april 2014

The Joyce Foundation recently released this short video from our November 2013 SHORE residency at Studio 206 in Minneapolis. So excited for the SHORE premiere in June!

august 2013

Save the date!
SHORE Preview Party and Benefit
Sunday September 29th, 3 - 7pm

Northrop Plaza, U of MN (outdoors)

Live music, readings, & performance

Silent Auction

Beer, wine, & 
hors d'oeuvres
SHORE is our next performance installation, the third in our current trilogy of works that began with The Thank-you Bar and Niicugni. It will premiere at Northrop Auditorium in Minneapolis in June 2014.
SHORE will be equal parts volunteerism, storytelling, performance, and feasting.
To celebrate the making of this work and Catalyst's 15 year anniversary we're throwing a party!
Come celebrate with us on September 29th - get a sneak peek of SHORE, tour the new Northrop Theater, and help us raise funds for this project!
Tickets, more information, and stories from the past 15 years coming soon...

Making SHORE
Our first residency for SHORE was in Grand Marais, Minnesota, on the North Shore of Lake Superior in early July. The perfect place to dive in. We collaborated with the local park board and garden club, weeding, picking up trash, planting bushes in Harbor Park, right on the shoreline in the heart of downtown Grand Marais. James set up our sound installation and people joined us for walking and singing scores on the beach. Thank you to everyone in Grand Marais who joined as participants, volunteers, and audience! More photos on our FB page and FLICKR.

We'll continue work with an upcoming residency with performers Aretha Aoki and Krista Langberg, composers James Everest and Nona Marie Invie (Dark Dark Dark and Anonymous Choir); some Practice Potlucks; volunteer actions in Minneapolis; and some large cast and choir work down on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Do you have ideas for volunteer actions in your community? Want to host a Practice Potluck? Get in touch! Email max@catalystdance.com

Volunteering and dancing at Harbor Park in Grand Marais
Good Things
I feel so lucky when projects like this come along. Last spring one of my favorite bands, the irresistibly irreverent, ALPHA CONSUMER, asked me to choreograph their music video: The Eat. Rock Music. Dancing in Bags. Good People. Yes Please. SPIN Magazine released it last week. Love it like I do?
Directed by the infamous Chuck Statler
Danced by the heavenly cloaked Karen Sherman, Megan Meyer, Jessica Cressey, James Everest, Hannah Kramer, and Emily Johnson

I just returned from an inspiring Creative Capital retreat with current and past grantees and colleagues. The work in the world right now is amazing. I came home energized! You can read about current fellows and our work here on the Creative Capital website and here on Hyperallergic. Thank you, Creative Capital, for funding and support!

Julia Bither, who was our fantastic intern last year and who is now working with us had a goal of jumping into a lake everyday this summer. I'm not sure if she's done it - I'll ask her tomorrow when she comes over for work... But with a gorgeous goal like that, who really cares about the outcome? Thank you Julia, for joining Catalyst!

We need to protect our wild salmon. The proposed Pebble Mine threatens the largest wild sockeye fishery in the world. 10 billion tons of toxic mine waste would devastate this fish, the streams, rivers, wetlands, the thousands- of-years-old harvest and subsistance by my Yup'ik relatives, and the livlihoods of commercial fishers. Help us. 

Places to get information and take action:

Did I mention Catalyst is 15 this year? How time has flown and how good it has been making dances for you.

Much love,

May 2013

Niicugni in Alaska and Portland, OR

We are in Alaska, where Niicugni was born. It is good to bring it home! It's also good to share this place I love with Aretha, James, Heidi, Max, and Russ! As I write this to you, they are out on the ocean with my parents, fishing. Eagles perch on the roof of our theater everyday. We've had breakfast with my grandma, spent time with my niece and nephew, walked on a few beaches. How lucky we are!

From here we go to Portland, Oregon, where we get to perform Niicugni but also get to take part in a deeply connected symposium presented by PICA: How do you mean? Culture in Translation. What an honor to share this time with the incredible artists and scholars taking part. Please take part too, come see us and send your friends!

