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.



One comment

  1. Wow!! This is something so unique and intriguing! Hats off to you all for this!

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon your site!


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