Moving To A New Design

December 14, 2016

We’re pleased to announce Dolphin Dance Project’s new website and blog.

If you have been following ‘We Dance with Dolphins’ please sign up at our new website, so you can continue to receive alerts about new blog posts.

We are excited to share our newly designed site – you will see new videos and photos on our new homepage, and brand new pages for each of our short films, as well as for each of the talented human and dolphin dancers who work with us. Please have a look.

Thank you for your continued support of the Dolphin Dance Project!


Radiohead’s Daydreaming #RHVignette

August 6, 2016

We bring our dancing to the ocean’s depths. Past dances flow through us, not as memory, exactly, but like currents of time. Our relationship to each other and to the world around us shapes our movements and our expression. We glimpse who and where we really are. We find ourselves perfectly at home as miniscule specks in the great expanse.

Radiohead’s #RHVignette competition inspired us to work with a beautifully textured score, to reach new viewers, and to experiment in a more graphically creative way with the connections between dancing in the studio and underwater.

The competition offers a chance to be promoted by Radiohead on their website, and perhaps to make a video for a future song.  If you like our submission, please share it with friends on Facebook or Twitter.

Below is the alternative, widescreen version:

The film features Kathleen Fisher and Chisa Hidaka, with cinematography by Benjamin Harley.  Produced and Directed by Chisa and Ben, it is set to an instrumental version of ‘Daydeaming’, from Radiohead’s new album ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’.  The film is dedicated to one of our most generous supporters, who is full of so much love she can embrace both Radiohead and Dolphin Dance Project with room to spare.  Special thanks to Jillian Rutledge, Yuki Kusachi, and Kayoko Sawamura for their tremendous contribution to the development of this work.



New Year, New Perspective

December 26, 2015

As a new year rises on the horizon, we are as eager as ever to bring a new perspective to audiences around the world.

This year we explored a point of view that reveals in a new way one fundamental theme of our work.  Viewed from the air, our meetings with the dolphins appear in their true context. In the vastness of the ocean, we are small parts of a vast system on which we all depend.

Help us share this new perspective! With your support, we can continue to use this cutting edge technology and integrate it into our productions.

Looking back to 2015, we are grateful for what we accomplished this year thanks to the generous support of donors and the contributions of time and talent from all our collaborators (dolphin and human).

  • “Amongst” – the first short film of our 3D Trilogy “So Close 3D” -screened at several festivals and events including Topanga Film Festival, LA 3D Movie Festival, and at the Dance Films Association.
  • The MAP fund invited us to submit a second round application for a 3D immersive installation and would support up to one third of its development costs over the next 2 years.
  • We continued giving talks, including a presentation at Lawrence University where we also taught classes on dance improvisation and filmmaking.

Above all we are grateful for the time we had in the ocean, continuing to investigate the possibilities of humans and wild dolphins dancing together underwater. This year’s fall rehearsal was challenging. Warming oceans brought in big waves and murky water. We were saddened to see widespread coral bleaching, the impact of our massive human civilization reaching distant shores. Still, it was wonderful to have all of our current dancers together – from Japan, Canada and Bimini.  The Spinner dolphins danced with us in ways we had never previously imagined or experienced. It was a new level of aesthetic engagement – an exciting challenge for us to keep working!

Our 2016 calendar already has some exciting events:

The new year promises to be very busy: applying for grants, talking to production partners, expanding our collaborators, incorporating new technologies, making films, and deepening our underwater practice.  Most importantly, we will continue to work towards inspiring more audiences with new perspectives as we pursue our ambition to share these extraordinary relationships between dancers and wild dolphins through giant screen productions and more intimate, immersive installations.

Thank you to so many of you who support our work – your generous contributions matter so much, and so do all your efforts to spread the word by sharing videos and telling your friends.




Angle of Refraction

November 10, 2015

In November 2013, we gave our first live underwater dance performance for an audience of humans and wild dolphins.

“Angle of Refraction” was an experiment to see if we could produce a live event that offers an immersive experience, just as we do for our film audiences. Our intent was also to share with the local community the work we do (without dolphins) to train and prepare for our on-camera improvisations with wild dolphins. It was a kind of ‘thank you’ to the humans who are always so welcoming to us, and who are so attentive to making this location a safe place for the dolphins.