Love from Alaska, Emily

Performance: Niicugni presented by Bunnell St. Arts Center
at  Pier One Theater
Friday, May 24th at 7:30
Saturday, May 25th at 3:00
Saturday, May 25th at 7:30
Tickets at 907-235-2662
Exhibit: Niicugni installation currently up at Bunnell St. Arts Center

Performance: Niicugni presented by PICA
at Bodyvox Dance Center
Saturday, June 8th at 8:00
Sunday, June 9th at 6:00
Tickets here

Symposium:  How do you mean? Culture in Translation
a symposium with
Anna Craycroft, Emily Johnson, Jacqueline Shea Murphy, Keith Hennessy, Harrell Fletcher, Wendy Red Star, Reuben Roqueni, Dean Daderko, Richard Taylor

Some of the symposium events:

Awareness, Environment, Impulse
A workshop led by Emily

June 8th, 11am at NAYA
More info

Field Guide: Dance
Getting Over Getting It

Workshop, dinner, Niicugni performance, and post-show conversation guided by Keith Hennessy
More info

Panel: Upending Meaning
Rereading and reframing cultural specificity
Moderated by Reuben Roqueni
June 9th, 12:30 at PICA
More info

Harrell Fletcher and Emily Johnson: What we Talk About
June 9th, 2:30pm at BodyVox Dance Center
More info

Fish Skin Lantern Workshop
June 10th - 13th, noon - 5pm at PICA
More info

I'll be joining SO Percussion as one of this year's artists in residence at the River to River Festival in NYC. Our "home" will be the South Street Seaport, where we will present a week of collaborative rehearsal/performance/works in progress of our recent show Where (we) Live, directed by Ain Gordon.

Back in Minneapolis my collaborators and I will begin our new work, SHORE, with summer residencies and work-in-progress showings.
This is Where we Are
Pier One, with Fish
This is our theater.

Beach walk
Kenai Beach.

Grandma's old smokehouse.

Heading into Homer.

Gull Island.

AK or Bust

april 2013


in Minneapolis/St.Paul this week

This Sunday, April 21 at 7pm
Doors at 6:30. No late seating.
The O'Shaughnessy Auditorium , 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul
Co-presented by Northrop and O'Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University
Tickets here

I can only tell you what I know.
Niicugni is many things. It is a dance. It is a story made of many. It is a word that instructs us to listen. There is hope here, and death; monsters and laughter, salmon, bear, blood, and a never ending attempt to pay attention.
I think of the land beneath our feet. I think of everyone in the world.
Three years ago, when I saw an exhibit of fish-skin work at the Bunnell St. Gallery in Alaska, I wanted to learn. Harvesting wild salmon has been part of my family's life for thousands of years. I still return every summer for the Sockeye run. We fish, then clean, fillet, de-bone, strip, brine, kippur, freeze, smoke, can, and feast on the fish that will feed our family for the year. There is thankfulness in this process, and now, we also sew.
The lanterns for Niicugni were made by volunteers and friends in Vermont, Alaska, California, Arizona, and Minnesota, and for their work, their time, their interest in making something and learning the skill of fish-skin sewing I am so grateful. Making the lanterns became the dance itself. So Niicugni is also people gathering to sew.
When my dad received his land via the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, he put a map on the kitchen counter and the questions arose: How do we build a relationship with this land that has been in our blood always yet is far from where we live now? Can our bodies decipher the lines on this map? Or would it make more sense to be there, feet standing on the ground? And what of the owning? The de-marked lines? The cutting up of land? Why is this how we have chosen to make sense of the world?
Niicugni was made as these questions arose so they permeate through. I found no answers, of course. Only more questions: Can we continue to cut up the land, forgetting it is made of our ancestors? Can we recognize the importance of every creature - see ourselves as part of the whole? Can we absorb that everyone we see is here now and will be gone? Can we be a tiny part of the world and at the same time our whole gigantic selves?
Niicugni is for my dad.

.....it has been an incredible honor to tour this work for the past seven months and share it around the country.  We continue to learn what this work is and how it intersects with people and places as we perform. This dance has been nestling in, making itself at home all over the US...in Tallahassee, at MassMoca, in New York, at Keene State, in Phoenix, and Miami..thanks to all of you who come see, join in it, write about it, think about it, send me emails about it, and follow from afar...we think about the incredible network of people who are invested in Niicugni now, who have gotten to know it, have taken a moment to get close to it and we feel blessed - thank you.

