Archive for August, 2013


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!