A young woman grabs her snorkel gear and jumps in the ocean not to swim, but to dance. Her partners glide along with her effortlessly; even coming up for air is a graceful act. What makes this dance unusual isn’t simply that it takes place underwater, but that it takes place between two species: Human and dolphin.
Together: Dancing with Spinner Dolphins is a brief (three-and-a-half minutes) documentary by New York-based Japanese choreographer and filmmaker Chisa Hidaka. Beautifully shot in the Pacific Ocean, the film portrays how the language of dance creates “unique works of interspecies art.” The luscious pictures of the ocean with beams of sunlight cutting through the water, Hidaka’s balletic moves with her handsome dance partners, and the chirps of the dolphins against the noble score leave you wishing for more than three minutes and thirty-three seconds.
There is more, at dolphin-dance.org, the website of the Dolphin Dance Project, an organization founded by Hidaka in December of 2009. The purpose of the Dolphin Dance Project is to explore the relationships established between human dancers and wild dolphins and to create films about those encounters. Hidaka hopes the films will increase awareness of the dolphins in their natural habitat and inspire countries – especially her native Japan and her adoptive United States – to protect dolphins and the oceans in which they live.
The project’s first production is already well received. Together was named Best Experimental Film at its premiere Saturday at the Big Apple Film Festival in New York. Also on Saturday, it was part of the Colorado Environmental Film Festival, where it was given an additional screening due to audience demand. The documentary was selected as one of twenty finalists to screen at the Ocean Inspiration Festival honoring the 100th anniversary of Jacques Cousteau next spring.
Hidaka, who also spent ten years running a research laboratory at the Hospital for Special Surgery, continues to be inspired by how similar the playfulness of dolphins is to the improvisation of human dancers. “When we interact with dolphins as our collaborative equals, we suddenly realize in a profound way that we are not the only intelligent and aware species on the planet,” says Hidaka.
For more information on Together: Dancing with Spinner Dolphins and to download the film ($2.50), visit dolphin-dance.org.
Please check out my blog, follow me on Twitter at @SusanHamaker and “like” the New York Japanese Culture Examiner on Facebook.