Posts Tagged ‘dolphins’

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Dolphin Dance in 3D

November 3, 2013

We are excited to share with you the first ever 3D video of humans and wild dolphins dancing together.

Chisa and Yuki with Hugs and Kisses

Click here to watch this video in 3D on YouTube.
Anaglyph 3D still of Chisa and Yuki with Hugs and Kisses

If you have a pair of good old Red/Cyan 3D glasses, you can watch this video right on your computer (and if you don’t have a pair, we can send one to you).  If you have a 3D TV it will look even better. There are instructions for 3D viewing at the end of this blog post and in the comments under the YouTube video.

Dolphin Dance in 3D: Sample

We make our films to provide an experience where you actually feel what is being exchanged and communicated between the dolphins and the dancers. The 3D effect seems to enhance that feeling substantially by providing the sensation of actually being under the water with them.

We’d love to hear what you think.  Feel free to post a comment below or on our FB page.

If you don’t have 3D glasses, or you just want to compare and contrast, you can watch a high quality 2D version here:

Ultimately, our ambition is to share this experience and its story on giant screens in educational venues like discovery centers, natural history museums – all of these almost exclusively screen 3D films. So we decided to see for ourselves, how it might look … and we built our own custom 3D rig, with two high definition cameras, some optimistic thinking, and a fraction of what we would pay to use a commercial system.

After seeing the results, we are more enthusiastic than ever about seeing this work in giant screen venues. While we build the financial support we will need to do a feature shoot with a commercial system, we are also considering how we can share this 3D experience using our custom rig, perhaps by creating installations using 3D televisions.

We recorded this footage during our rehearsals this summer (see our last blog post). In addition to Hugs and Kisses, we were joined by a mother dolphin – who we refer to as Flower – and her less than one year old baby, Buds. In the close up shot, as Hugs hogs the camera, you can see Buds making a successful loop with Yuki by staying very close to mom.

Hugs Flower Buds and Yuki

Hugs (closest) with Flower and her baby, Buds – all dancing with Yuki.

(To learn more about how dolphin babies learn to dance with humans from their moms, see our previous video – Introducing Jalapeño.)

We want to give a big shout out of thanks to our dancers. We so appreciate their talent and commitment. It is thanks to their extraordinary ability to establish a moving relationship with the dolphins and with each other, that we are able to see a connection between species we might otherwise think impossible. We also want to thank Sophie Ellen for contributing a track from her debut album as our sound track.

We are immensely grateful to our donors who helped to make this experiment possible (and also to the extraordinary high seas skills of Captain Scott).

HOW TO WATCH IN 3D:

You can watch on your computer wearing Red/Cyan glasses, but the quality of the 3D effect and the image will be much better on a proper 3D TV.

To watch on your computer with Red/Cyan glasses (If you don’t have a pair, we can send one to you: donate through our online store):

1) Open the Youtube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrLsn7vIlrY

2) Go to the pop up menu in the ‘cog wheel’ at the lower right hand corner and choose 3D

3) Under ‘Options’ choose ‘Full Color’ and ‘Red/Cyan’.

4) If your internet connection and computer are reasonably fast, you’ll want to view in 1080HD.

5) Be sure to watch in Full Screen. If the image is too small, you won’t see the 3D effect.

To watch on a 3D Television with the specific glasses it requires:

1) If your TV is connected to the Internet, you can use the YouTube app to watch the video. Open the YouTube app on your TV and type in the identifier: UrLsn7vIlrY.

OR

2) Otherwise, you can connect your computer directly to your TV and play the YouTube video in Full Screen. Choose the 3D option ‘side by side’ rather than Red/Cyan.

3) Use the TV remote to choose to convert 2D ‘side by side’ to 3D.

Chisa Yuki Hugs and Kisses - Left and Right images

Left and Right Images of 3D Still

posted by Ben Harley

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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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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