Mass MoCA Pick: Niicugni (Listen) Performance Installation by Emily Johnson/Catalyst Nov.16

North Adams, MA – After a week-long dance residency, Alaskan choreographer Emily Johnson and her company, Catalyst, present a work-in-progress informal “showing” of her newest work, Niicugni (Listen), in MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center on Friday, November 16, at 8 PM. Performed by Aretha Aoki and Johnson herself and with sound by James Everest and Bethany Lacktorin, Niicugni is an evocative movement installation that Dance Magazine calls “simultaneously vulnerable and commanding, mythical and wry.”

Niicugni is a new dance performance centered on movement, story, and sound. The piece is housed within an installation of functional handcrafted lanterns made of fish skin. Johnson acknowledges the frequent presence of salmon in her life – from her family heritage, to her childhood in Alaska, to her development as an artist now based in Minneapolis – by incorporating it into the work as hanging lanterns that create both light and sound. Through the fish skin lanterns and movement onstage, Niicugni equates the land people live on with the cells that comprise their physical beings: both land and bodies are very much alive with ancestry, memory, and possibility.

Up to 40 participants from the local community will participate in this piece. Johnson will work extensively with several groups of people sharing a common interest – such as knitting, gardening, painting, or playing soccer – to create a complex gesture of movement that will be intricately woven through the piece. The community participants will join Johnson and the company of dancers onstage in performance after intimate workshops and rehearsals.

Johnson is a director, choreographer, and curator who began making work in 1998. Often functioning as installations, her dances strive to engage audiences by blurring the lines between performance and daily life. Johnson has been commissioned by the Walker Arts Center and PS122. Her work has been presented at numerous venues across the country, including the TBA Festival, Dance Theater Workshop, and Velocity Dance Center. Dance Magazine calls Johnson’s impressive body of work “fresh and fierce, evocative and disciplined.”

Emily Johnson takes the stage in MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center on Friday, November 16, at 8 PM. Tickets are $12 per person. Members receive a 10% discount on tickets. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office, located off Marshall Street in North Adams, from 11 AM until 5 PM (closed Tuesdays). Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours or purchased online at

MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall Street in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings. MASS MoCA is an independent 501(c)(3) whose operations and programming are funded through admissions and commercial lease revenue, corporate and foundation grants, and individual philanthropy. Except for an initial construction grant from the Commonwealth, and competitive program and operations grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, MASS MoCA is privately funded: 90% of annual operating revenues are from earned revenues, membership support, and private gifts and grants.

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