Emily Johnson is an artist who makes body-based work. She is a land and water protector and an activist for justice, sovereignty and well-being. A Bessie Award-winning choreographer, Guggenheim Fellow and recipient of the Doris Duke Artist Award, she is based in Lenapehoking / New York City. Emily is of the Yup’ik Nation, and since 1998 has created work that considers the experience of sensing and seeing performance. Her dances function as portals and care processions, they engage audienceship within and through space, time, and environment—interacting with a place’s architecture, peoples, history and role in building futures. Emily is trying to make a world where performance is part of life; where performance is an integral connection to each other, our environment, our stories, our past, present and future.
Her choreography and gatherings have been presented across the United States and Australia. Recently she choreographed the Santa Fe Opera production of Doctor Atomic, directed by Peter Sellars. Her large-scale project, Then a Cunning Voice and A Night We Spend Gazing at Stars is an all-night outdoor performance gathering taking place amongst 84 community-hand-made quilts. It premiered in Lenapehoking (NYC) in 2017, and was presented in Zhigaagoong (Chicago) in 2019. Her new work in development, Being Future Being, considers future creation stories and present joy.
Emily’s writing has been published and commissioned by ArtsLink Australia, unMagazine, Dance Research Journal (University of Cambridge Press); SFMOMA; Transmotion Journal, University of Kent; Movement Research Journal; Pew Center for Arts and Heritage; and the compilation Imagined Theaters (Routledge), edited by Daniel Sack. She was an advisory committee member for Creative Time’s 10th Anniversary Summit and a Phase One working group member of Creating New Futures. She serves on the advisory committee for Advancing Indigenous Performance Initiative of Western Arts Alliance, The Center for Imagination in the Borderlands and the Native American Arts Program Expansion Committee for Idyllwild Arts. Emily is the Pueblo Arts Collaborative Diplomat at Santa Fe Opera, and a lead organiser of First Nations Dialogues.
Emily hosts monthly ceremonial fires on the Lower East Side of Mannahatta in partnership with Abrons Arts Center. She is part of a US based advisory group—including Reuben Roqueni, Ed Bourgeois, Lori Pourier, Ronee Penoi, and Vallejo Gantner—who are developing a First Nations Performing Arts Network.