Notes from tour...I have a friend who wanted to write a book. And he did. He wrote a beautiful book. He put his prose and poems together and made a book that settles down on you. So the thing that amazes me is getting something like that done. Getting all your words down - or at least the words you have at the moment. The effort - I enjoy thinking about the effort it takes us all to make things, to get things done, to get things pondered about...So we've been on tour for the past three months, and I've meaning to write to you, of course. But we get hammered in - getting somewhere new, fimding the post office, the grocery store, doing the show, then packing it up, saying goodbyes, packing the van -  and we start driving...and it's a little bit of a time warp - my friend Kris mentioned yesterday a feeling of diffusing forward and backward in time -- it's like that. You root somewhere, then you go. And suddenly, I have thousands and thousands of miles to ponder. I watched the high plains of Texas meld into the desert, kept my eye out for a coyote and got to say hello to one. My favorite thing to do on the road is to see if I can catch the moment where there is snow on the ground...and you are driving...and driving...and then, there is no snow. That moment, from snow to no snow. It's always my challenge to notice it. Oh yes, there was a waterslide one day, and a mountain we hiked, and a crayfish boil. There were alot of puppies, one of which almost adopted me. No bedbugs - thank god - but I do always check just to make sure. The rally in DC attended by tens of thousands to oppose the - really the only word I can find rightnow is: shameful Keystone XL Energy pipeline some people want to build - and then as if to prove some horrific point, a pipeline burst in Arkansas, gushing oil down a residential street. Did you see that crazy video? Controlled skies?  Weird things happen in this world: weird, sometimes beautiful, sometimes crazy, terrible things. Oh, oh, oh New Hampshire! We all got caught up in that big blizzard. Aretha was stuck in Northampton because the busses weren't running. We tromped through snow on our unexpected snow day. Librarians, students, farmers, knitters, fish-skin sewers, and photographers joined us on stage at Keene and I saw Aretha's solo show in New York,  a brave, gorgeous, hilariously sad show - I mean that is just my description, you should see it yourself! In New York, at Baryshnikov Arts Center,  we sold out our run. A year ago I was scared no one would come. Thank you - all of you who came and to you who joined us: O LOVE! The laughter when then kids came onto stage - that moment when the audience dropped into " oh...yeah...we are all just HERE. human." Oh god, I loved that. I was standing on stage with Aretha and we were slowly rolling to the floor when Max pushed in the door to let the kids and their moms in. The energy - both the rambunctious energy of little kids running and saying things little kids say, but also the quiet, soothing energy of being held, I took to the rocking -- the slow rocking back and forth. In Miami I loved dancing; just pushing our hearts to work - there is this sweat that happens there - and I met people in class and workshops who joined forces to help me make the show happen - and it had to happen, my parents were coming all the way from Alaska! Have you ever met someone you are so inspired by that you have no idea what to say? That happend to me in Arizona. It's uncomfortable, right? But I guess, why not hold it, too? The awkward silence...maybe more is said there than in a rumble of words.

Quyana to everyone in New York, at Keene St., at ASU, and in Miami. We have enjoyed making and performing THIS for you.



              All these photos are by Ian Douglas

October 2012

The Thank-you Bar wins a 2012 "Bessie" Award!

We are so humbled and honored to have been awarded a Bessie Award for The Thank-you Bar for our November 2011 performances at New York Live Arts. Huge, heartfelt thanks to Carla Peterson and all the NYLA staff, to Aretha Aoki, our NYC "secret" dancer, to everyone who has supported this work, and to everyone who attended the shows - we are really blown away. Emily and James attended the awards ceremony at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, and that alone was a huge thrill.

The 2012 Bessie: New York Dance And Performance Awards
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION (of a work in the expanding field of new art, dance, and performance practice):

"For gently and deftly coaxing an audience into a community, holding them spellbound with stories spoken and unspoken; For seamlessly interweaving Blackfish's music with the magical transformations of paper into ice, and dry leaves into water; For reminding us that we all come from a place unknowable, yet knownA 2012 New York Dance and Performance Award for Outstanding Production goes to Emily Johnson For The Thank-you Bar at New York Live Arts."

Niicugni premieres in Tallahassee!
After over two years of work creating it, Niicugni finally premiered at The Seven Days of Opening Nights Festival in Tallahassee Florida, co-presented by the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC). Such a thrill to finally perform this piece, and have it born into the world. Thank you to all the volunteers and staff who participated and made it all happen. It was a magical night for us all. Niicugni will continue to tour to MassMoCA, Baryshnikov Arts Center (NYC), Red Fern Arts Center at Keane State College (NH), and many other venues across the country into 2013. Come see us! (see below)

Niicugni photo by Cameron Wittig
Niicugni photo by Cameron Wittig

Here's where Niicugni will tour to - come see:
September 21, 2012: Co-Presentation of the Seven Days of Opening Nights Festival and the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
November 17, 2012: MassMoca
January 8-12, 2013: Baryshnikov Arts Center and Performance Space 122 as part of the 8th Annual COIL Festival, NYC
February 13, 2013: Co-presented by the Redfern Arts Center at Keene State College and Vermont Performance Lab at Redfern Arts Center
March 2, 2013: ASU Gammage, Phoenix, Arizona
March 22 - 23, 2013: Tigertail & Miami Dade County Auditorium, Miami Florida
April 21, 2013: Northrop Dance and The O’Shaughnessy Present Women of Substance at St. Catherine University, St. Paul/Minneapolis
May 24-25, 2013: Bunnell St. Gallery & Pier One Theater, Homer, Alaska
June 8-9, 2013: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art & Bodyvox Studio Theater

June 2012back to top

2012, coming and going

2012 is nearly half done, can you believe it? And I have been meaning to write to you since it began. Woe! My steady friends who purposefully or inadvertently signed up on my mailing list - either way - oh, my friends I meant to write to you in January, then February, March....and maybe it was a good thing you didn't have another email or two in your inbox - I understand how that is - but I have missed you. I make these dances for you and I think of you all the time! Last week someone told me that it'd been two lifetimes since we'd seen one another. Lives within lives. That's how it goes sometimes.

