This month, MANCC welcomes Jennifer Monson, an internationally recognized dancer, choreographer and improviser, as well as educator and curator, and her four collaborators in a 16-day residency to continue work on an ongoing, modular dance performance project called in tow. The invitation to host Monson in residence, our fifth artist to date in this season, continues MANCC’s longstanding record in bringing regionally, nationally and internationally significant artists to campus to explore ideas and develop new work, within the supportive framework of a research university.
Since its inception in 2004, MANCC has hosted over 98 such innovative artists working in dance and performance and their 500 collaborators through its creative residency programs. Based in cities across the U.S., these artists are often working at the forefront of experimentation as they conceive of and research new projects and productions. Whether working within traditional forms and pushing these forms forward into more contemporaneous expressions, or in more contemporary modalities that may draw from seemingly disparate fields of study, these artists’ research at MANCC through studio / laboratory work and engagement with the academic and scholarly community reflects some of the most adventurous explorations in the form(s) taking place today. This approach has earned MANCC a national reputation in serving as an important incubator of experimental ideas and new work.
in tow, the ongoing creation of current Visiting Artist, Jennifer Monson, is emblematic of the caliber of artist that MANCC brings to campus. While contemporary dance is often thought by a general public to be a matter of high kicks, however impressively beautiful to watch, and FOX’s ‘So You Think You can Dance’ entertainment, Monson represents the kind of artist whose work transcends traditional and even progressive dance categories, while still being grounded in their lineages.
As she writes, “These inquisitive artists [the early modern dance pioneers through to the radical artists of the 1960’s Judson era] used a rigorous investigation of the body as a vehicle to re-conceptualize the nature of form and to constantly renegotiate the relationships between art, environment, power and place.”
Currently a professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign as part of a new initiative of the Environmental Council, and also a professor at large at the University of Vermont working in collaboration with dance, environmental studies and libraries faculty, Monson’s artistic career spans thirty years. Her artistic pursuits have continuously explored strategies in choreography, improvisation and collaboration in experimental dance, entering since 2000 into arenas that have been singular in approach in terms of radically reframing the role dance plays in our cultural understandings of nature and wilderness. This direction has led her into an investigation of cultural and scientific understandings of large-scale phenomenon such as animal navigation and migration, geological formations such as aquifers and re-functioned sites including an abandoned reservoir, each of which has informed a major project that has taken place in outdoor settings.
As she writes, “Situating myself in the American tradition of examining the frontier – the border between wilderness and civilization – as a dynamic arena for embodying the contradictions of freedom and power, my dance work navigates the territory between what is wild and what is civilized.”
These pioneering projects, including BIRD BRAIN, a 5-year navigational project (2000 – 2005) that spawned dances informed and created by the process of literally navigating the migrational journeys of animals in time and space – the grey whale, osprey, ducks and geese – have received significant support from a number of national funding entities. These include Creative Capital, MAP Fund, NEA, and Foundation for Contemporary Art, along with a Guggenheim Fellowship. As an outgrowth of BIRD BRAIN, Monson founded iLAND-interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art Nature and Dance in 2004 to support her work as it has returned to the urban environment. iLAND has a fundamental commitment to environmental sustainability as it relates to art and the urban context, and cultivates cross-disciplinary research among artists, environmentalists, scientists, urban designers and other fields. Most recently, her work has been proposing that dance systems themselves are archival bodies for the dynamics of ecosystems. Live Dancing Archive, since 2012, includes an online digital archive and video installation that draws on aspects of BIRD BRAIN.
Monson’s residency at MANCC represents the final creative production phase of in tow, which will exist as both a live performance work and a five episode, web-based TV series. Drawing from two years of research with ten collaborators in creating new hybrid processes and open-ended research that push both artist and audience to expand and reimagine approaches to the experimental, Monson and her collaborators will work in the Black Box Studio and Audio Lab while participating in Entrypoints with FSU students, scholars, and experts. Entrypoints include a tour of the WFSU-TV facility, where Suzanne Smith, Executive Producer and Kim Kelling Engstrom, Director of Content & Community Engagement will reveal the inner workings of television production. Additionally, Monson and her collaborators will offer an Informal Showing of in tow on Friday, December 11 at 2:00pm in the Black Box Studio of Montgomery Hall.