“Then A Cunning Voice…”: NACF Dance & Visual Arts Fellows Collaborate to Engage Community

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Images courtesy Emily Johnson / Catalyst Dance and Maggie Thompson / Makwa Studios

Emily Johnson/Catalyst’s Then A Cunning Voice and A Night We Spend Gazing at Stars will make its world debut August 19, 2017 in New York City, New York. It will weave together stories and performance with the exchange of ideas, the sharing of food, and the endurance of spending a night together outside under the stars and sky. Taking place at Randall’s Island Park, beginning at dusk and continuing until after sunrise, Then a Cunning Voice… invites audience members into a multilayered, participatory work that focuses attention on the space we share and on envisioning the future.

Choreographer/director Emily Johnson (Yup’ik) was honored by the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) in 2011 as a National Artist Fellow in Dance, and Then A Cunning… is an exciting collaboration with 2015 NACF Regional Artist Fellow Maggie Thompson (Fond du Lac Ojibwe).

Then a Cunning Voice… asks: “What do you want for your well-being? For the well-being of your chosen friends and family? For your neighborhood? For your town, city, reserve, tribal nation, world?”

Throughout the night the audience will be guided through a series of richly crafted events—part ritual, part lyrical adventure—created by Johnson in collaboration with performers Tania Isaac and 12-year-old Georgia Lucas. The performance will begin with an opening ceremony and a group walk that arrives at the shores of the East River and unfolds on 4,000 square feet of quilts. Designed by textile artist Maggie Thompson, each quilt has been hand-made by volunteers at community sewing bees around the U.S. and in Taiwan and Australia over the last three years. The quilts serve as audience seating, performance area, resting area, and “home” for the duration.

The night creates much-needed space for connection between people near and far, between youth and elders, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and between urban and rural experiences, with an emphasis on engaged citizenship.

Then A Cunning Voice will continue its tour to Williamstown, MA; San Francisco, Chicago; and Melbourne, Australia. Congratulations to Emily, Maggie, and all the artists involved in this incredible project!

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