writes plays for theaters and collaborates with artists of different disciplines on work often presented in non-traditional sites. Recent projects include SWIMMING CITIES OF SWITCHBACK SEA (a performance for six handmade boats on the Hudson River designed by the visual artist SWOON); BIRD EYE BLUE PRINT (created with her close collaborator, Katie Pearl, for a vacant office in the World Financial Center, NYC), STANLEY (2006) (created with her brother, performer Todd D’Amour and videographer Tara Webb at HERE Arts Center, NYC), HIDE TOWN (a play written for Infernal Bridegroom Productions, Houston, NEA/TCG Playwrights’ Residency) and productions of her play ANNA BELLA EEMA in Montreal (Theater L'Opsis) and San Francisco (Crowded Fire Theater). Her work has been presented by theaters such as Salvage Vanguard Theater, Refraction Arts (both in Austin, TX), the Walker Arts Center, Intermedia Arts, Children's Theater Company (all in Minneapolis), Clubbed Thumb, HERE Arts Center, New Georges and the Women's Project (all in New York) and has been supported by the Jerome Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, NYSCA, NEA/TCG and the Louisiana and Minnesota State Arts Boards. Lisa won a Village Voice OBIE Award along with Katie Pearl and Kathy Randels for NITA AND ZITA, which Lisa wrote and directed. She is also the 2007 recipient of the Alpert Award in the Arts in Theater. Lisa lives in Brooklyn and spends a great deal of time in her hometown of New Orleans. She is a member of ArtSpot Productions, a multidisciplinary theater in N.O. She is also a core member of the Playwrights’ Center and a recent alumna of New Dramatists.
heidi eckwall • lighting designer/ performer
Heidi Eckwall (lighting designer) is a lighting and set designer, experimental film/video maker, puppeteer and writer. She got her start designing lights at Theater Club Funambules/NADA on Ludlow Street in 1989 and moved back home to Minneapolis in 1990. She has worked at the Guthrie Theater, Walker Art Center,Ordway Center for Performing Arts, Patrick's Cabaret, Mixed Blood, Heart of the Beast, Red Eye and Southern Theater and Bedlam. She tours nationally and internationally with Hijack, Shawn McConneloug and her Orchestra, Mary Ellen Childs' CRASH, Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum, Zorongo Flamenco, Rinde Eckert, Paul Dresherand Zeitgeist. She has worked with Emily Johnson since 2003.
james everest • music director/ multi-instrumentalist/ composer/ performer
Multi-instrumentalist/composer James Everest has worked with Emily Johnson / Catalyst since 2002 and since 2004 has been Catalyst's Music Director, writing and performing original scores for several performances with Lateduster, as a solo artist, and most recently with Joel Pickard and Bethany Lacktorin. He is based in Minneapolis where he's been involved in a variety of musical projects including Lateduster, Roma Di Luna, Vicious Vicious, Neotropic (UK), Fresh Squeez, The Dijonettes, Sans Le Systeme, BLACKFISH, The Grave Trio, and as a solo artist, “JG Everest”. Over the years, he has collaborated with many past and present Minneapolis musicians, including Walter Kitundu, Martin Dosh, and Sean Daley aka Slug (Atmosphere). He has composed/ contributed music for several independent film scores, including Journey To The Moon (2009), The Red Tail (2010), and Chip and Bean Buy Nothing (2011). He has also worked with choreographers Morgan Thorson (MN), John Scott (IRELAND), and Liv O'Donoghue. He frequently employs effects and looping pedals in creating multilayered compositions in real-time performances, using a variety of instruments. Since 2005, he has hosted and curated the MAKING MUSIC conversations series at the University of Minnesota's Whole Music Club and the Walker Art Center. jgeverest.com
max wirsing • company administrator/ production assistant
Max Wirsing has been working as an administrator for Emily Johnson/Catalyst since the fall of 2009. He worked previously as the Walker Art Center's Visitor Services Performing Arts Specialist, and received a National Performance Network Mentorship and Leadership Initiative grant with which he was mentored by curator Philip Bither on projects concerning new audience development and engagement. Max also works as a free lance dancer and has recently performed in works by Morgan Thorson, Chris Schlichting, Emily Johnson/Minouk Lim, Karen Sherman, Nick LeMere and Justin Jones.