Here's what's been happening...(besides entering my LATE thirties - yes it does feel different, very different -  swimming in the Pacific, planting Morning Glories, and stopping traffic to save a turtle who when I picked it up, peed on my leg)...

Our Actions
I make dances for you, yes. I also live in this tired world. Let's make it less tired!

Emily Johnson/Catalyst supports and joins Minnesotans United for All Families and joins TONS OF MINNESOTANS who are against the constitutional amendment to ban marriage for same-sex couples. We will love love and rights in November.

Emily Johnson/Catalyst tours the country via cars and airplanes. While offsetting carbon isn't a cure, it helps. I calculate our carbon and purchase offsets to reduce Catalyst's greenhouse pollution and meet our sustainability goals. Native Energy is the place. They're great and they build projects that create sustainable economic benefits for Native Americans, Alaska Native Villages, family farmers, and rural communities. Last year we were able to offset ALL of our tour initiated carbon which supported the Iowa Farms Wind Project and the Wewoka Biogas Project.

Body and SHORE
In April I was an artist in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts - a place made holy and good-crazy by the practices of so many good-crazy artists:  my new friends and colleagues.  I made Body, an installation for the land under the one-hundred-year-old-gymnasium-that-was-my-studio. I was trying to lift the ground up through the floor and move through the walls, out to the hills and I needed to undo a little bit of the.....well, we were in an old fort and I was unnerved. Here is what I think: That dancing in/of past, present, and future is a shaking - is a way of transforming this place we are caught up in, this place of concrete knowing (only), of forced worldview, of bunkers on mountains. Are you with me? I also combed through Niicugni and wrote as many monster stories as I could muster and did research for SHORE by volunteering at the Marin Native Plant Nursery -- now one of my favorite places. LOVE to all the Sticky Monkey Flowers of Marin County (and to Alisa, Annette, and Daisy). There was an open house one day -  800 people CAME THROUGH Body and helped wash seedling pots for the nursery, too -- volunteerism as part of performance as part of research for SHORE. Oh, and I made a massive halibut-skin lantern from one of our delicious dinners - thank you to Damon, Brydee, and Harold for help. 26 lanterns done. 24 to go.

Body, with sound design by James Everest

Niicugni (Listen)
Niicugni premieres in September! Do you think I can finish it in time? Can we all close our eyes right now and say......"yes...."..."yes...."yes..."... (quyana, thank you if you did that). 
Niicugni is housed within a light/sound installation of hand-made, functional fish lanterns. It equates land with cells that comprise our bodies and calls upon US to remember that land is alive with ancestry, memory, and possibility, and that our bodies also hold these things. Present, Past, and Future together. (Yesterday someone told me that there is no past. I heartily disagree). This is also the work that brought monsters into my life. So many of you have offered your stories and ideas of and about these crazy-bad monsters. Some ideas from you: we should tell them stories, they will take care of themselves, we must acknowledge them, we must make fun of them, we must call them out, we cannot ever call them out, we should ignore them, they are in us, they are outside of us, they spark the fire of protest, they are ever-present, they need to die, they will never die.....I don't know what the answer is. It's been a fascinating conversation.

Upcoming research: visiting the quietest room ON EARTH. My goal is one hour inside utter silence. I will tell you about it if I don't go mad.


Niicugni rehearsals. Emily and Aretha. Photos by Al Hall and Chris Cameron.
Here's where Niicugni will tour to - come see:
September 21, 2012: Co-Presentation of the Seven Days of Opening Nights Festival and the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

November 17, 2012: MassMoca (informal showing)
January, 2013: Performance Space 122 as part of the 8th Annual COIL Festival, NYC
February 13, 2013: Co-presented by the Redfern Arts Center at Keene State College and Vermont Performance Lab at Redfern Arts Center
March 2, 2013: ASU Gammage, Phoenix, Arizona
March 22 - 23, 2013: Tigertail, Miami Florida
April 11- 13, 2013: Bunnell St. Gallery, Homer, Alaska
April 21, 2013: Northrop Dance and The O’Shaughnessy Present Women of Substance at St. Catherine University, St. Paul/Minneapolis
June 2013: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art

Fish-skin Lantern Making Workshop
We're doing another one in Minneapolis. This week. It's really fun. A little messy at first. You learn the whole process, from filleting the fish, to skinning and sewing. We use wild-caught salmon and halibut, have a feast, and your lantern becomes part of the hanging installation for Niicugni. It's free. If you are in Minneapolis and want to come join us, email Max at max@catalystdance.com. He'll send you the details. Registration is necessary.


