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bios | catalyst, dances by emily johnson

emily johnson • choreographer/director

Emily Johnson

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 often 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. Her work is currently supported by Creative Capital, Map Fund, a Joyce Award, the McKnight Foundation, and The Doris Duke Residency to Build Demand for the Arts. Emily is a current fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota, a 2014 Fellow at the Robert Rauschenberg Residency, a 2012 Headlands Center for the Arts and MacDowell Artist in Residence, a Native Arts and Cultures Fellow for 2011, a MANCC Choreographer Fellow (2009/10/12/14), a MAP Fund Grant recipient (2009/10/12/13) and a 2009 McKnight Fellow. Her trilogy of works The Thank-you Bar, Niicugni, and SHORE is supported by National Dance Project and MANCC. The Thank-you Bar was performed over 70 times from 2009- 2011. The 2012/13 tour of Niicugni brought 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. SHORE is the third of the trilogy and is commissioned by Northrop Presents and New York Live Arts; it premieres in June 2014.

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.   

james everest • music director/ multi-instrumentalist/ composer/ performerback to top

Multi-instrumentalist/composer James Everest has worked with Emily Johnson / Catalyst since 2002 and since 2004 has been Catalyst's Music & Sound Director, writing and performing original scores for several performances with Lateduster, as a solo artist, and most recently with Joel Pickard, Bethany Lacktorin, and Nona Marie Invie.  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

aretha aoki • dancerback to top

Aretha Aoki is a dancer, choreographer and Editorial Assistant at Contact Quarterly. Her work has been performed most recently at Danspace Project (Shared Evening), Movement Research, CPR, Catch and New York Live Arts (2011/12 Fresh Tracks artist). Aoki has had the privilege of dancing and collaborating with incredible artists throughout her career, including Vanessa Anspaugh, robbinschilds, devynn emory, Rebecca Serrell Cyr, Heather Kravas, Juliette Mapp and Maura Donohue. She first worked with Emily Johnson on the Pearl / D'amour performance piece Terrible Things (2009) and has since been invovled with all three parts of the current Emily Johnson/Catalyst trilogy, beginning with a local role inThe Thank-you Bar, and continuing as a featured performer in both Niicugni, and now with SHORE.

heidi eckwall • lighting designerback to top/ performer

Heidi Eckwall lives about four blocks from where she was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  She has been Emily Johnson / Catalyst's primary lighting designer / collaborator since 2003. She designs lights primarily for dance companies and has toured as lighting and technical director with Emily Johnson, Margaret Jenkins, Urban Bush Women, the BodyCartography Project, and Hijack, among many others.  Designs for Emily Johnson include SHORE (2014) Niicugni (2012), The Thank You Bar (2010), Heat and Life (2004) and Fierce/Whole (2003).

ain gordon • director (SHORE)back to top

AIN GORDON is a three-time Obie Award-winning writer/director/actor, a two-time NYFA recipient and a Guggenheim Fellow in Playwriting. Recent projects: Not What Happened for BAM Next Wave Festival (NY), Vermont Performance Lab, Flynn Center (VT), Krannert Center (IL), OnStage at Connecticut College, etc; If She Stood commissioned by Painted Bride Arts Center (PA) supported by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage; and where (we) live, a collaboration with Sō Percussion at the Walker Art Center (MN), BAM Next Wave Festival, River To River (NY), and Philadelphia Fringe, etc. Previously commissioned/developed/presented by New York Theater Workshop, Soho Rep., The Public Theatre, 651 ARTS, Dance Theater Workshop, Performance Space 122, Baryshnikov Arts Center, the Kitchen Theatre, and HERE Arts Center (all NY); the Mark Taper Forum (CA), the George Street Playhouse (NJ), MASS MoCA, the Baltimore Museum of Art (MD), DiverseWorks (TX), Spirit Square (NC), VSA North Fourth Arts Center (NM), Jacob's Pillow (MA), LexArts (KY), and Dance Space (DC), etc. Gordon's 2003 work; Art Life & Show-Biz; A Non-Fiction Play, is published in Palgrave Macmillan's "Dramaturgy Of The Real On The World Stage." Gordon twice collaborated with choreographer Bebe Miller on works presented at the Wexner Center (OH), Myrna Loy Center/Helena Presents (MT), and Bates Dance Festival (ME), etc. Collaborations with David Gordon were commissioned/produced by American Repertory Theatre (MA), American Conservatory Theater (CA) and American Music Theatre Festival (PA). Gordon was in the original Off-Broadway cast of Spalding Gray: Stories Left To Tell and toured the production to venues including UCLA, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (OR), ICA Boston (Elliot Norton Award nom), the Walker (MN), and New Territories (UK). Gordon also wrote for NBC's "Will & Grace." Gordon is a former Core Writer of the Playwright's Center (MN), from 2011-13 was the inaugural Visiting Artist at the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, and is currently a Resident Artist at The Hermitage (FL), and Co-Founder of the Urban Memory Project. Gordon has been Co-Director of the Pick Up Performance Co(s) since 1992.  

nona marie invie • composer / performerback to top

Nona Marie Invie grew up in Minneapolis and has toured nationally and internationally as primary singer and songwriter for music ensemble Dark Dark Dark since 2006. Dark Dark Dark released an EP and three full length recordings on Supply & Demand Records. Dark Dark Dark has performed in installations and exhibitions at the Vienna Biennial, MassMoCA, and the Van Abbemuseum in The Netherlands. In 2010, she formed Nona Marie & The Anonymous Choir which has released three cassettes and an LP remake of Neil Young's After The Gold Rush in 2013. In 2013 she also began a new electronic project called Fugitive.

