Art Beat: Alaska dancer's next piece will have a Lakota Sioux angle

Mike Dunham
Purchases of Sailor Boy Pilot Bread in March will raise funds to buy books for Alaska kids.
Jim Lavrakas
Members of the public strolling through New York's Morningstar Park on June 21, 2011, encountered nearly 100 musicians performing "Inuksuit" by John Luther Adams. The complex outdoor composition was presented by Miller Theatre at Columbia University and Make Music NY. The work will receive its Alaska premiere as part of the Spenard Jazz Festival in June.
Photo by Shawn Brackbill
This June 1978 file image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows the deserted stilt village on King Island, about 625 miles northwest of Anchorage.

Emily Johnson, an Alaska dancer whose roots include St. Mary's and Clam Gulch, is emerging as one of the most important new choreographers in the country. She and her company, Catalyst, will collaborate with the Lakota Sioux Dance Theater of South Dakota's Rosebud Reservation in June, 2014, for the third and final piece in a projected trilogy -- parts of which have been seen here in Alaska.

The new work, "Shore," will be produced by Northrop Concerts and Lectures at the University of Minnesota, Johnson's home base for the past several years, and receive its world premiere during the Dance USA conference in Minneapolis. It will be part of an event called "The Gathering" that is described as a contemporary art "happening" in which participants re-imagine a Native gathering along the banks of the Mississippi River for the first time in about 150 years.


'Inuksuit' premier hosted by Jazz Fest

We read with much interest the announcement that "Inuksuit" by Fairbanks composer John Luther Adams will receive its Alaska debut during the upcoming Spenard Jazz Fest. The literally sprawling work involves 90 or more musicians arrayed over an expanse of space, usually out of doors, and playing everything from gongs to sea shells, bass drums and giant kazoos. It debuted at the Banff Center in Alberta, Canada, on June 21, 2009, and has since been done in New York City (twice), Chicago, Toronto, Lisbon, Brazil, California, Australia, South Carolina and Texas, among other venues.

The Anchorage performance appears to be scheduled for June 21 at the Alaska Native Heritage Center -- which is as far from Spenard as "Inuksuit" is from being jazz. However, it's a heroic effort on the part of Adams' Alaska colleagues, Morris Palter, Erik Bleicher, Phil Munger and Steven Alvarez.

Adams himself won't be on hand for the event. It coincides with the premiere of a new piece, "Become Ocean," by the Seattle Symphony and the lot of a composer is that first hearings take priorities over reprises, particularly when a work has taken on a life of its own. "The piece doesn't seem to need me," Adams wrote in an email.

Details on the rest of the Spenard Jazz Fest 2013, which will run June 7-23, are available at


Eagle River youth joins national orchestra

Congratulations to violinist Brendon Mezzetti of Eagle River, selected by Carnegie Hall for the first ever National Youth Orchestra of the USA. He'll take part in a two week summer residency preparing for the debut of the group at Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The concert will feature guest violin soloist Joshua Bell in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. Conductor Valery Gergiev will take the group on a tour that includes Moscow, St. Petersburg and London; Gergiev is everywhere acclaimed, but particularly esteemed in his native Russia.

Mezzetti was heard in a Vivaldi concerto with the Anchorage Civic Orchestra last March. The ACO will next perform on March 29 with a roster that includes students of the University of Alaska Anchorage music program playing Sibelius' Symphony No. 2 among other works.


Send Joan home

Poet Joan Kane, author of the award-winning collection "The Cormorant Hunter's Wife," is trying to get back to the auld sod. Kane's family came from King Island, which was abandoned in the 1950s and '60s after the school shut down. It's expensive, so she's turned to the Internet for help, raising money via USA Projects, a site that helps artists fund their work. King Island is just 80 miles from Nome; you might think it wouldn't cost that much to get there -- but it does. The island has no landing strip. It's so steep that the village was built on stilts along the cliff-like sides above the Bering Sea. Former King Islanders sometimes return to pick berries and eggs, but it's not an easy boat trip. Find out more at Follow this link Kane's site here.


'Bad Blood' is good reading

The Pacific Northwest Independent Bookseller's bestseller list released last Sunday has Dana Stabenow's latest mystery, "Bad Blood," debuting at No. 13 in the hardback fiction category. Eowyn Ivey's "Snow Child" is at No. 3 among paperbacks. "Looking for Alaska," John Green's 2006 Award-winning novel, widely read as part of school curriculums, is on the list for "Children's Interest Books," but the title is taken from the name of a character and the plot, set in Alabama, has nothing to do with Alaska the state.


Biscuits for books

Speaking of literature, First Book-Anchorage and Sailor Boy Pilot Bread are again sponsoring "Feeding Hungry Minds," a campaign to raise funds to purchase books for kids from Alaska's low-income communities. For every two-pound box of the biscuit sold in March, 50 cents will go to buy books around the state. In previous years the campaign has raised $26,000. That's 52,000 boxes of Pilot Bread, a product found almost nowhere except Alaska. More information is available at Pilot Bread is available at all Alaska grocery stores that we've ever been in.


Hollywood producer coming for dinner

Andrea Wiley, the award-winning television writer and producer who has been part of the team on such hits as "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "The Jamie Foxx Show" will be the guest of honor at a dinner theater event at 6:30 p.m. on March 16 at the Kincaid Chalet. Wiley is in Alaska researching her next project, a documentary dealing with domestic violence and child abuse. Find out more about some of her work at The tickets cover dinner and entertainment and are $35, $50 per couple, available at or by calling 310-0475.


Arts council meets

The Alaska State Council on the Arts will be holding their regularly scheduled quarterly teleconference meeting from noon until 1:30 p.m. on Friday, March 15, at the Council offices, 161 Klevin St., Suite 102, Anchorage. The awarding of grants to artists and arts organizations will be among the business items on the agenda. The public is welcome to attend. For details or teleconference instructions, please contact the ASCA office at 269-6610 or toll free 1-888-278-7424.


Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.