Fireclif 3
On May 31st at 7pm I was on top of an 8 foot aluminum clad room/box with Minouk Lim inside a dark gallery full of people at the Walker Art Center performing Fireclif 3, a commission from the visual art department at the Walker and a collaboration with Minouk, incorporating her wearable sculptures that make me think of nature and industry and things that have washed up on the beach. A pedestrian styled, highly danced, never ending, never beginning performance with humming, singing, drooling mouths, and stories of whales-John Cage-trees-bones-silence-etching sound-space between-ash-vampires, which at one point bounced to the music and at another moved time backwards. There was also stunning, live infrared video. Thank you to the Walker, to Clara Kim, to Minouk and her team, and to performers Arwen Wilder, Max Wirsing, Ashley Akpaka, Katie Vang, and Paige Collette. NYT. ArtForum.

photo by Cameron Wittig

2012 brings these things, too:
June: A Super Fun, Large Cast, Celebratory Endurance Dance Based on Walking, Some Running, A Large Spiral, and Singing Names commissioned by the McKnight Foundation in honor of 30 years of artist fellowships. 

July:  Speaking about The Politics of Place for the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance at Wesleyan and painting a wall at Madame for the Arts in Minneapolis as research for SHORE.

Where (we) Live with  So Percussion, Ain Gordon, Grey McMurray, and Martin Schmidt. I love this project so much I can barely tell you about it.  A few words from rehearsal yesterday: descend, open everything, exaggerate until everything makes sense. We'll be at the Walker Art Center in September, at the Myrna Loy Center in Helena, Montana in October, and at BAM in December.

I'm dancing with Body Cartography Project in Super Nature. A super awesome, weird, lovely, amazing dance you should come see at the Walker Art Center in October, at COIL Festival in January, and in San Diego in February. It's also a really hard dance -- LATE thirties and all...can I do it?  We recently bodied an installation at the Walker, dancing one at a time in front of one person at a time. I learned that you cannot fake empathy (did I think you could do that before?). Lightsey Darst wrote about it: empathy

Oh and next time I write to you I'll be able to share a music video. What? Yes. A music video I'm making with one of my favorite bands, Alpha Consumer. Hello friends, we'll be in there, dancing, or something similar.

San Francisco, Vermont, New York, and Now

I know that was a long one.
Much love,

november 2011back to top

The Thank-you Bar in New York

We opened last night with a wonderfully warm crowd here in NYC.
The Thank -you Bar is housed beautifully on the New York Live Arts stage and I am honored to be here. We would love to share it with you!

Please come see the show!
You can get tickets here, or call the NYLA Box Office: 212.924.0077
Shows times:
Tonight (Thursday) 11/10 at 7:30 and 9:30pm
Friday 11/11 at 7:30 and 9:30pm
Saturday 11/12 at 5:00 and 7:30pm,  BLACKFISH concert at 9:00pm

Anna Marie Shogren did an interview with me on
Critcal Correspondence:

An excerpt:
Anna:  I am curious..working with a physical medium, do the ideas feed into each other? Do you feel like there was a different way of dealing with movement?

Emily: Often I will dance and I will try to put my mind somewhere else, and I will try to be back in Alaska. But, that’s too broad. I will find a specific place, or a specific time, or a specific visual landscape to do it in. A physical interaction between past and present, that’s obviously only actually present. But, somehow, for me at those times, it merges. It becomes where there isn’t that much space between past and present and future. I think that is the truth about our physical body, is that we are all those times at once. Maybe physical action is the only true place that you can find that sublime sense of time where it is all at once. I can be standing in Minneapolis but, I can also at the same time, with intention, be at my grandma’s house in Alaska or I could be in New York. Maybe talking about it makes it seem like that can’t be true, but it really is.

We're featured on CultureBot
And here's an interview with This Week in New York

While in New York
I've been rehearsing our NEW dance, Niicugni with the Amazing Aretha Aoki. I also spent a day rehearsing with SO PERCUSSION at their studio. We're working together on their new piece, Where We Live, for premiere in 2012.

