Contact Improvisation with Wild Dolphins

May 17, 2011

An interview with director Chisa Hidaka provides a compelling perspective into the experience of dancing with wild dolphins.  She also eloquently explains the broader mission of the Dolphin Dance Project, to encourage respect for and protection of wild dolphins and their habitat.  (If you would like to know more about the threats to their well-being, please visit our ‘Protect’ page.)

Features Chisa Hidaka (speaker and dancer), Erzsi Palko (dancer) and wild Atlantic Spotted Dolphins and Pacific Spinner Dolphins. Underwater videography by Bryce Groark, Brett LeMaster, Loui Terrier, Benjamin Harley and Chisa Hidaka.  Produced and edited by Benjamin Harley. Video of the interview and sample clip of contact improvisation filmed by Sanford Lewis and provided courtesy of his ‘Contact Improvisation: An Intimate Dance‘ production

This video clip is an example of the kind of context we intend to provide in the feature length documentary we are developing.  Our goal is to give the audience  a profound appreciation for these human-dolphin interactions, exploring their significance with the help of expert scientists and artists, incorporating knowledge of dolphin biology and cognition and how humans communicate with body language and dance.  (If you haven’t seen our first film,’Together: Dancing with Spinner Dolphins,’ visit our website, and if you would like to support future productions of the Dolphin Dance Project, please visit our ‘Donate’ page.)

Chisa was inspired to found the Dolphin Dance Project when she recognized that improvised dance, specifically the practice of contact improvisation, enabled a depth of communication with wild dolphins comparable to what she experienced with human dancers.  Training in this form hones our ability to perceive, interpret and understand the physical communication of others – a skill sometimes called “physical listening” – as well as our technical facility to respond and deepen the conversation. The art of contact improvisation proves to be very precious indeed when it can facilitate mutual understanding between two intelligent species in such a direct and intimate way.

The interview was conducted at Earthdance, originally the communal home of a group of visionary contact improvisers, now a beautiful retreat where the form continues to be developed and taught.  (If you are interested to learn more about this form, there are workshops and classes year round – visit http://www.earthdance.net/ )  Sanford Lewis, who is currently producing a documentary about the dance form, “Contact Improvisation: an Intimate Dance,” filmed the interview. The producer of numerous environmental films, Sanford provides more information about his new work at http://ContactImprovOnScreen.com.

Dolphins communicate through body language as much or more than we do. Whether or not dolphins have a concept of “dance” similar to ours, their intentional, communicative and beautiful movement is exactly what we mean by the term.  Perhaps they understand it better than us, for we are discovering that, “When you approach dolphins with dance, they recognize it as intelligence.”

– Posted by Benjamin Harley

Ben and Chisa Improvise, Video Still: Sanford Lewis



  1. Dear Chisa

    Thank you for sending me “dancing with dolphins”
    I enjoyed seeing them very much. You are amazing!

    With my best,

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