Niicugni—the word—is a directive to pay attention, to listen. Housed within a light/sound installation of handmade fish-skin lanterns, Emily Johnson's Niicugni quietly compels attentiveness, layering multiple dances, live music, stories, and histories into a space occupied by past, present, and future.
Emily Johnson and her company, Catalyst, are co-presented by Performace Space 122 as part of COIL 2013, an annual mid-winter festival of contemporary performance from across the U.S. and around the globe. Niicugni is the second in a trilogy of works drawing from the choreographer's Yup’ik Alaskan heritage. The first work in the series, The Thank-you Bar, which premiered in New York in fall 2011, received a 2012 Bessie Award for Outstanding Performance.
Niicugni is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by Performance Space 122 in partnership with Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC), Northrop, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), Tigertail Productions and NPN. For more information: www.npnweb.org.
In the video below, Emily Johnson talks about developing Niicugni, which has been touring the country and bringing with it a unique ritual which engages communities and the land:
"Shedding Light on the Last Frontier"
"Moving Back in Time and Nearer to Nature"
"Emily Johnson in conversation with Ain Gordon"
"Emily Johnson on 'Niicugni'"
"Niicugni, PS 122’s COIL Festival, Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York"
"All that is: Emily Johnson at Baryshnikov Arts Center"
"And Then They Talked Some More"
Emily Johnson is an artist and writer who makes body-based work. Originally from Alaska, she is currently based in Minneapolis. Her dances function as installations, engaging audiences within and through a space and environment – 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 Award for Outstanding Performance for her work, The Thank-you Bar at New York Live Arts. She is a 2012 Headlands Artist in Residence and Alpert/MacDowell Colony recipient, a 2011 Native Arts and Cultures Fellow, a 2012, 2010 and 2009 MAP Fund Grant recipient, and a 2009 McKnight Fellow. Niicugni, the second in a trilogy that began with The Thank-you Bar, tours through 2013 to the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography/Florida State University, Coil Festival/Baryshnikov Arts Center, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Northrop Auditorium/Women of Substance Series, Bunnell St. Gallery in Alaska, RedFern Arts Center/Keene College with Vermont Performance Lab, ASU/Gammage, and TigerTail.
Emily is of Yup’ik descent and is a shareholder in the Calista Native Corporation. Her family is from Bethel and Akiak, Alaska and she was raised on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photos by Cameron Witig