Emily Johnson/Catalyst returned to MANCC to develop Then a Cunning Voice and a Night We Spend Gazing at Stars, a multi-year project focused in equal measure on making quilts, performance, storytelling, song, and a night of stargazing. The work relies upon people gathering to voice intentions, witness, work, experience time, rest, and imagine.
While at MANCC, Johnson and collaborators explored three layers of community engagement— visioning sessions, quilting, and performance. The visioning sessions, which were originally created in partnership with the Minneapolis-based Native American Community Development Institute, drew participants from FSU’s American Indian Student Association, Schools of Theatre and Dance, DREAM and the FAMU Dream Defenders Student Organization. Attendees were asked to consider, “What do you want for your well-being? For your family and friends? Your greater community? These intention statements were incorporated into quilt squares at a community sewing bee. Eventually, what was made in Tallahassee will be brought together with those of other communities, to become one 4,000 square foot area, designed by textile artist Maggie Thompson (Ojibwe) and be the site for an all night stargazing. Stargazing was simulated at an informal showing as Johnson and her collaborators performed excerpts of the work for and with the audience during a School of Dance Forum.
In addition to the showing for the School of Dance, Johnson opened her creative practice to four School of Dance students (Jocelyn Perez, Heather Boni, Taylor Ennen and Sydney Roberts) who were invited to serve as scribes during the residency. The students were given access to the rehearsal process to document the project as it developed. Johnson asked the group to translate their interpretations creatively by generating a material artifact of their choice in response. Along with working with the scribes, Johnson also connected with students during a session with Dr.Hannah Schwadron’s Contemporary Perspectives on Dance class.
This residency was supported, in part, by a partnership with McKnight Choreographer Fellowships, funded by The McKnight Foundation and administered by The Cowles Center For Dance & The Performing Arts.