history | catalyst, dances by emily johnson
Emily Johnson/Catalyst is the Minneapolis-based performance project company of Emily Johnson. Johnson's work has been called "voracious," "highly nuanced," "stunning," "punk rock-cum minimalist," "aptly named" and "a force of nature." She received a Bessie (New York Dance and Performance Award) for Outstanding Production in 2012 and a Sage (Minneapolis Dance) Award in 2010 for her work, The Thank-you Bar.
Johnson uses gesture, rigorous movement, and (often) words to construct her nonlinear though (often) narrative based performance installations. Believing in the act of performing, relishing self-production as much as being presented, and placing dances in a variety of locations - often outside the formal theatrical structure - has led Catalyst to perform in a wildly diverse range of venues, indoors and out, throughout the USA, in St. Petersburg, Russia and Montreal.
Catalyst's staged, site-specific, and public performance events often involve collaborations with writers, musicians, sculptors, and visual artists. Johnson has worked for a decade with music director and composer, James Everest, costume designer Angie Vo, and lighting designer Heidi Eckwall. Known to root her work in a place, Johnson will alter the feel of a building with sound and image installations, or offer a table bursting with piece appropriate culinary morsels...all in the interest of creating memorable and engaging performance experiences that don't force, but encourage an active audience membership. Pamela called for a memorial service, obituaries, and crying. The Thank-you Bar needed the names of each audience member slapped onto the performer's chests.
As a director, Johnson goes for the guts of performing, finding emotional resonance and meaning in layered bouts of chaos and calm. In recent years she has focused her energy on creating smaller cast works within the company, with international collaborators, and with solos on herself. In addition to Catalyst projects, Johnson works regularly with artists in many different collaborative processes. She has worked with Pearl/D'Amour, with Korean sculptor Minouk Lim, poet Heid Erdrich, New York based percussion ensemble SO Percussion, and Henry Smith of Lakota Sioux Indian Dance Theater.
Catalyst produced capture!a bi-monthly dance-film series physically inspired experimental films from around the world 2004 – 2008 and produces Windfarm, the mid-week, mid-winter, mid-west experimental dance series produced at the Rogue Buddha Art Gallery in Minneapolis. In conjunction with The Thank-you Bar,Catalyst produced This is Displacement: Native Artists Consider the Relationship Between Land and Identity, (curated by Emily Johnson and Carolyn Lee Anderson), an exhibit featuring the work of forty-six Native artists from nineteen tribal nations that toured from 2009 – 2011. Catalyst published an accompanying multi-lingual exhibit catalogue of the same name in 2011.
In 2003 Catalyst released a DVD of Plain Old Andrea, with a Gun, their "feminist-cowgirl parable" and collaboration with Minneapolis based experimental music ensemble Lateduster. Minneapolis' City Pages called it "...a fascinating, ritualistic look at the cultural perils that arise from the refusal to communicate." In 2005 Catalyst released the film Wingspan 5'2" featuring Natasha Hassett. Filmed in 20 locations in Minnesota and Alaska, Wingspan 5'2'' has screened at the Chicago Cultural Center, the Walker Art Center's Women with Vision Film Series, capture!, Dance Theater Workshop's dance-video series, Captured, and numerous university film programs. In 2009 Catalyst produced a CD of music from The Thank-you Bar, and their ongoing, self-published post-performance project post-re-view has been in existence since 2007.
Emily Johnson/Catalyst is embarking on new research into the act of gathering, basing curiosity on the connections between feasting, volunteering, and performance. As part of this research, in April 2012, 1000 visitors helped clean seedling pots for the Marin County Native Plant Nursery at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin County, CA. Plans are being made for new acts of volunteerism and feasting, as Johnson prepares her new work, SHORE, the third in the trilogy that includes The Thank-you Bar and Niicugni. SHORE is commissioned by Northrop Concerts and Lectures and will premiere in 2014.
As Catalyst tours via airplanes and a mini-van, they work to minimize their impact on the environment. Emily Johnson/Catalyst tours help finance new carbon projects that address global warming and support sustainable local communities through carbon offsets purchased from Native Energy. Native Energy builds projects that create sustainable economic benefits for Native Americans, Alaska Native Villages, family farmers, and rural communities.