The Bessies are the highest-profile annual dance awards in the United States. Other winners this year included modern-dance legend Paul Taylor and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.
Johnson won in the category Outstanding Production (of a work in the expanding field of new art, dance, and performance practice). Judges gave Johnson the award for her piece entitled "The Thank You Bar." It was seen in New York last year, but it was performed in Minneapolis in 2010, and reviewed by Caroline Palmer for the Star Tribune.
Palmer said "The Thank You Bar," with musical duo Blackfish, "delivers a thoroughly intimate and quietly rewarding interactive performance experience."
Bessie judges said Johnson won "for gently and deftly coaxing an audience into a community, holding them spellbound with stories spoken and unspoken; For seamlessly interweaving Blackfish's music with the magical transformations of paper into ice, and dry leaves into water; For reminding us that we all come from a place unknowable."
Johnson, a native of Alaska, lives and works in the Twin Cities. She was a 2009 McKnight Fellow, a 2011 Native Arts and Culture Fellow and has won other grants and fellowships.