bethany Lacktorin • sound artist/engineer/multi-instrumentalist / performer
Sound artist/engineer/multi-instrumentalist Bethany Lacktorin is Korean American, originally from Minneapolis, currently living and working in Prague, CZ. Performing as improvisational multi-instrumentalist Beseppy, she works with various electronic devices, violin, vocalizations, collaborative and interactive sound sources. A freelance audio engineer for TV and film post-production, Bethany has earned credit on several independent films and documentaries, recorded and released a handful of albums, and produced and performed in exhibitions throughout the United States and Europe.
Bethany has a BA (Hons) Fine Art Experimental Media from Prague College/Teeside University, graduated from the McNally College of Music and studied violin performance at the Conservatory of Music Lawrence University. Recent works include a series of interactive pop-up audio book installations based on her series of 8 short stories, 3 Names where she explores the process surrounding identity and the nature of lost, hidden, reassignment and acceptance of Name.
katie pearl • director
Katie Pearl is an Austin, TX-based collaborative theater maker working throughout the country on site-specific performance and new plays. She has received numerous awards for direction and production from the Austin Critics' Table (most recently for NIGHTSWIM, by Steve Moore), and has also been recognized by similar panels in Minneapolis and New Orleans. She is the recipient of a Roothbert Fellowship, a Drama League directing fellowship (2000), and a 2003 Village Voice OBIE Award (for her work on NITA & ZITA, with Lisa D'Amour and Kathy Randels). Recent productions include BIRD EYE BLUE PRINT with Lisa D'Amour and Emily Johnson (World Financial Center, NYC), voted Best Site-Specific Play in NYC by the The Gothamist Newspaper, and STILL FOUNTAINS, produced at Salvage Vanguard Theater in Austin, TX. Her upcoming project THE WRESTLING PATIENT was named as finalist for the NEA Best New American Play Award, and will be produced at Speakeasy Stage in Boston in March '09. Pearl has developed work with writers at the Playwright's Center (MN), New Dramatists and Soho Rep (NY). She is currently teaching site-specific performance and directing new work at the University of Texas. Katie received her BA from the University of Washington.
joel pickard • composer/ performer
Joel Pickard is based in Portland, Oregon and works as an improviser and composer creating music for dance, theatre, video, commercial advertising, and performance. In 2003 he created Hatfarm (a music production company) as a name under which all of these various projects come together.
Recent works include scores for 'Llano Del Rio', a video created by Andrezza Valentin and Guilherme Marcondes for the exhibition 'Geometry of Ruins', and 'Kneeling Down at Noon', a play about Islam produced in Austin, Texas. In 2005, as part of 'Landmark-24 hours at the Stone Arch Bridge'; Joel created Drone Score a 24-hour composition that utilized over 40 musicians in an attempt to harmonically alter the sonic drone of the nearby water processing plant in an effort to redirect the path of the Mississippi River.
Joel has an MA in Composition from Mills College in Oakland, CA where he studied with Fred Frith, Alvin Curran, and Pauline Oliveros. As the subject of his masters thesis in 2005, Joel recorded a CD for the Foxglove record label documenting his explorations on the pedal steel guitar and the development of a musical language that incorporates balloons, knitting needles, music boxes, and chopsticks. Active as a performer, Joel plays guitar in Jigsaw with cellist Jacqueline Ferrier-Ultan and pedal steel guitar in Mire with electronic artist Elise Baldwin, guitarist William Collins, and drummer Seth Warren.
rhiana yazzie • playwright
Rhiana Yazzie is a Navajo playwright whose work has been performed from Mexico to Alaska. She writes a new generation of stories from the Native American experience for the American Theatre. She moved to the Twin Cities after receiving a Playwrights’ Center Jerome Fellowship for emerging playwrights in 2006 and that same year she was invited to The Kennedy Center's New Visions/New Voices theatre for young audiences residency. She is the three time winner of the Native Radio Theatre new play contest and her radio play THE BEST PLACE TO GROW PUMPKINS received an Honorable Mention at the ImagiNative Film Festival in Toronto.