krista langberg • dancerback to top

Originally from Long Island, Krista Langberg currently lives in St. Paul, MN with her two daughters. She is an adjunct faculty member at Macalester College. Most recently she performed in the work of Chris Schlicting at the Walker Art Center's Sculpture Garden and at the Red Eye theatre, in the Sage award winning piece Matching Drapes. Throughout her career she has had the opportunity to work with many other exceptional artists, including Douglas Dunn, Bebe Miller, Donna Uchizono, Philip Glass, Donald McKayle, and was a member of Susan Marshall & Company in New York from 1994-2002. SHORE is her first project working with Emily Johnson/Catalyst. 

angie vo • costumerback to top

Angie Vo is a freelance costume designer born in Vietnam and raised in the great Midwest. She has been designing costumes for Emily Johnson / Catalyst since 2001. Her past collaborations with CATALYST have included NiicugniThe Thank-you BarHeat and Life and Fierce Whole.  When not designing in her studio, Angie happily works as a caregiver, practicing massage therapy and exploring textile in all its form.  She currently calls Minneapolis MN home with her husband and their three kitties.

julia bither • company administrator / event coordinatorback to top

Julia Bither was born in Burlington, Vermont and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In May 2013, she completed her BA from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU with a concentration in Performance and Place. During her time in New York, she worked at Performance Space 122, under the Creative Producers and as the Ambassador of the COIL performance festival . Julia first worked with Emily Johnson/Catalyst Dance during the summer of 2012, and is excited to be back living in Minneapolis, working part time at the Walker Art Center, and helping to make SHORE.

meredith boggia • creative producerback to top

Meredith L Boggia has been working professionally  in arts administration  with institutions, festivals, tours, productions and management ofIndividual Performance Artists and Collectives as well as in Fine and Visual arts.  She has worked on over 500 individual productions in all stages of development at institutions such as MASS MoCA, Dance Theater Workshop / New York Live Arts and independently at venues throughout New York City. She has been professionally affiliated with National Performance Network (NPN), APAP's Emerging Leaders institute and the Museum of Art and Design  Public Programs Board.  In 2013, Meredith received the  Mentor and Leadership Initiative grant for 'outstanding leadership in the field by a young person in the field of arts administration' from NPN. Currently Meredith has focused on working as an Independent Creative Producer, bridging the needs of self-producing artists and under-resourced commissioning institutions to create exquisite and responsible works with such artists as Emily Johnson / Catalyst, luciana achugar, David Neumann / advanced beginner group, Ivy Baldwin Dance and RoseAnne Spriadlin and others.  Meredith serves regularly as the line producer for WILCO's Solid Sound Festival (semi-annually). Meredith believes in intuition, humanism, distributing representation to those under-voiced in the public sphere, bold expressions of truth and equal access to the finest of contemporary, pluri-disciplinary work to everyone, regardless of creed, identities, socio-ecinomic class, or location.

carolyn anderson • visual artist (this is displacement / The Thank-you Bar)back to top

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.

jonathan whitney • prop constructionback to top

Jonathan Whitney is a carpenter, woodworker, designer based in Minneapolis. He helped design and build the Pedastal for The Thank-you Bar, as well as the Whale Mouth and Soundboxes for Niicugni.

karen beaver • visual artist (the thank-you bar)back to top

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 (Terrible Things)back to top

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.

max wirsing • company administrator/ production assistant/ prop constructionback to top

Max Wirsing is a dancer & choreographer who 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.  As a free lance dancer he 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-instrumentalistback to top / performer (niicugni)

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 • directorback to top

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 • composerback to top/ performer (the thank-you bar / niicugni)

Portland, Oregon-based composer Joel Pickard was born in South Dakota in 1970. He has a BA in Music from Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he studied classical guitar with David Crittendon. In 2005 he received his Masters Degree in Composition from Mills College in Oakland, California, where he studied under Fred Frith and Pauline Oliveros. As a composer he writes for film, theater, and dance.

Recent film work includes the soundtrack to 'Drunktowns Finest' by director Sydney Freeland which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014 and the documentary 'W.L. Dow, Architect' by Brad Dumke which premiered on PBS in the spring of 2013.  His 2011 score to 'The Stronger' by New York filmmaker/choreographer Gabrielle Lansner featured a string quartet recorded by members of the Oregon Symphony.  'The Stronger' was shown at festivals throughout 2012 in the United States and Europe including the Short Film Corner at Cannes as well as festivals in Berlin and Spain.

As a performer he has played pedal steel guitar, dobro, and classical guitar on many recordings over the last ten years. In 2006 Foxglove released his first solo record, Songs of the Nightlife, an exploration of a non traditional language for the pedal steel guitar that involved playing the instrument using knitting needles, violin bows, mallets, music boxes, and other unexpected objects.  Recently he has been applying many of these same approaches to sound in his study of the cello.
 
Pickard regularly creates music and sound design for HBO, Showtime Networks, Smithsonian Channel, the Independent Film Channel and other commercial clients.  His latest recording, Motel Chronicles, is a sparse cinematic country noir soundtrack featuring pedal steel guitar.

hatfarm.com

rhiana yazzie • playwrightback to top

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.

pamela •back to top

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.

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