Bird Brain Dance is a multi-year navigational dance
project by Jennifer Monson that investigates the migratory patterns and
habits of birds and other animals and their biophysical and metaphorical
relationships to humans as fellow travellers.
The project includes five interrelated components:
site-specific public dance presentations
panel discussions with artists and scientists
dance workshops for the general public
a website that tracks the migrating birds and dancers
an educational resource guide (in development with the Walker Art
Center) for school age children.
Bird Brain Dance is specifically designed for accessibility
to passers-by in public spaces, as well as to the dance and environmental
communities. The project aims to have a significant impact on each
site visited, bringing into relief the importance of sustaining and preserving
habitat for migratory species and deepening our dynamic relationship
with nature through the kinetic medium of dance.
The Ducks and Geese Migration, Spring 2004, was
the third of four navigational dance migrations. The dancers navigated
north from Texas, along the Mississippi flyway, through Arkansas, Missouri,
Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.
The website www.birdbraindance.org follows
the journeys of the dancers on each migration through video, photo and
journals as well as displays artwork and writing by students participating
in the educational component of the project.
The first Bird Brain Dance tour in Spring 2001 followed
the Gray Whale Migration up the West Coast from Baja
California Sur, Mexico to Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.
In Fall 2002, The Osprey Migration travelled down the
Eastern Seaboard from Maine through Cuba to Venezuela.
The final migration will take place in Fall 2006 following the Northern
Wheatears Migration from the Arctic, through Europe to West
Bird Brain Dance is a comprehensive project that employs
many of Monson’s strategies as an artist. Its fluid, travelling
format aims to weave a web of connections between diverse communities
of artists, scientists, environmentalists and students that will support
and provoke a dialogue about the symbiotic, contradictory and confrontational
relationships between art, technology, environment, power and place.
‘I am fascinated by migration and the links it makes between
continents and ecosystems. The adaptability and flexibility of migrating
and local birds allows them to function together in symbiotic, supportive
coexistence. These small birds make contact with more parts of the
earth than most of us could ever dream of. I am fascinated by how this
migratory web parallels technological information webs in a material,
delicate, infinitely complex and changing way, and this, in turn, frames
how I approach the body as a communication source.’
According to entomologist Hugh Dingle,
‘…migration is specialized
behavior especially evolved for the displacement of the individual in
Dingle’s statement could just as easily be a definition of dancing. Dancer/improvisers
tune and hone their perceptual navigation skills in order to move through
the moment of creation with acute sensitivity to their surroundings,
cultivating their senses to be prepared for the unpredictable and unexpected.
How do we navigate? Touch, smell, hearing, sight.
Birds use their peripheral vision as dancers do to sense unison and change
What remnants of navigation have been sustained in our human genes? Is
it part of our calculating mathematical linguistic sense, our intuitive sense
of home, of finding comfort, of the need to move, or to be a nomad? How
does the body continue to orient itself and navigate distance and time in response
to the rapidly increasing impositions and transmutations of technology on our
These are some of the questions that this project and it multi-layered components
Dancing is a sifting through, a gleaning
a search for that glint that binds us to a moment of recognition.
Dancing is a visible language of hidden meanings
biting at the heels of what is knowable.
w : www.birdbraindance.org
info at birdbraindance.org
jennifermonson at earthlink.net
Jennifer Monson Dance
140 Second Ave. #501,
NY, NY 10003
Tel./Fax: 212 375-8283
Photographs are by Anja Hitzenberger
Photographs provided by Jennifer Monson / Bird Brain