Posts Tagged ‘dolphin-dance’

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Dolphins Are Calling

November 8, 2012

We are excited to offer a ringtone of this amazing sound of the greeting of a wild Pacific Spinner dolphin.  During our fundraising campaign to complete our next short film, “Dolphin Dreams”, everyone who contributes at any level will receive a link to download it:  http://dolphin-dance.org/dolphindreams

When your friends hear you answering the call of the dolphins (your phone) they will know how important cetaceans and the oceans are to you.

This is an example of a ‘signature whistle’, a whistle sound associated with a bubble stream.  Scientists believe that these whistles express self-identifying information, much like a human name. Mother and baby dolphins often call and find each other using ‘signature whistles’. Wild dolphins have also been observed to make ‘signature whistles’ towards other dolphins when they meet after a separation or for the first time. As you see in the video, in our experience, dolphins will greet our dancers with their whistles at the beginning of a rehearsal, and frequently stream them again before they leave.  Like saying, “Hello” and “Goodbye”. What a special gift!

Combining our own observations with those of scientists, we are exploring the extent to which we can communicate with dolphins through movement and dance. “Dolphin Dreams” is our next film on this theme and will be a big step towards developing our IMAX feature film, which will not only feature the human-dolphin dance, but many scientific and other insights that underscore the importance of this remarkable inter-species co-choreography.

Please help us spread the word about “Dolphin Dreams” and the Dolphin Dance Project by downloading the dolphin ring tone and letting your friends know that you answer the call of dolphins!

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Introducing “Jalapeño”

September 24, 2012

In this video, we introduce a baby dolphin we call Jalapeño. She and her mother Notcho are both featured dancers in our upcoming film “Dolphin Dreams”.

Jalapeño and her mom, Notcho, are part of a group of Atlantic Spotted dolphins who have been instrumental to the development of my choreographic approach. Although this pod lives far from shore, they initiated a relationship with a few scientists and naturalists more than 30 years ago; and humans and dolphins continue to deepen this relationship today. I have returned for yearly rehearsals with these dolphins, who first inspired the initiation of the Dolphin Dance Project. As you see in the video, both humans and dolphins continue to learn  about how we can dance together.

The triple loop you see in the video is new for Jalapeño this year … it is also rather new for me. You haven’t seen such sustained interactions before partly because of the breath hold training that was required for me to achieve them. Jalapeño, on the other hand, has had to develop the coordination for and interest in sustaining an interaction with a human. Doing three loops together is an example of how, through years of observing each other and working together, we are developing a movement ‘‘language” that humans and dolphins can share to express our mutual interest in playing and making dance together.

Doing multiple loops with humans is clearly not a stereotyped reaction; not all dolphins engage us in this way, even when we are dancing and playing together. Jalapeño had to learn how to do this … most likely from following along with her mother the previous year. This is consistent with the scientific research of Richard Connor and others that have reported on wild dolphins learning specialized behaviors from their mothers. I wonder what new skills Jalapeño will have learned next year?

Jalapeño Dancing With Chisa

Jalapeño dances with Chisa, while momma, Notcho, watches.

Jalapeño’s mother, Notcho, was a youngster, about 4 years old – and with just a few spots – when she first met humans in the 1970s. Decades later, and now a mature mother with many, many spots, she brings her daughter to meet her human friends. It was a great privilege to be introduced to Jalapeño last year… incredibly heartwarming to see her growing up this year … and a joy to imagine how things may progress in the future.

Among the first humans Notcho met was Hardy Jones. A journalist and film-maker so dedicated to cetaceans he is known as ‘the Dolphin Defender’. We are very fortunate to have Hardy as a new advisor to our project. You can read more about Hardy’s discovery of Notcho’s pod – and much more about protecting dolphins – in his new book, “The Voice of the Dolphins”. (We recommend it.)

We endorse the work of Hardy Jones’ BlueVoice and other organizations that endeavor to protect dolphins and whales. Families like Notcho and Jalapeno’s are ripped apart when dolphins are hunted, killed as bycatch in fishing gear, or captured for aquariums. We hope that the attention our films bring to these amazing creatures inspires respect and protection for all wild dolphins and their habitats. To learn more about the threats that dolphins face and how to mitigate them, please visit our Protecting Dolphins page.

Thank you for your support of the Dolphin Dance Project.

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One Dolphin Day On Earth

April 9, 2012

‘One Dolphin Day On Earth’ is our contribution to the One Day On Earth project which gathers videos from around the world, shot on the same day, to chronicle life on our planet.  On this year’s date, 11/11/11, the Dolphin Dance Project was engaged in an extended period of rehearsals with wild Pacific Spinner Dolphins, and so by fortunate coincidence, we can offer a glimpse into a typical morning of their daily lives.