An audience of snorkelers watched “Angle of Refraction” from the surface. For 20 minutes, the dancers (Kathleen Fisher, Chisa Hidaka, Yuki Kusachi, Jillian Rutledge and Kayoko Sawamura) repeatedly dove down 30 feet or more, spiraling, arcing and dancing our way up the water column in duets, trios and finally a quintet.

And there was also a dolphin audience that gathered as the performance progressed, repeatedly passing by as if to check out what was going on. Their unexpected appearance was a delightful surprise. I wonder what they thought of the event?

Johanna, who was in the (human) audience for “Angle of Refraction” observes in the video that dancers were ‘blending in with Nature’ and that through them she was able to feel ‘so connected’. That’s exactly what we hope for our audiences.   Instead of showing humans standing uniquely separate (and above) all other creatures, we embrace the possibility of being an integral part of our ecosystem as we dance in the ocean’s depths.  The angle of refraction refers to the shift in perspective that Johanna experienced and that we wish to convey to all of our audiences.

In 2014, we returned our focus to developing our dance on film.

In our recent films, the camera actively participates in the movement, so the audience also feels the sensuous, fluid motion of an underwater dance. In this example there is an attentiveness to the camera work, just like the ‘physical listening’ the dancers use to discover the spirals and arcs we do to compliment those of our dance partners. This is how we use the ‘magic’ of film to bring the experience of dancing in the ocean, of relaxing the separation between what is human and what is ‘natural’, to distant audiences.

Isadora Duncan said, “You were once wild here. Don’t let them tame you.” And the call to be more ‘wild’ or more ‘natural’ has remained a strong thread in the works of modern and contemporary choreographers in America to this day.  We feel privileged to extend this lineage into the ocean, dancing in the deep.


Amongst 3D

July 17, 2015


See “Amongst”

at American Dance Festival, Movies by Movers

Friday, July 8 at 7 pm, The Shed Jazz Club, Durham, NC


at the Triskelion Arts Dance Film Feastival

Thursday, July 14, at 7 pm, Triskelion Arts, Brooklyn, NY

“Amongst” draws the audience ever deeper into the world of wild dolphins and features extreme performances of grace in the deep waters of the open ocean by talented dolphin dancers Yuki Kusachi and Kayoko Sawamura.  Set to Po-Chun Wang’s mashup of gamelan and spoken word (excerpted from “Rice Combo“), “Amongst” delivers an immersive experience of a radically different environment and culture. Watching in 3D and surrounded by wild dolphins chattering, squawking, swirling and dancing in ways familiar and unfamiliar, you will discover the glorious disorientation of losing yourself in the dolphins’ world.

This short 3D film premiered as part of our program, “So Close 3D: Dance with Wild Dolphins” in December 2014 in NYC, and was awarded “Best Live Action Film in 3D Theater Session” at the Stereoscopic Displays and Applications XXVII conference in San Francisco in February, 2016. “Amongst” has also screened at the Topanga Film FestivalLA 3D Movie FestDance Films Association Annual Holiday Party, BCN Sports Film Festival, and the New York Japan Cinefest.

The Dolphin Dance Project is looking for partners to help us bring “Amongst” and the entire “So Close 3D: Dance with Wild Dolphins” program of live dance, 2D and 3D films to communities around the United States and beyond.  Please let us know if you are interested, so we can bring you “as close as being there”.


So Close 3D: Dance with Wild Dolphins

October 21, 2014

Come See Dolphin Dance in 3D

on The Big Screen in NYC!

Sunday, December 7th at noon and 2pm

Tickets HERE

We are excited to announce a unique opportunity to see our most recent 3D work projected in a big screen theater!

The program will include a pre-release preview of  Dolphin Dreams* shot by Emmy Award-winning underwater cinematographer Howard Hall with an original score by Grammy Award-winning composer and cellist David Darling.

We will also preview several short 3D films featuring our full cast of beautiful dolphin dancers: Kathleen Fisher, Yuki Kusachi, Jillian Rutledge and Kayoko Sawamura.

Several talented members of our ‘pod’ of NYC dancers – Carly Czach, Elise Knudson and Tim O’Donnell – will grace the stage for a live performance amongst virtual dolphins.

Let’s fill the house! One of the most valuable things you can do to support us right now is to share this event with anyone you think might enjoy the show.

The one hour program will be presented twice:


Sunday, December 7th
Screenings at NOON and 2 pm

SVA Theater
333 West 23rd Street

TICKETS are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. FREE for children under 16 when reserved in advance.

The Dolphin Dance Project works only with wild dolphins in the open ocean.  We follow a strict code of etiquette, and we never feed, train, or coerce dolphins in any way.  The dolphins’ paricipation is motivated only by curiosity and the joy of interacting with another intelligent species – just like the human dancers. Since dancing underwater is dangerous, the human dancers are highly trained.

*It’s not too late to support the finishing of “Dolphin Dreams”. Even if you can’t join us at this screening, for a donation of $50 or more, you will receive a DVD of the film, when it is completed. Donations can be made at checkout when you purchase your ticket, or at our website, where you can also see a full list of perks. Thank you!

Co-produced with Dance Films Association, with support from Artist as Citizen.



So Close 3D is made possible in part with public funds from the Fund for Creative Communities, supported by New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, as well as funds from the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. LMCC.net



July 18, 2014

Dolphins move so gracefully with each other. To match that in some way so humans can join their dance – that has always been the vision of the Dolphin Dance Project.

“Surge” is a single take, a 60-second screen dance that highlights the internal experience of dancing underwater as we hold our breath.  One minute is the average length of our active dives.



Performed by Chisa Hidaka and Jillian Rutledge
Underwater Videography by Benjamin Harley
Music by Loren Dempster

Premieres at Topanga Film Festival:  July 18th, 2014


Filmmaker Notes:

Dance improvisation skills are essential to the collaborative work we do with each other and with wild dolphins, but the first requirement for dancing underwater is to master the techniques for being comfortable in the deep ocean while holding your breath, which is an art in itself: the art of free diving.  Jillian Rutledge, featured in this film, embodies this technique so beautifully.  She is an instructor with Apnea Academy, and her insight and sensitivity have enhanced the capabilities of our entire team of dolphin dancers.

“Surge” is a special film because it showcases how much the movement of the camera can contribute to the viewer’s experience of ‘participating in the dance just by watching’; it co-creates the choreography.  It was this video clip, shot in 2012, through which we discovered the approach we continue to develop.  The camera is a dancer, and the choreography is fully integrated into the way it shoots this duet, which offers a very immediate experience of what it is like down there – participating in the surge of forces so much bigger than ourselves – weightless, effortlessly revolving and spiraling, tuning to the movements of another.

When I observe wild dolphins, I am still always inspired. To me, what makes their interactions so dance-like is how hydrodynamic and communicative they are. So we want to embody a dance form that is hydrodynamic and communicative, too. In our training and rehearsals, we are always looking for ways to work with (rather than against) the supportiveness and resistance we find at different depths of the ocean, and fine tuning our capability to ‘listen’ to and interact with each other through our bodies and movements and eye contact. It isn’t easy: we are always exhausted and freezing by the end of our rehearsal sessions. But we also feel a kind of bliss, having focused so intently on our harmonious connections to the ocean and to each other.

It is our continued hope that our work will inspire increased protection and respect for all dolphins and their habitats.  With thanks to the dolphins, our fellow dancers, and everyone who so generously supports our work!

Visit our website to learn more about the Dolphin Dance Project, and see more of our videos on our YouTube channel.



Dolphin Dance in 3D

November 3, 2013

We are excited to share with you the first ever 3D video of humans and wild dolphins dancing together.

Chisa and Yuki with Hugs and Kisses

Click here to watch this video in 3D on YouTube.
Anaglyph 3D still of Chisa and Yuki with Hugs and Kisses

If you have a pair of good old Red/Cyan 3D glasses, you can watch this video right on your computer (and if you don’t have a pair, we can send one to you).  If you have a 3D TV it will look even better. There are instructions for 3D viewing at the end of this blog post and in the comments under the YouTube video.

Dolphin Dance in 3D: Sample

We make our films to provide an experience where you actually feel what is being exchanged and communicated between the dolphins and the dancers. The 3D effect seems to enhance that feeling substantially by providing the sensation of actually being under the water with them.

We’d love to hear what you think.  Feel free to post a comment below or on our FB page.

If you don’t have 3D glasses, or you just want to compare and contrast, you can watch a high quality 2D version here:

Ultimately, our ambition is to share this experience and its story on giant screens in educational venues like discovery centers, natural history museums – all of these almost exclusively screen 3D films. So we decided to see for ourselves, how it might look … and we built our own custom 3D rig, with two high definition cameras, some optimistic thinking, and a fraction of what we would pay to use a commercial system.

After seeing the results, we are more enthusiastic than ever about seeing this work in giant screen venues. While we build the financial support we will need to do a feature shoot with a commercial system, we are also considering how we can share this 3D experience using our custom rig, perhaps by creating installations using 3D televisions.

We recorded this footage during our rehearsals this summer (see our last blog post). In addition to Hugs and Kisses, we were joined by a mother dolphin – who we refer to as Flower – and her less than one year old baby, Buds. In the close up shot, as Hugs hogs the camera, you can see Buds making a successful loop with Yuki by staying very close to mom.

Hugs Flower Buds and Yuki

Hugs (closest) with Flower and her baby, Buds – all dancing with Yuki.

(To learn more about how dolphin babies learn to dance with humans from their moms, see our previous video – Introducing Jalapeño.)

We want to give a big shout out of thanks to our dancers. We so appreciate their talent and commitment. It is thanks to their extraordinary ability to establish a moving relationship with the dolphins and with each other, that we are able to see a connection between species we might otherwise think impossible. We also want to thank Sophie Ellen for contributing a track from her debut album as our sound track.

We are immensely grateful to our donors who helped to make this experiment possible (and also to the extraordinary high seas skills of Captain Scott).


You can watch on your computer wearing Red/Cyan glasses, but the quality of the 3D effect and the image will be much better on a proper 3D TV.

To watch on your computer with Red/Cyan glasses (If you don’t have a pair, we can send one to you: donate through our online store):

1) Open the Youtube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrLsn7vIlrY

2) Go to the pop up menu in the ‘cog wheel’ at the lower right hand corner and choose 3D

3) Under ‘Options’ choose ‘Full Color’ and ‘Red/Cyan’.

4) If your internet connection and computer are reasonably fast, you’ll want to view in 1080HD.

5) Be sure to watch in Full Screen. If the image is too small, you won’t see the 3D effect.

To watch on a 3D Television with the specific glasses it requires:

1) If your TV is connected to the Internet, you can use the YouTube app to watch the video. Open the YouTube app on your TV and type in the identifier: UrLsn7vIlrY.


2) Otherwise, you can connect your computer directly to your TV and play the YouTube video in Full Screen. Choose the 3D option ‘side by side’ rather than Red/Cyan.

3) Use the TV remote to choose to convert 2D ‘side by side’ to 3D.

Chisa Yuki Hugs and Kisses - Left and Right images

Left and Right Images of 3D Still

posted by Ben Harley


Human Dolphin Dance Continues To Develop

August 21, 2013

For almost the entirety of the first of two weeks on the ocean, the East wind blew, the rain fell, our ship pitched and rolled on the waves. And where were the dolphins? We saw dolphins quite a bit less often than we usually do. Then, to our great relief, during the second week, the sea became calm. We even had a day when the surface was like glass – with a silvery sheen from the overcast sky. In the lovely, diffuse light the ‘dolphin grounds’ appeared magical; and yes – we even made new dolphin friends. Even so, on this trip, we were reminded that when we work in nature much is out of our control.

During our second week, we met a couple of delightful young Spotted dolphins whom we named ‘Hugs’ and ‘Kisses’. They had come for a bow ride with adult dolphins – their mothers or perhaps babysitters. But by the time we entered the water, the chaperones were out of our visual range, and although the youngsters were only 4 or 5 years old, it seemed the adult dolphins willingly trusted them to play with us. On that first meeting, we danced until twilight. We finally left the water when it became too dark for us to see. Young dolphins like Hugs and Kisses are at the age when developing alliances – best friendships – is important. So it wasn’t surprising that we saw these two together several days in a row. Eventually, they danced and twirled with us in such close proximity, we felt they were offering us hugs and kisses!

Yuki, Kayoko, Chisa and Hugs and Kisses

From left to right: Kayoko Sawamura, Yuki Kusachi and Chisa Hidaka (obscured) with Hugs and Kisses. Photo by Ben Harley.