Rehearsing with SO

BLACKFISH: 8CD Collection
Two weeks ago BLACKFISH (James Everest and Joel Pickard) released a gorgeous limited edition, letter-pressed, 8 CD collection of concert recordings from the past two years. Tallahassee, Homer, Tulsa, Portland, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Houston and Brattleboro.  You can listen at the BLACKFISH bandcamp site, or buy it at the new Catalyst Store

THIS IS DISPLACEMENT: Exhibition Catalogue
We made a book! It's a dream come true! Images from the exhibit, stories and biographies from the artists, a foreword by Heid Erdrich, and ten languages: Ojibwe, Dakota, Lakota, Diné, Otoe, Cherokee, Iñupiaq, Ponca, Eastern Cherokee, English.
You can get your own copy: here.


Quyana-Thank you to EVERYONE who helped to make our fall fundraiser a success. Thank you for joining us, sending us your good wishes and supporting our work with your generous donations! 

Love from NY, 


September 2011back to top

Emily Johnson/Catalyst Preview Party & Book Launch Benefit

Saturday, Sept 17th at 7pm
Southern Theater
1420 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis

We're having a benefit to support and preview our new dance installation, Niicugni (Listen), and celebrate the release of our THIS IS DISPLACEMENT exhibition catalogue. Enjoy live music, poetry, and dance performances in the theater, h'ordeuvres and cocktails in the lobby, a crafted silent auction, and DJ Jen Downham's Groove Garden. Please join us!

These are just some of the spectacular artists whose amazing artworks are part of our crafted silent auction:

Maren Kloppmann!
Alec Soth!
Carolyn Lee Anderson!
Jonathan Whitney!
Andrea Carlson!
Jason Jaglo!

I am thrilled. You can also bid on a handmade salmon-skin lantern, a dance created for you by me, good things from Birchbark Books, and a few more hand-picked items....

Fantastic performances featuring:

James Everest and Bethany Lacktorin, performing excerpts from their original Niicugni installation soundscore. Brilliant Duluth singer songwriter, Toby Thomas Churchill. The sublime poet Jay Bad Heart Bull, whose poems are featured in THIS IS DISPLACEMENT. Jeffrey Skemp's dark, quirky poetry with live musical accompaniment, and 11-year old Olivia Vang, who has some brand new tunes for us& (some of you will remember Olivia from our benefit in 2009....).

We'll also be giving you a little peek into our new dance. It's performed by me, Aretha Aoki, James Everest, Bethany Lacktorin, and Heidi Eckwall. You'll get to check out our brand new fish-skin sound installation up close and even work a bit on making one (a fish-skin lantern) if you'd like.

You will love:
DJ Jen Downham's Groove Garden
And we will love you.

You will enjoy:
H'ordeuvres by Red Stag Supper Club.

And, of course, there will be:
wine and beer, thanks to ZIPPS.

Hope to see you,

April 2010back to top

The Thank-you Bar in Oklahoma!

In March we were part of the New Genre Festival at Living Arts of Tulsa, along with great friends Art Spot Productions/Mondo Bizarro and Kristina Wong. The audiences in Tulsa were incredible – I can't wait to go back!

It was quite interesting to perform a piece that is so linked to land/identity in Oklahoma - a land ingrained with the lives and deaths of displaced and relocated peoples - the promises of land “as long as the rivers flow and the grass is green” and the reality of sooners, land grabbers, and lies. The Thank-you Bar is not exactly a “political” piece, but here, it felt political. I was conscious of this and questioning of our role and relatively short relationship to this place. Prior to our performances I reached out to friends from or very familial with Oklahoma. I was graced with personal histories, accounts, and a feeling that doing this piece in Oklahoma was the exact right risk to take. I had some of my most ultimately heartfelt connections to audiences in Oklahoma. One audience member told me the show changed her life and I am humbled by her response.

BLACKFISH performed an amazing concert and I believe a new CD is on it's way. Keep an eye out for BLACKFISH 3: Tulsa, it was recorded in a very live room with the sounds of history creaking up off the floors!

THIS IS DISPLACEMENT: Native Artists Consider the Relationship Between Land & Identity existed in Tulsa because of our collaboration with oklaDADA. oklaDADA is a collective of Indian Artists networking and promoting Indigenous perspectives to create opportunities that give voice to Indian cultural identities. Thank you to all of the artists who contributed to this exhibit, especially Richard Ray Whitman who organized much of this collective work. As I rehearsed down the street, artists were pouring into the exhibit space, bringing paintings, photographs, lithographs – work that spoke so clearly and viscerally to the ills of displacement. Many of these works will now tour with This is Displacement. Please see the news page of my friend and co-curator, Carolyn Lee Anderson for a much more in-depth re-telling of this exhibit. Carolyn and I are both honored to be part of a growing, changing, and alive collection of art.



december 2009back to top

The Thank-you Bar premiere!

