Weaving Waters - Model 2023

Tidal Serenade: Embracing Water's Dance 3:00

Geeks with Beaks led by Sarah Jane Pell for WeavingWaters@Yarun, Woorim Beach, Bribie Island 6 Dec

Sarah Jane Pell with Pasha Clothier, Sue Finley, Tamsin Kerr, Trudy Lane, Kim Newell, Bronwyn Patrickson, Sandy Sur, Te Ruitini Sheridon, Vicki Smith, Rebecca Thompson, Tracey Willms Dean.

Sarah Jane Pell orchestrated a 30-minute sunrise activity on the beach, employing immersive visualization tools to set the stage, and capture a Tidal Serenade by the "Geeks with Beaks" as Pasha Clothier called it. Originally, Aunty Sharron Mirii Bell had envisioned capturing our rendition of her contemporary gudyiwagagirri-song and dance journey, STOMP, a profound physical grounding and connection with the sacred earth, for a virtual reality experience. Regrettably, her demanding schedule didn't permit this endeavor. Nevertheless, we were determined to weave the complexity and beauty of the myriad of water behaviors and insights we had observed and absorbed throughout the week. The water play activities had effectively primed the group for an ensuing impromptu dance and theatrical workshop. Through these activities, we fostered physical awareness, trust, communication prowess, creativity, emotional expression, team resilience, and a shared bond born from our collective experiences. Participants joyfully expressed how they felt more connected, not only to the water, but also to themselves and one another. This newfound camaraderie translated into a heightened comfort level, both in working and playing together, and in embracing the capabilities of the 360-degree camera. Furthermore, by embracing the fluidity of the moment and placing our trust in the guidance we had received, we were able to infuse spontaneity into our creative endeavors, ultimately enhancing the authenticity and quality of our co-created performances. Our dawn rituals emerging included participating in the ethereal dawn chorus shorebird recordings, as well as the serene back-to-the-body and yoga sessions led by Rebecca Thompson on Woorim beach. These rituals mirrored our sense of readiness and heightened our connection to the natural world. In the evenings, I had a pattern of unfetted experimentation with the electronics and cameras, and dress-ups. When a seemingly random concept revealed even a glimmer of aesthetic, poetic, or conceptual promise, I honed in on it, eager to amplify its potential for storytelling and contribution to our evolving narrative. I wasn't precious. Instead I was priming adults for playful exchange. Many of this cohort had established working relationships and long-standing friendships, and they needed a pattern interrupt to step outside of their normal behaviours too. My open approach fostered an environment where others felt encouraged to offer suggestions and interpretations within our creative framework, and once unleashed, would offer their performance energies to it generously. Together, we harnessed the wellspring of inspiration drawn from the flyway, the enchanting world of shorebirds, and the invaluable insights from the wetlands conservation programs outlined in the symposium. Our journey was further enriched by the splendid displays and interactions with a remarkable eastern bush curlew family that shared our retreat center.

Raw stills from Tidal Serenade: Embracing Water's Dance, 2023 (8K 03:00). Director/Producer: Sarah Jane Pell. Starring: Pasha Clothier, Sue Finley, Tamsin Kerr, Trudy Lane, Kim Newell, Bronwyn Patrickson, Sarah Jane Pell, Sandy Sur, Te Ruitini Sheridon, Vicki Smith, Rebecca Thompson, and Tracey Willms Dean. Biomimicry performance (aka Geeks with Beaks) to model shorebirds facilitated by Pell as part of WeavingWaters @Yarun SciArt Water Residency by TreeCreate on Bribie Island, Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi Country of the Joondoburri Nov/Dec 2023.
Gesture 1: Courtship display

Sandy creates a melodic drumming sound for the dancers to remind us that courtship often begins with vocalizations. Male curlews emit a series of distinctive calls, which include melodic, bubbling, and trilling sounds. These vocalizations serve to establish territory and signal their presence to potential mates. On the ground, male curlews may engage in a dance-like display. They puff up their plumage, extend their wings, and strut around in front of the female. The male's long bill is often prominently displayed during this dance. Sometimes the males fight in the air. Courtship may also involve the male selecting a suitable nesting site and inviting the female to inspect it. The female's approval of the nest site is an important step in the courtship process.

Gesture 2: Mutual Preening

Once a pair forms, mutual preening is common. The male and female will groom each other's feathers, which helps to strengthen the bond between them.

Gesture 3: Feeding behaviours

Tamsin shares how shorebirds are known for their feeding behaviors, which include probing, pecking, stratching and picking food from the ground or shallow water. They have long bills that help them reach into sand, mud, or water to extract prey like insects, crustaceans, and small mollusks. The timing from the scratch to the peck, is very important. Some species, like sandpipers, engage in "foot trembling" where they rhythmically vibrate one leg while standing in shallow water or mud. This motion helps disturb prey like small invertebrates buried in the substrate. Others use their legs to probe or peck at the substrate to uncover hidden food.

Gesture 4: Leg behaviours

Tamsin also delights that some shorebirds, like sandpipers, are known for their quick running and scuttling movements along the shoreline as they chase and capture prey. In between a scuttle, they display graceful, fine balancing acts. Many shorebirds are known for their remarkable ability to balance on one leg for extended periods. This behavior conserves energy, as lifting one leg reduces heat loss through their unfeathered legs. The raised leg is often tucked close to their bodies. Shorebirds may also engage in various leg-related behaviors during social interactions. These can include leg waving, where one bird lifts its leg and waves it in a specific manner as a form of communication or assertion during disputes.

Gesture 5: Broken-wing display

Sue shares how when a shorebird detects a potential threat approaching its nest or young chicks, it will abruptly and dramatically feign injury or distress. Shorebirds are known for exhibiting this comical behavior called the "broken-wing display." The bird will start limping, fluttering its wings as if they are damaged, and emitting distress calls. After successfully luring the threat away from its nest, the shorebird will often make a swift recovery, revealing that its injury was merely a ruse. The broken-wing display showcases the intelligence and adaptability of these birds in the face of potential danger.

Gesture 6: Cooperative roosting

Vicki shares that some specieis of shorebirds exhibit a behavior known as "cooperative roosting." During this behavior, these birds will gather in tight, circular formations, often on beaches. Roosting in a circle allows the birds to watch for predators from all directions, increasing their overall safety. By roosting closely together, the birds can reduce energy expenditure, as maintaining body temperature requires less energy when they're in a group. Cooperative roosting also allows for social interaction among the birds, potentially strengthening social bonds. It's important to note that not all shorebirds engage in cooperative roosting, and the behavior can vary between species. Additionally, these roosting circles can be quite dynamic, with birds constantly moving in and out as they adjust their positions within the group.

Gesture 7: Wading

Many shorebirds are waders, meaning they frequently stand in shallow water while foraging for food. They use their long legs to wade through wetlands, estuaries, and shorelines. This behavior also helps them regulate their body temperature, especially in hot weather. By standing in wet areas, they can dissipate heat through their legs, preventing overheating.

Pell's participation in WeavingWaters@Yarun was partly supported by the Australian Government through an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant. The Water Play workshop project meets the Monash University Faculty of Information Technology targets for improving Life Underwater, and Healthy Communities.

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