If the video does not play smoothly, please watch on Youtube

The One Day On Earth project reaches out to every country of the world (with help from the UN) to gather video contributions, all of which are made available online in a giant searchable database.   The filmmakers then sift the materials into a powerful feature length portrait of a typical day on earth.  Their first film, made from footage shot on 10/10/10, will premiere at the UN and around the world in every country on Earth Day (April 22) this year.  We met one of the organizers, Cari Ann ShimSham* (at the Dance on Camera festival in NYC), and we were honored she invited us to contribute the video we shot.

Of course, we thought it would be important to use the opportunity to represent the dolphins’ perspective.  Like us, they have rich cognitive and emotional lives expressed through all kinds of relationships with other members of their pod, their close friends, their family and even other species (primarily other dolphins and whales, but occasionally a Homo sapiens or two).  Each dolphin has a point of view as meaningful as any of our own to the story of each day on earth, and as we consider it, we are reminded of all the creatures of the ocean who live their lives in parallel to ours.

For the Pacific Spinner dolphins in our video, the daytime is when they rest.  After an active night of catching fish in deep water miles off shore, they return to shallow coves in the early morning to socialize and then to rest during the middle of the day before rousing each other in the late afternoon for the next foray.

As you see in the video, they can have a lot of energy after filling their bellies all night.  Because dolphins are so well adapted to their environments and catch fish so efficiently, they have plenty of leisure time in their daily activities in addition to finding food and sleeping.  Their social time is very important: they invest in their friendships, workout conflicts, provide safe play and learning time for the young, and all the other things that allow a pod of individuals that are completely dependent on each other to remain close knit.

Leaf Game

This social time is also generally the polite moment for us to ask for a dance.  If someone is interested, we will begin a movement conversation, which builds as an improvised dance.  On this particular day, we were introducing a new dancer, Jillian Rutledge, and the dolphins spent most of their time showing us how to play with leaves.

It is easy to refer to ‘the dolphins’ as if they all resemble each other, but each one is uniquely individual.  Although it can be hard for us to distinguish them visually, their distinct personalities express themselves in different styles of playing with leaves, or degrees of interest in meeting humans. Fortunately, some have distinguishing features that are easy for us to identify underwater.  One dolphin, featured in the video and recognizable by the two white marks on his flank near his dorsal fin, we call ‘Sirius‘.  As you can see in this short portrait, he has a passion for leaves and engaging his friends in leaf play (which even includes the camera person).

By the late morning, it is time for the dolphins to rest, and they settle in for 6 to 8 hours of drifting together (well, it looks like drifting, but they are still going faster than any human can swim), coming up for occasional breaths.  Dolphins sleep with only one half of their brain at a time, so you can see in the video that even while resting, they may say hello to the camera person as they rise to the surface.  Mommas watch their babies, friends keep an eye on each other, the pod stays connected almost silently, as they flow together in beautiful, peaceful harmony.

Joyful and lovely dolphin days like this are under constant threat from our ever expanding impact on the environment and the oceans in particular.  On the one hand, boat traffic and noise and eager tourists can make it difficult for dolphins to get the rest they need.  On the other hand, industrial fishing depletes the fish stocks on which dolphins depend.  The decimation is not just to the fish we eat, since bycatch (fish that are killed but not kept) can amount to 25% of the haul.  What is worse, dolphins are often part of that bycatch, as much in carelessly discarded nets and fishing lines as in working gear.  The World Wildlife Foundation has estimated that as many as 1,000 whales, dolphins, and porpoises die each day in nets and fishing gear.

These are just a few of the many ways that our societies impact the lives of dolphins. To learn more about the threats they face, and what we can do about them, please visit our Protect page.

When we take into consideration our impact on the dolphins, and make even small changes in the choices we make, we can make a positive difference in the life of a dolphin.  Like us, each dolphin has his or her own, unique, irreplaceable experience of each day on earth:  every dolphin life matters.

Posted by Benjamin Harley

Dolphin Caress

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60 Seconds Dance

April 2, 2012

In the fall of 2011, we had the opportunity to do an extended rehearsal with some very talented dancers and free divers.  One of the main goals was to develop techniques and skills for the human dancers to move with each other underwater as gracefully and harmoniously as the dolphins do.  Here is one of our more successful exercises, presented as a 60 second screen dance (an out-of-competition offering in appreciation of the 60secondsdance.dk competition) since one minute is roughly the time we have to work together while we hold a single breath:

We were lucky to be working with a perfectly complimentary ensemble. Kathleen Fisher (previously featured in ‘Trio Corkscrew“) is an impeccably trained professional dancer with many years experience in the water, and a ‘natural’ at free diving. Jillian Rutledge, new to Dolphin Dance, is a trained free diver who is a ‘natural’ at the dance. Both have plenty of experience moving with wild dolphins in the ocean.

