In the Yup’ik language, “niicugni” is a directive to pay attention, to listen. Emily Johnson’s performance quietly compels such attentiveness through its layering of multiple dances, live music, and stories, housed within a light and sound installation of handmade, 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?” The cells of our bodies are like the molecules that make up the land: repositories for the past, present, and future. Our bodies hold 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?

Selected Press

Dreaming a World into Being,” Camille LeFevre,, April 24, 2013.

Lead commissioning and developmental support for Niicugni (Listen) has been provided by the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University in Tallahassee with additional anchor developmental and commissioning support provided by Vermont Performance Lab and Performance Space 122 in New York.
The creation of Niicugni was made possible by a fellowship from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation; The MAP Fund, a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation; and the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with the New England Foundation for the Arts through the National Dance Project. Major support for NDP is provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from the Community Connections Fund of the MedLife Foundation. General Operating support was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Production residency for this work was supported by the National Dance Project of the New England Foundation for the Arts, with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Niicugni is underwritten by the American Composers Forum’s Live Music for Dance Minnesota program in partnership with the American Music Center, with funds provided by the McKnight Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and is funded by the National Native Artist Exchange, a program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the Ford Foundation, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, and Anonymous donors.
Niicugni is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by PS122 in partnership with MANCC, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, Tigertail,  Northrop Concerts and Lectures at the University of Minnesota, and NPN. Major contributors of NPN are the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, MetLife Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency). For more information: Niicugni has been supported through residencies at Vermont Performance Lab with support from the Dance To Go Fund from the McKnight Foundation, MassMoca, The Arts Collaboration Lab with support from PS122 and Columbia University, Arizona State University, and the Headlands Center for the Arts.