We enjoyed a wonderful, sold-out premiere tour of The Thank-you Bar in Alaska in October. BLACKFISH performed 4 concerts in conjunction with this tour (a new CD is forthcoming!) and we celebrated the opening of the related exhibit, This is Displacement: Native Artists Consider the Relationship Between Land and Identity. Thank you to all of the artists who were part of this exhibit and to our audiences in Anchorage and Homer!

I am happy we premiered in my home-land.
I am happy my grandma was at opening night.
I am happy we performed for the gutsy, deep-rooted audiences who came to see us and that the man who I thought was not enjoying the show brought his granddaughter back to see it the following night.
I am humbled by the listening eyes I saw and the new stories told to me.
I am excited about the strength of the Native artists in Alaska.
I am honored that the land welcomed me back.

Next up for the Thank-you Bar:
We next perform The Thank-you Bar at the New Genre Festival in Tulsa, Oklahoma March 5 & 6, 2010, along with friends Mondo Bizarro and Kristina Wong! Come to Tulsa!

Exciting news!!
Catalyst was recently awarded a touring grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts to help support the 2010 - 2011 touring season of The Thank-you Bar! I am working on setting up the tours now, so if you are interested in having The Thank-you Bar and its related activities come to your community/city/theater please contact me NOW as deadlines are approaching.

A new show opens THIS MONTH
This month Terrible Things premieres at PS 122 in New York City. Terrible Things is a collaboration between Pearldamour and Catalyst's Emily Johnson, performed by Katie Pearl, Emily Johnson, Karen Sherman, Morgan Thorson, Adrian Czmielewski and Rudy de la Cruz. Also look for Terrible Things at the COIL Festival at PS 122 in January, 2010.

Quyana, everyone.
Emily J.

october 2009back to top

Catalyst premieres The Thank-you Bar at Out North, in Anchorage, Alaska October 8 – 11, 2009, along with the accompanying art exhibit THIS IS DISPLACEMENT: Native Artists Consider the Relationship Between Land & Identity (co-curated with Carolyn Anderson) and concerts by BLACKFISH. See our upcoming shows page for more information!

We then tour down to Homer, Alaska for shows October 16 – 18 at Bunnell St. Arts Center.

In December, Terrible Things (created with Lisa D'Amour and Katie Pearl) premieres at PS122 in NYC. Terrible Things is performed by Katie Pearl, along with Emily Johnson, Karen Sherman, and Morgan Thorson.

Watch for our 2010/11 tour of The Thank-you Bar... dates and locations coming soon!


december 2008back to top

2009 holds many exciting projects...

THE THANK-YOU BAR, which is a new solo I am working on with composers James Everest and Joel Pickard will have its pre-premiere at Franconia Sculpture Park (MN) in September, 2009 and then its official world premiere at OutNorth Contemporary Art House (Anchorage, AK) in October, 2009.

ADY, a play written by Rhianna Yazzie, with scene design by Carolyn Anderson and choreography by me will open in Minneapolis at Pangea World Theater in November, 2009.

And TERRIBLE THINGS, an amazing new project by Lisa D'Amour, Katie Pearl, and myself will open for a two-week run at PS 122 in NYC in December, 2009.

In addition, I am thrilled to be a 2009 Maggie Allesee National Center For Choreography fellow. My time spent at MANCC will include roving performances with the local community, rehearsals for the THE THANK-YOU BAR, and loads of research at the Oral History Library.

I am truly honored to work with so many amazing, inspiring, and incredibly talented collaborators in the coming months. Please check back for updates and come see some shows!

-Emily Johnson
Director, Catalyst

december 2007back to top

2007 is almost to a close and I could list the many performances Catalyst had throughout the year, and give you a heads up on what is to come, and this would probably be the smart thing to do....but, I am not in such a directorial, strategizing mood (I often am not) - and I looked up from my computer and I saw this poem and it seems more important to share than any news I have at the moment.

Who could ever tire of this heart-stopping transition, of this breakthrough shift between seeing and knowing you see, between being and knowing you be? It drives you to a life of concentration, it does, in which effort draws you down so very deep that when you surface you twist up exhilarated with a yelp and a gasp.

Who could ever tire of this radiant transition, this surfacing to awareness and this deliberate plunging to oblivion - the theater curtain rising and falling? Who could tire of it when the sum of those moments at the edge - the conscious life we so dread losing - is all we have, the gift at the moment of opening it

-- Annie Dillard, An American Childhood

january 2007back to top

Catalyst enjoyed a fine 2006 with performances at the Rogue Buddha Art Gallery in Minneapolis (thank you RBG,) at Dance Theater Workshop in New York City, on the banks of the Missouri River in South Dakota, on a farm in Nebraska, along 35W in Iowa and as part of KICK! in Montreal, Quebec.