Perhaps, given all this experience, the surprising thing is that it took work and rehearsal to become coordinated! The dolphins make underwater coordination look effortless…but for the humans, it requires a real focused effort.

We worked not only on the technical aspects of diving and breath holding, but also on an approach to movement that honors an environment where the weight of our bodies is completely supported. We worked on expanding our peripheral vision and increasing our sensitivity to water flow on our skin, so we could ‘keep track’ of our fellow dancers, stay close to them, stay with them in their movement intentions. We danced on the beach, in the back yard of our rented apartment and of course, in the ocean. We regularly made 1 minute or longer dances that traversed a water column greater than 40 feet deep.

In some ways, it always felt as easeful and sensuous as it appears. But it is also a fact that no matter how warm the water, we were always freezing by the end of a rehearsal session. We were also often exhausted – working on limited oxygen can be profoundly tiring!

Just as important as the skills we honed was the development of our relationships. Working with an intention for ease, grace and harmony it felt very natural to develop a sweet camaraderie. I wonder if it is this way for the dolphins? They are always so gentle and generous with us. It is hard to resist imagining that the dolphins’ personalities may be shaped by their continuous practice of ease, grace and harmony in their every move.

We knew we had accomplished something when one day towards the end of our time together, as we made our long swim back to shore from rehearsing among ourselves in a bay where the dolphins had not appeared, we realized that we felt just as satisfied as if we had been dancing with the dolphins.

Chisa, Kathleen, Jilly

Chisa Hidaka, Kathleen Fisher, Jillian Rutledge; photo by Benjamin Harley

Posted by Chisa Hidaka

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Advocating for Dolphins at the IWC

July 8, 2011

The Dolphin Dance Project is supporting an international effort at the International Whaling Commission – whose annual meeting begins July 11th in Jersey, UK –  to raise awareness that small cetaceans (dolphins and porpoises) deserve the same protections we grant their larger cousins.

Chisa Hidaka, founder of the Dolphin Dance Project, translated and edited a report on the 2010-11 dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan that will be distributed at the IWC. Researched and written by Sakae Hemmi of the Elsa Nature Conservancy, the report challenges the degree to which dolphin hunting can be described as “traditional” and documents the government’s failure to supervise it. The English summary of “The Dolphin Drive Hunt: Appropriate Management?” is posted below; the full report (Japanese) can be found at the Elsa website.  Hardy Jones of Blue Voice, a long-time advocate for dolphins and whales, will distribute the summary at the IWC and give a press conference on the Japanese dolphin hunt.

Representing 89 countries, the IWC has been in the past and could continue to be a powerful force for protecting all cetaceans. It is time that its members recognized that, given all the human activities imposing severe survival pressure on cetaceans (oil and radiation spills, mercury and other pollutants, fishing, boating, sonar, ocean acidification and more) commercial whaling is now environmentally and economically unsustainable. We urge the IWC to shift its focus entirely to conservation. On this year’s IWC agenda is a proposal to create a South Atlantic whale sanctuary – we hope this will be passed and rigorously enforced.

We are proud to support cetacean conservation efforts through our films and other efforts. For more information on protecting dolphins and their habitat, please visit our Protect page and related blog post.

Thank you for your support of the Dolphin Dance Project!

Dolphins are our friends. Let's protect them! photo: Connor Cassidy

The Dolphin Drive Hunt: Appropriate Management?

Observations from the Emergency Extension of the Hunting season of the Dolphin Drive Hunt in Taiji

The following is a summary of the report of Sakae Hemmi of Elsa Nature Conservancy (ENC) investigating the circumstances of the unusual suspension and resumption of the dolphin drive hunts in Taiji this year (2011), as well as ENC’s assessment of the current state of the dolphin drive hunt in Japan. The major findings were as follows:

Irregularities in the dolphin drive hunt season were found to have occurred due to a severe decline (to zero) of the pilot and false killer whale catches in February. The extension of the hunting season through May to attempt to fill the quotas for those species was found to be legal and within the regulation of Wakayama.  Pressure from foreign pro-cetacean activists was likely not a significant contributing factor in the suspension or extension of the hunting season.

