Archive for November, 2011


Up and Coming

November 14, 2011

After 3 weeks of rehearsal, our summer culminated in an extraordinary week of filming with Atlantic Spotted dolphins and the preeminent underwater filmmakers Howard and Michele Hall.

The first morning, the two adults at the beginning of this clip – BoxTail and FlatTail, as we call them – joined us for an extended underwater session of dance improvisation and play.  In this clip, they make space for a youngster for whom they were caring to have a solo opportunity to connect with the humans.  As we dive down, the calf loops around to meet us and then leads us to the surface, spiraling into the sunlight.

Often, dolphins this young seem too impatient to pay attention to the body language of humans and go slowly enough for such an extended interaction.  But this young one had been watching us move with the adults all morning.  He keeps his eye on us, going as slowly as he can, occasionally wobbling to stay at our slow pace.  We human dancers stayed in unison too – realizing what we had been working all summer to achieve in our rehearsals – humans and dolphins all listening to each other and moving in coordination.

That entire morning session was a beautiful dance where dolphins and humans collaborated as if creating choreography together. Loops and swirls unfurled themselves one after another in front of the camera. Our friends, Christine and Wendy, who had joined us, marveled at the cooperation between humans and dolphins and also between humans working together for the first time.

Working with Howard and Michele was a privilege and a pleasure.  They have over 30 years of experience making underwater films, including IMAX features such as “Into the Deep” and “Coral Reef Adventure” among many others, not to mention seven Emmy awards for their television productions. Their expertise and utter competence meant that we returned with an order of magnitude more amazing clips and stills than we had expected.  Furthermore, Howard was shooting with a RED ONE camera (in a Gates underwater housing) which means that everything was captured in super high definition and stunning rich colors.

Howard also has a special relationship with this particular pod of Atlantic Spotted dolphins.  In the late 1970’s he was one of the first cinematographers to collaborate with Hardy Jones (who continues to be a leading advocate for wild dolphins around the world) to investigate their personalities and behavior.  Since then, more than 30 years of consistent observation and the longest scientific field study of wild dolphins provide us with unprecedented insight into their relationships and the implications of their participation in these human-dolphin dances.  We look forward to sharing these insights in our upcoming feature documentary.

At the same time, we are also editing this summer’s video footage into our second short dance film.  Thanks to Howard’s high definition camera – in full resolution you can see the expression in the eyes of the dancers – the film will be suitable for projection on giant IMAX screens.

Howard Hall films Chisa and Ben with Bluff and a calf

You can learn about the work of Howard and Michele Hall and see some samples from their extensive 4K video library by visiting their website: