The Insect Dances / Il Miglior Fabbro

The insect dances of 1978 and 1979 are a tribute to the entomologist Jean Henri Fabre (1823-1915) who maintained a laboratory in the desert region of Provençe, France. Above, Margaret Fisher, Tokyo American center, 1984. Photo © Satoko Miyado.   more photos...


About the work

Il Miglior Fabbro (The Better Maker) (1978) is an intimate thirty-minute dance theater work for four performers, multiple projection screens, and walkie-talkies. The sound score consists of the punk rock song Feromoni (Pheromones) with music by Bob Hughes, lyrics by Margaret Fisher. The work premiered at the San Francisco International Theater Festival.

The work is based on the writings of the French entomologist Jean Henri Fabre, whose major writings between 1879 and 1907 are published as a ten-volume set under the title Souvenirs entomologiques. The English translations by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos, have placed Fabre's scientific observations within the libraries of precocious children and young adults. Charles Darwin maintained a correspondence with Fabre.

This is the second in the Italian series of performance works, Le Posizioni Veneziane. Companion pieces include Gli Insetti (1980) and Ti Sistemo Io (1983). Gli Insetti was invited to the Venice Biennale in 1980 by the San Francisco Institute of Italian Culture. A fourth work based on the tarantella was realized as a video short The Spider and The Fly.

This work and its companion pieces were unique to the field of interdisciplinary performance art. They were showcased at a diversity of art festivals such as The Ideas Festival (Telluride, Colorado), The San Francisco International Theatre Festival, Mue Danse Festival (Montreal, Canada), and CRT (Center for Research in Theater, Milan, Italy). Detailed information can be downloaded here:


  • Choreography: Margaret Fisher
  • Sound Design: Robert Hughes

Links to Posters


  • “Symphony director, Eastbay dancer team in performance art,”  Janice Ross, Oakland Tribune, July 11, 1980.   “Symphony director Robert Hughes and Eastbay dancer Margaret Fisher are currently in the midst of a series of performances of their two newest theater pieces, ‘Il Miglior Fabbro’ and ‘The True and False Occult.’ In a piece like ‘The True and False Occult,’ the action is episodic and images are random, but into something special....The effect is magical. ‘Il Miglior Fabbro,’ the second work on the program is everything ‘The True and False Occult’ is not. It opens with an assault on the senses, as loud, blaring music, harsh flourescent lights and the repeated crashings of a falling axxe stun the audience.”

  • “Techno-craft,”  Allen Robertson, The Soho News, August 25, 1981 (link).   “Fisher never rushes anything; she uses time in a quiet, almost languid manner.... Her musical sense is so acute that movement and music become a single, indivisible entity. This is a true blending of media.... Integrating movement, multimedia technology, music and her own poetry, Margaret Fisher’s brand of performance art is a seamless, cohesive whole.”


  • Feromoni by Bob Hughes
  • Bob Hughes on synthesizer and vocals, Margaret Fisher, vocals

  • Glenn Frendel on electric guitar; Jeremy Merrill on French horns

  • Jeff Neighbor on electric bass; Floyd Cooley on tuba; Ron Rhoades on drums

  • Herbert’s Babies, original version for French horn and bass: available on

  • Second Evening Art HCE1977

Performance History

  • Preview: MAFISHCO Studios, Emeryville, CA, August, 1979
  • Preview: Arts & Sciences Festival, Telluride, CO, September 15, 1979
  • San Francisco International Theatre Festival, CA, July 2-12, 1980
  • Centro di ricerca per il teatro, Milan, Italy, March 4-8, 1981
  • Out-of-Towners series, Dance Theatre Workshop, New York, August, 1981
  • American Theatre Lab, Dance Theatre Workshop, New York, August, 1982
  • American Inroads, New Performance Gallery, San Francisco, CA, March, 1983
  • Tokyo American Center, Tokyo, Japan, February, 1984.
  • “Mutating Dance.” Mue Danse Festival, Montreal, Canada, March 10-12, 1989.
Rehearsal, MAFISHCO studios, Emeryville, 1980.    Photo: Alzek Misheff.