Inquiries to the Japan Fisheries Agency and the fisheries section of Wakayama prefecture regarding the regulation of hunt seasons and catch quotas revealed systemic deficiencies in the management of the dolphin drive hunt. Catch quotas were calculated and administered in a manner that systematically responded to the needs of fishermen but ignored the biology and ecology of dolphins, making them irrelevant as a mechanism for supporting the sustainable use/consumption of dolphins as a marine resource. Oversight was lacking, with all catch data reported by fishermen in the absence of independent or scientific verification. Enforcement was weak, with no penalties in place for the mismanagement of quotas. In Futo the quota system failed to prevent or explain the depletion of striped dolphin stocks. A similar trend in Taiji is not unlikely.

Despite previous appeals from ENC to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the Consumer Affairs Agency and other relevant agencies, toxicity information was still missing from the labels of packaged dolphin meat. In some of the samples tested for this investigation, levels of PCBs were 19.2 times the allowable national limit.(See the table attached.)

Glaring inconsistencies in the official position of the Japanese government with the realities of the town of Taiji were found. Records showed that while whaling does date back 400 years, the “traditional” whaling actually ended in 1878 after a whaling disaster that decimated the Taiji whaling fleet. Regular dolphin drive hunts date back only 42 years to 1969 when pilot whales were captured on a large scale for display at the Taiji Whale Museum. Currently only 8.5% of the people in the town  are employed in the fisheries and only about 100 people at the most depend on whaling or whaling-related activities for their livelihood. Historical records and demographic data do not support the contention that “Taiji is a ‘Whaling Town’ that cannot survive without whaling.”

By supporting the dolphin drive hunts, the policies and position of the Japanese government harm not only dolphins but the health and well being of Japanese people, particularly in Taiji. We are hopeful for a change that will bring our nation closer to those of other ‘modern’ countries and with contemporary, global views about the appropriate treatment of wild animals and natural resources.

Table 1. Toxic Substances in Dolphin Meat, Taiji 2011

The Elsa Nature Conservancy was established in 1976 with the aim of global nature and environmental protection across a broad spectrum, from one’s own doorstep to the sky. Elsa always looks for the blind spots of the conservation movement — things others have forgotten about – and has campaigned for the protection of animals that are going extinct unnoticed, such as the Japanese reed bunting (Embriza yessoensis). Furthermore, the organization was campaigning for dolphin and elephant protection before the media took up these issues. It has also continued the debate in opposition to vivisection, as well as criticism of safari parks, zoos, and aquariums. Additionally, Elsa has from the very beginning used recycled paper for its publications, and makes its own stationery and note-pads out of paper with only side used, and from computer printing scraps, in order to save as many trees as possible. Elsa’s basic approach is “Each person practices nature/environment protection in whatever way is personally possible.” While the organization sets forth grand ideals, individual members carry out their own modest but diligent activities.

Elsa Nature Conservancy: Box2, Tsukuba Gakuen Post Office, Tsukuba 305-8691, Japan

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Popping the Cork on an Exciting New Year!

January 6, 2011

We’re ringing in the New Year with a sneak preview of things to come…more human dancers! Here is a lovely moment caught in an exceptional single shot last summer in Bimini by producer Ben Harley:  a sweet young Atlantic Spotted dolphin dives directly towards Kathleen Fisher and me and leads us, with a clear intention, in a basic dolphin ‘figure’ that we call the ‘corkscrew’.

Has the dolphin noticed that we were practicing moving with each other like dolphins?  Does he intend to show us?  Has his interest simply been piqued to join in?  One thing is certain, there is an attempt to engage in a moment of meaningful, shared movement – we are all listening to each other, we are all working hard to be connected.

Kathleen is a beautiful dancer, whom I met years ago, when she lived in NYC, dancing for the Trisha Brown Company. Kathleen has been living in Bimini for several years in order to spend more time with dolphins.  Following my week with Diana Reiss’ research trip last August, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with her as the Dolphin Dance Project begins to explore the possibilities for composing dances with multiple humans.

In 2011, our goal is to develop this work and for several humans to dance with each other like the dolphins dance amongst themselves – fluid groupings of synchronous members gliding and twirling, often in unison, sometimes in tender physical contact. I am  eager to experience the dolphins’ reactions. How will they dance with us if we can show them that humans can be cooperative and harmonious underwater, just like them? Will it mean something to the dolphins? As dancers, we can also explore the emotional impact on us of moving this way together.  We will be asking questions like these and documenting them on video as we develop the material for the feature length dance film and documentary we aspire to make.

As we work on the next phase of our project, we will offer more of these previews … and we will continue to let you know about additional screenings of “Together,” our award-winning debut film. In January, we have a few screenings in NYC:

On January 15 between 4 and 8.30 pm, “Together” will screen during the Japanese American and Japanese in America (JAJA) New Year’s party at the Japanese American Association (JAA) Hall at 15 West 44 Street, 11 floor. Admission is free and you will enjoy many performances and exhibits by Japanese and Japanese American artists living in NYC.

On January 27th at 6 pm, our festival tour continues with a screening of  “Together” on the Big Screen Project, a huge new outdoor screen near 6th Avenue between 29th and 30th Streets in NYC as part of the 39th annual Dance on Camera Festival. The best viewing will be from Bar Basque, which will be hosting the Dance on Camera short film celebration that evening; but “Together” and the other short dance films in the program will be visible from the street, the Eventi Hotel plaza and Foodparc.

If you can’t join us on the 27th, the Big Screen Project will show “Together” and the Dance on Camera shorts program several times following the celebration. For specific dates and times, please check their calendar.

As always – thank you so much for continuing to support us through your Facebook ‘likes,’ Tweets, word-of-mouth and your attendance at our screenings.

Happy New Year!

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Thanks to a stellar 2010, the Dolphin Dance Project is well underway!

December 23, 2010

The Dolphin Dance Project has enjoyed an amazing first year.  We look back on 2010 with deep gratitude, and forward to 2011 with much excitement.  The next phase of our project is just beginning – a feature length dance film and documentary with multiple human and wild dolphin dancers and interviews with leading scientists, the dancers themselves, and more to give viewers a deeper appreciation of these profound and beautiful interactions.

Chisa with a Spotted dolphin...Spotted dolphins will star in "Sharing the Dance"...photo by J. Rutledge

In January 2010, we spent a week shooting our first footage of dolphin and human dancing… and after many months of work, in late October, we released our first film, “Together: Dancing with Spinner Dolphins,” which won ‘Best Experimental Film’ at its world premiere at the Big Apple Film Festival! At two more festivals, the Colorado Environmental Film Festival and the International Underwater Film Festival of Beograd, the film was an audience favorite; it was given extra screenings due to popular demand!

Online, the trailers – in four languages on Vimeo and Youtube – have been viewed over 3000 times already (and all our clips combined have been viewed more than 15,000 times)!  The film itself can be downloaded and watched from our website – a higher quality (HD) version can be ordered as well, and received on a DVD, for a more substantial donation. There is even an option to send a download of the movie as a holiday e-card for Christmas, New Year’s, or whatever occasion you want to celebrate with a gift.

Thank you for helping us spread the word by continuing to forward the link for our trailer to your friends, tweeting it, facebook sharing it, liking it etc ….  or sending the movie itself as a holiday gift.

In 2011, there will be more screenings of “Together”. On January 27th at 6 pm, it will screen at the Big Screen Project, as part of the Dance on Camera Festival. The Big Screen Project is visible from the street between 28th and 29th Streets near 6th Avenue or the FoodParc or Eventi Hotel. The best viewing will be from Bar Basque, which will be hosting the Dance on Camera short film celebration. We will also have screenings at Ocean Inspiration, a celebration of Jacques Cousteau’s 100th birthday, and at Moviehouse (Brooklyn) in March. We are also on the program for the 25th anniversary of Performance Mix in April. We will continue to submit to other festivals – so please stay tuned for screenings in your city and/or country!

For the next phase of our project – the creation of a feature length dance film and documentary ‘Sharing the Dance‘ – we need a substantial amount of financial support.  We are actively seeking major donors – so please let us know of anyone who might be interested in supporting this important project.  They will not only help to create a uniquely beautiful work of inter-species artistic collaboration but also contribute to the conservation of wild dolphins and to a sea change in how humans think of their relationship to the natural world.

Over the next year, we will be publishing clips related to the development of this new work.  You will see clips of more human dancers, introductions to Spotted dolphins, interviews with scientists and dancer/choreographers, and insights that enrich one’s experience of watching human-dolphin interactions.

As this year comes to an end, we want to say ‘Thank You!!’ to everyone who contributed to the Dolphin Dance Project in its first amazing year, to all of our supporters and to the small but dedicated team that made “Together” happen.  And we express our deepest gratitude to all to the dolphins – on camera and off. The more I learn about our cetacean friends, the more I am awed.

Wishing you wonderful holidays…and a healthy and happy new year!

P.S.  As a holiday offering to our supporters, we have published a short children’s story about a lovable and adventurous dolphin who likes to go dancing everywhere.  ‘Can a Dolphin Dance There?’ was written originally for my little dancing friend Ari, but now you can read it online and share it with any little ones you think will like it.  You can also receive a printed copy (dedicated to whomever you would like) as a thank you for donations of $100 or more.