"Capture!," the dance-film series Catalyst and Firetrunk produce at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis continued with 5 screenings of experimental dance films from around the world.

And, our work was featured in MentalContagion, the Star Tribune and in the November issue of Dance Magazine.

For our next adventure we go to Austin, Texas where we are bring presented by Dance Umbrella with shows at the soon to be demolished site of Gallery Lombardi(January 25-28 @ 8pm , 910 W. 3rd St., Austin TX, www.danceumbrella.com.)

Also in January - Dance Theater Workshop is screening our film Wingspan 5'2" in their video dance series Captured. The film screens the entire month whenever DTW is open.

If you're in Minneapolis, look for the second installment of the experimental dance series, Windfarm at the Rogue Buddha Art Gallery, with special guests in February, March and April.

And - if you're anywhere near Chicago, you're going to want to be at Links Hall every weekend in March as Tramp moves the work of 5 independent choreographing entities (Catalyst, Hijack, Karen Sherman, Morgan Thorson and Laurie Van Wieren)from Minneapolis to Chicago for a month filled with performances, workshops,receptions, post show discussions, informal gatherings of dance professionals and a symposium. Links will post the info soon at www.linkshall.org.

Here's to a happy and healthy 2007...
Emily Johnson
Director, Catalyst

summer 2006back to top

June brings the entire Catalyst dance company to the eastern coast of the U.S.A.; we’re performing in New York City for the first time: Heat and Life at Dance Theater Workshop June 28- July 1. We’re cooperating with New York’s “Citizens Campaign for the Environment,” holding post show discussions and conversations on the subject of global warming. They’re a great organization that has really helped us get the word out about the show. Find out more info on them at www.cce.org.

For a recent interview about this show see Mental Contagion.

To hear a recent podcast interview go to Great Dance.

And, of course, to buy tickets go to www.dtw.org!!

While in New York, JG Everest - the composer and musician (who also performs with us in Heat and Life) will play a solo show at Tonic with Berlin based “electro-pop-princess” Barbara Morgenstern. It’s going to be a very cool show. Check out the details and listen to samples at:

This fall, Catalyst will perform Heat and Life on a farm in Nebraska and in public spaces in South Dakota and Iowa - all part of our goal of bringing Heat and Life to every state in the U.S.A. While on this massive 50-State-Tour we donate to www.gocarbonzero.com - our way of trying to off-set the carbon emissions created for our flights and driving. Try it (or, of course, try driving less!).

New work is on the horizon as well, as we continue to work on “Windfarm.” Windfarm is our version of the future... complete with stilt walking. Look for it in 2007.

Capture! the dance series produced by Catalyst at the Bryant Lake Bowl in MInneapolis continues with some exciting fall programming including work by Julyen Hamilton. We’re always on the search for new dance films, you can send them (with a SASE if you want it returned) throughout the year (see the Capture! page of our website).

Thanks for your time. Come see some dancing.

Emily Johnson
Director, Catalyst

january 2006back to top

Happy New Year!

Welcome to our newly redesigned website. I've never tried this 'news forum' before, but plan to update it monthly - so check back often.

I'm starting out the new year with an intensive travel schedule, heading to Amsterdam to study with Julyen Hamilton, Brussels to visit the P.A.R.T.S studios, and Berlin - mostly to check out the scene. I hope to return to Minneapolis invigorated and inspired, ready for 2006.

2005 was, in large part, spent in fundraising and administrative mode as I am working to move Catalyst's dance piece "Heat and Life" to all 50 states in the U.S. "Heat and Life" is a work about global warming and this 50-State-Tour will cover enough ground to define the U.S. as a site where art-based work can be seen and be an impetus for change. That, at least - is my hope.

We are on our way toward the 50-state goal with performances scheduled in New York at Dance Theater Workshop June 28-July 1 and Links Hall (Chicago) March 2007. Rogue performances will also happen in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana this year, bringing our state count up to 8.

February in Minneapolis brings Catalyst to the highly hip Rogue Buddha art gallery with 3 performances in a series called "windfarm." I'm excited to bring some new work to this space, the first show includes longtime Catalyst dancers Melissa Kennedy, Vanessa Voskuil, Natasha Hassett and joining us for the first time - dancer Allison Lorenzen and violinist Jess Hayssen. I'm hoping to get a tattoo artist involved in this show, but am not sure I quite have the guts to be the one tattooed.

I wish you the best in 2006. May we all work for peace.
-Emily Johnson
Director, Catalyst