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Lafayette will host a performance of Birdbrain – a five-year dance touring project that follows the migratory journeys of birds and gray whales across the northern and southern hemispheres – and related events Sept. 18-20.

All programs are free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. For more information, call the Williams Center at 610-330-5010.

Project director Jennifer Monson will lead a workshop for families and children in the lobby and patio area of the Williams Center for the Arts 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18. The workshop will focus on bird migration routes and dance movements intended to evoke the movement patterns of ospreys. Monson will talk about her work as a student of osprey migration and as a dance artist who interprets this phenomenon.

Following the talk, Monson will present an open rehearsal. Those in attendance will be invited to follow the dancers as they move through the locations on campus where they will perform the next day.

The Birdbrain performance will be held noon Thursday, Sept. 19, starting at the Williams Center and Oechsle Hall plazas and proceeding southward onto the Quad, the Farinon College Center area, and the south lawn of Pardee, and finishing toward the William E. Simon Center for Economics and Business. It is one of 30 on-site, public presentations in The Osprey Tour, which follows the birds’ route from Maine to Venezuela.

Two class presentations and workshops will be held Friday, Sept. 20, in the Williams Center theater. Students majoring in psychology and neuroscience will participate in a 10 a.m. program hosted by Wendy Hill, William C. ’67 and Pamela H. Rappolt Professor in Neuroscience. A presentation geared toward the public will be held at noon. Each will include commentary from Monson about her work as a choreographer and additional contributions from environmentalist Scott Weidensaul, author of Living on the Wind.

Birdbrain investigates the navigatory habits of birds and gray whales and their biophysical and metaphorical relationship to humans. It stresses the importance of sustaining and preserving habitat for migratory species. The overall project employs tools such as web sites, global positioning systems, and other satellite technologies to incorporate creative linkages between and among artists, scientific researchers, environmentalists, the classroom, and the general public through programs in natural history museums, aquariums, and research institutions.

About 30 Birdbrain performances, both planned and spontaneous, will occur to reach an estimated 3,500 audience members of all ages. Data gathered by scientists tracking the progress of the birds using satellite telemetry will dictate elements of the live performances. For example, the birds may encounter bad weather, be resting or feeding in an urban setting, or crossing water; these possibilities will directly affect the structure of the movement score that is used each day of performance.

“I am fascinated by migration and the links it makes between continents and ecosystems,” says Monson. “The adaptability and flexibility of migrating and local birds that allows them to function together in symbiotic, supportive coexistence; the genetic programming that can provide a five-week-old bristle-thighed curlew with the wherewithal to fly 5,000 miles from the tundra of Alaska to the warm tropical islands of the South Pacific without stopping, unaccompanied by adult birds; and the myriad of songbirds that migrate from northern Canada across northern Europe through the Middle East and down to the tip of Africa — all these journeys captivate me.”

Monson has been pursuing her original approach to experimental dance forms in New York since 1983. She is a frequent recipient of National Endowment for the Arts and New York Foundation for the Arts Choreographer’s Fellowships and was awarded a Bessie for Sender (1997) and for sustained achievement in the dance field. Her work is supported by the Jerome Foundation, The Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, and the Rockefeller MAP fund. She teaches internationally.

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