We were very happy to make new dolphin friends and happy also that our human ‘pod’ was able to rise to the challenge with grace underwater and above. We were pleased to see how all our rehearsal training – which we do in placid, tranquil bays – paid off in the chop and strong current of the open ocean. Even amid the challenges, we were able to hold our breath, keep our form, flow with the dance – so we could enjoy our new dolphin friends.

We were a ‘pod’ of human dancers: Jilly, Kathleen, Yuki, Kayoko – along with Ben and me. We’re so grateful to the talented group of dancers who are volunteering their time, and giving so much of their passion, energy and talent to developing the human-dolphin dance with us. Jilly is from Canada, Kathleen from Bimini, and Kayoko and Yuki from Japan. The last time this group worked together was in December, as seen in this video clip. We so appreciate the opportunity to continue our ongoing rehearsal and development process with this international cast.

Rehearsal dance featuring (in order of appearance): Chisa Hidaka, Kathleen Fisher, Kayoko Sawamura, Yuki Kusachi and Jillian Rutledge. Videography by Benjamin Harley.  Music by Loren Kiyoshi Dempster.

Our main work over the last few months has been to complete our next film, “Dolphin Dreams‘”. We captured one last critical clip on the most recent trip, so now we can finish editing and soon hand over the film to David Darling to create the original score. At the same time, we have also been busy keeping up with our outreach and education efforts.

In April, we made a presentation to the Dance MFA program at Smith College. Our presentations at universities, schools and other venues is an important part of the outreach/education component of our work. We really enjoyed our presentation to the advanced dance students such at Smith, and to colleagues such as Chris Aiken, the program director who extended us the invitation, as they gave us the opportunity not only to educate, but to participate in a high level of discourse about the artistic and other implications of making dance with non-human collaborators.

In a concert in NYC in May, Ben and I had the opportunity to experiment with presenting live dance (a duet we performed) with our underwater video footage of dolphins. We are grateful to the NYC Chinese Cultural Council for having given us the opportunity to present our work in this way. And we were pleased by how using live dance allowed us to show the connections between the human dance (contact improvisation) and the movement of dolphins and to demonstrate how the human-dolphin dance develops from there. We were also very pleased to share the evening with talented emerging choreographers Kevin Ho, Ching-I Chang and Nico Li.

Chisa  and Ben at NYCCC

Chisa Hidaka and Benjamin Harley with video of wild Pacific Spinner dolphins at NYCCC. Photo by Takaaki Ando.

Following our recent presentations and our challenging, but fruitful recent trip, we are more inspired than ever to share our stories of our dolphin partners and the dances we are able to create together. Join our mailing list, and you can stay tuned for our next film, and many new clips to come!


Video Portrait of the Dolphin Dance Project for Focus Forward Films

January 19, 2013

The Dolphin Dance Project believes that one of the most powerful ways to transform how our global civilization relates to its natural environment and treats the other creatures with whom we share the planet is to challenge the common assumption that we are separate from the rest of nature.  Furthermore, we believe that the unique experience of mutual understanding and creative collaboration with wild dolphins that we offer through our films is a particularly compelling and innovative catalyst.

For this reason, we recently submitted a brief documentary profile of our work to the Focus Forward film competition, a Vimeo-sponsored initiative to promote the people and ideas that promise a “quantum leap to human progress through innovation”.

“All of a sudden, you realize there are these persons in the ocean.”  Founder and choreographer Chisa Hidaka describes how amazing it is that wild dolphins are able to collaborate in these improvised dances, conversing with us through movement and showing us their tremendous intellectual capacities, curiosity, and generosity.  She also explains that just by watching, the audience is able to experience a profound moment of intimacy and mutual understanding with another species.  As one student relates, after attending one of our lecture presentations, “our traditional perceptions of the dolphin-human divide are just completely … gone.”

Although the film was not selected as a finalist, and will not be one of the films that is being screened this week at the Sundance Film Festival, we are confident that this work is “making a difference to help sow the seeds for a brighter tomorrow.”

The documentary uses excerpts from our upcoming short film, “Dolphin Dreams”.  To learn more about the project, our past and future films, please visit http://dolphin-dance.org.