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Women of Substance Dance Series presents Emily Johnson/Catalyst

Emily Johnson will perform at The O'Shaughnessy on April 21 in Catalyst.
Emily Johnson will perform at The O'Shaughnessy on April 21 in Catalyst.
Photo submitted.

Northrop at the University of Minnesota and The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University present Emily Johnson/Catalyst performing Niicugni at 7 p.m., Sunday, April 21, at The O’Shaughnessy auditorium. This is the second piece in a trilogy, with the first piece, The Thank-you Bar, being performed at Northrop in November 2010.

Originally from Alaska and currently living in Minneapolis, director, choreographer and curator Emily Johnson 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.

Niicugni— the word —is a directive to pay attention, to listen. Niicugni, the dance, quietly compels such attentiveness through its layering of multiple dances, live music, stories and histories.

Housed within a light and sound installation of hand-made, functional fish-skin lanterns, Niicugni asks, "Can we pay attention to the ways we do and do not listen to our bodies, histories, impulses and environments?" Equating the molecules of land with the cells that comprise our bodies, Niicugni is also about how land, or place, like our bodies is a repository of past, present and future. It holds, at once, myth and truth, magic and evil, hope and death, laughter and monsters, as well as ancestral histories and cultural identities.

In the moment of each performance, Niicugni wonders if we can recognize the importance of everyone in the room? Can we see ourselves as part of the whole? Can we absorb that everyone we see is here now and will be gone?

The dance has been called “…simultaneously vulnerable and commanding, mythical and wry" by Dance Magazine.

Guests are invited to connect with the dance company’s artists during a free post-performance conversation immediately following the performance.

About Catalyst

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 2012 Bessie award for Outstanding Production and a 2010 Sage Award for Outstanding Production for her work, The Thank-you Bar.

Johnson uses gesture, rigorous movement, and often words to construct her nonlinear
but 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 U.S., 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.

Women of Substance Dance Series

The Women of Substance dance series is copresented by The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University and Northrop at the University of Minnesota, and focuses on women in dance.

Created at St. Catherine University in 1996, The O’Shaughnessy’s acclaimed Women of Substance events have featured national and international artists in the Twin Cities. Building on St. Catherine’s outstanding reputation of developing women to lead and influence, Women of Substance has served thousands of girls and women from various backgrounds and nationalities, offering them inspiration and hope by attending performances of extraordinary role models.

Founded to encourage women to find their voice and place on life’s stage, the events continually reminds audience members of all genders the importance of living lives of substance.

Northrop at the University of Minnesota

Northrop, the University of Minnesota’s arts presenter, is dedicated to the advancement of the education, research, public engagement, and diversity mission of the University of Minnesota through the pursuit of excellence and innovation in the performing arts, community service, and creative exchange.

Northrop is also committed to civic engagement and community discourse. It proceeds with the values of partnership and collaboration, and is committed to bridging the intellectual and artistic life of the university with the goals and issues of the local community, the nation, and the world.

The O'Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University

Located on the scenic main campus of St. Catherine University in St. Paul, The O'Shaughnessy is one of the Twin Cities' premiere venues for showcasing the arts.

The O'Shaughnessy is the home of Women of Substance, which showcases the artistry and innovative work of women, both prominent and emerging in their field, whose voices need to be heard. In addition, The O'Shaughnessy hosts concerts and lectures featuring prominent artists and dignitaries.

More information

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The presentation of Emily Johnson/Catalyst was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Additional support provided by The Saint Paul Foundation.

April 10, 2013 by Melissa Kaelin

See also: Arts