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Alaskan choreographer opens second Yupik-inspired show in New York

Alaska Dispatch

Minnesota-based Alaskan choreographer Emily Johnson is in New York with her newest work “Niicugni” (nee-CHOOG-nee) which means “to pay attention” in Yupik. According to the New York Times, Johnson’s new piece is the second in a trilogy of works related to her Alaska Native heritage.

“Niicugni,” the second in the series, follows up her first work “The Thank-You Bar” which focused on displacement and stereotypes about Native Americans. “The Tank You-Bar” was the first piece she’s created that addresses her heritage, despite being a choreographer since 1999.

Johnson, who currently works in a bookstore in Minneapolis, says she didn’t intend to create a trilogy. She told the New York Times, “I was just in physical pain missing Alaska (and) ‘The Thank-you Bar’ came out of that time.” She explains that as bookseller surrounded by American Indian writers she began to immerse herself in Yupik tradition and the exposure “brought (her) home.” 

“The Thank-You Bar” won a 2012 Bessie award, a prestigious dance award given out to innovative dances, performances and chorographers in the United States. The award was established in 1983 and is formally known as the New York Dance and Performance Awards.

“Niicugni” will premiere Wednesday at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York city as part of Performance Space 122’s Coil Festival. Read much more.