Within the next year and a half she will see the production of four new plays in the Twin Cities: THE RAINBOW CROW will be produced by Stepping Stone Theatre for Youth Development in Saint Paul in October 2008; LAS MADRES DE LA PLAZA DE MAYO will appear in Teatro del Pueblo’s 2009 Political Theatre Festival; RED INK, a multi-playwright collaboration, will be produced by Mixed Blood Theatre; and ADY, A ONE WOMAN PLAY will be presented by Pangea World Theatre in the fall of 2009. She is the recipient of a 2008 Smithsonian Expressive Arts award grant to write her new play ADY commissioned by Pangea World Theatre.
In 2007 she received a First Americans in the Arts award for Outstanding Achievement in Writing. Some of her other plays include ASDZANI SHASH: THE WOMAN WHO TURNED INTO A BEAR (finalist in the 2005 Bay Area Playwrights Festival and a winner of the 1st annual Two Worlds Festival of Native American Theatre and Film in 2008); WILD HORSES (a theatre for young audiences play commissioned by Native Voices in Los Angeles); THE LONG FLIGHT (translated into Spanish and presented at the 30th World Congress of the International Theatre Institute - UNESCO in Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico); L.A. ARRIMADA (developed at East West Players' Writers Gallery and David Henry Hwang Writers Institute); THE DUEL (developed with the Wakiknabe Native Theatre in Albuquerque, New Mexico); REMNANTS OF THE CHINESE GRANDFATHERS (Panelists’ Choice Award at the 2000 Edward Albee Last Frontier Playwriting Festival in Valdez, Alaska). In December 2008, her spoken word poem-play THIS LAND HAD SEEN WAR BEFORE will be published in an anthology, Birthed From Scorched hearts: Women Respond to War, edited by MariJo Moore.
Rhiana is a frequent contributor to the local Minneapolis Native American newspaper, THE CIRCLE. She writes a column, “A Navajo in the North” for RenaissanceIndian.com, and is a host of “WomenSpeak,” a weekly radio program on KFAI in Minneapolis as well as a frequent guest host of “Indian Uprising” also on KFAI.
Some of her plays are available published online in university libraries across the country through Alexander Street Press’ North American Indian Drama collection.
angie vo • costumer
Angie Vo (costume designer) is a freelance costume designer based in Minneapolis. She began her career as a dancer with 10,000 Dances (under the late Sam Costa), and also served as Assistant Director for Young Dance (a multi-cultural children's dance company.) Transitioning from dance into costume design, she has had the pleasure of collaborating with Emily Johnson on numerous projects for Catalyst since 2000. In addition, she has designed and constructed costumes for Zenon Dance Company, Mu Daiko, Matching Tights Dance Company (GAC,) Gomez Dance Group, Time Track Production and various Minneapolis choreographers.
Pamela is Jessica Cressey, Emily Johnson, and Hannah Kramer. Their work together studies the mundane actions of life with an intense, imaginative eye for the sublime.
Jessica Cressey is responsible for numerous uncredited performances in Minneapolis. Her alto egos include Pamela, Steve Naive, Edith, and the 20th Century Fox. She is the founder and only member of the greater Twin Cities Tableau Society.
Hannah Kramer is a professional. If you asked her what she's been doing her whole life she'd say, "throwing tantrums, enabling fantasies, and smelling the river." She has made group dances for stale bars and solos about imagined heroes.