Leaping into our first project last week, we felt a bit like this little baby dolphin, pink-bellied with excitement. Perhaps our ‘leaps’ were not as beautiful or complicated as the leaps of the older, more seasoned dolphins in the pod…but like this little one, we worked very hard and had a great time doing so!
This entry is the first trip report from our recent pilot project. In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting more stories, photos and video…please enjoy them all!
On this first project, we worked with hundreds of wild, Pacific Spinner Dolphins. How can I adequately thank them for their inspiration and likely unwitting, yet often quite willing participation? No matter how often I encounter them, I am always taken by what feels like their incredible generosity. The dolphins seem so accepting of us humans, despite our limitations. I hope that the footage we have shot shows this adequately, and helps to remind us all about the importance of accepting ourselves.
On one memorable morning, our boat was surrounded by a huge pod – we estimated about three hundred dolphins. Even the boat captain, who runs dolphin trips daily, was impressed by their sheer number. The surf was way up that morning; huge turquoise waves topped with whipping white froth crashed onto the ragged coastline. The dolphins seemed to be charged with the same energy as those huge waves, racing down the coast in great numbers. Stenella longiris are called ‘Spinners’ for a reason – and they demonstrated it with great exuberance that morning. We marveled as the dolphins made double, triple and even quadruple spins as they leapt into the air – bellies pink with excitement. Having made a series of multiple spin jumps, one dolphin spy hopped, pushing his face out of the water as if to take a bow. Of course, we clapped and cheered in appreciation. We whooped at the little baby dolphins who flopped head over tail as they leapt. We were all swept up in a moment of celebration.
Eddie was our captain that morning, and he skillfully ran the boat at just the right speed and in just the right position to keep pace with the energetic pod. (This is no small skill…sometimes you see tourist boats really chase the dolphins, and then you understand why we have the US Marine Mammal Protection Act!) In seeming appreciation of Eddie’s sensitivity, the dolphins surrounded the boat, letting us feel that we had been invited to join the dolphin party. Groups of dolphins came to ride the bow, then swam off so another group could visit the boat. At one point, I leaned over the side, singing to my dolphin friends. A mother, baby and auntie swam near the boat whistling their own tune, perhaps in reply. Thank you, dolphins – for this and for so many beautiful moments last week, that gave us the opportunity to feel as if we could join in and feel joyously one with your spirited energy and the beauty of planet Earth!
I am also grateful for my crew who unquestioningly swam into uncharted waters with me last week. Producer and DP Loui Terrier had his keen eye (and camera) on everything from the moment we arrived at JFK airport on the way out of NYC. It was great to have Loui taking the lead on all things above water so that I could stay focused on the proceedings underwater. Thank you, Loui, for your expert collaboration! I’m looking forward to our continued efforts together!
Rick Osburn, a friend I met in Kona last year, stepped in to act as our excellent production coordinator. On the boat, Rick was always ready with a big warm towel – a beautiful Vancouver Olympic one, no less – to make sure I didn’t freeze between takes. Thanks to another friend, Scott Bibeault who generously lent us his truck for the week, Rick took us everywhere we wanted or needed to go….on the road (and on one occasion, even on the boat), Rick was our ‘captain’ and we’re thankful for that.
And it was wonderful to have Ben Harley join the trip at the last minute. Although he has been collaborating in all kinds of ways from early on, he wasn’t planning to come until he realized it would give me the opportunity to see how dolphins would respond to more than one dancer in the water. Without a title, he just lent his expertise where ever needed. His technical abilities were so helpful in managing our digital media and footage. He shot great photos (two right here and more to come!). And yes, he danced with dolphins with me…that was the best part. In the pilot film, you will mostly see me with the dolphins. But the few dances that Ben and I had with the dolphins really showed me the potential for directing a work with multiple dancers. It is already clear in my mind that the future group work will be even more beautiful and meaningful than the lovely pilot film on which we are working now.
Aside from all the practical assistance that Loui, Rick and Ben volunteered, they were also always there with gentle encouragement when things went wrong or I got stressed out (which was much more often than I ever expected!)…and I am ever so grateful for that. And thank you, guys for multiplying the joy when the dolphin dance grooved just as I had dreamed!
I also want to thank our expert underwater cinematographer Bryce Groark of Living Ocean Productions. Friends and fans – you will be blown away at the beautiful images that Bryce caught…sunlight in the water…and of course, dancing with the spirited dolphins.
I send thanks to our boat captains as well. I thank Eddie for our three hundred dolphin morning. And I thank Brett LeMaster and Leina Sato for going far beyond our expectations and really becoming a part of the Dolphin Dance Project. Aside from their involvement at our secret location, Brett and Leina usually run dolphin trips on the Kona coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. If you ever have the chance to visit Kona, don’t miss the opportunity to meet dolphins with Brett and Leina’s Mele Nai’a Dolphin Song. Brett is a champion free diver who still holds the North American record, having dived to over 200 feet on one breath. Leina is the dolphin guide, and both of them have a very special and beautiful connection with the ocean and with dolphins in particular. They can help you encounter dolphins in a way that is sensitive to their needs. Leina is working on a book and DVD about connecting with dolphins – so we had much in common. You might even see us in each other’s work very soon – so please stay tuned! Thank you, Brett and Leina – without your expertise and help, we would never have been able to capture the footage we wanted. I am deeply touched by your incredible support.
I also want to thank Annabel Edwards and Mayumi Marks – mermaids both – who generously offered me shelter in their homes in Hawaii after the shoot. Annabel was a student of Brett’s and she and daughter Jessica are the core of the US women’s free diving team. Over tasty fish tacos (Annabel speared the fish), we enjoyed receiving diving tips and exciting spear fishing stories. Mayumi is a spiritual healer, and she and husband Richard took me to swim with dolphins in Maui after my week of filming. What a lovely respite!
And let me not forget to thank the many of you who tried to keep in touch by email while I was on location…sorry for the delayed responses while I was without internet!
There is much more to tell…more photos to show…and of course, lost of video…and these are coming soon! For now, let me close this entry with a story about our last day of shooting – a session that was actually an extra day made possible thanks to Brett and Leina’s generosity.
Leina had organized a special trip, inviting her mother, Kasumi and her friend Patrice Levallois to join. Wonderfully enlightened and creative souls, Kasumi and Patrice are collaborating on interesting projects, one of which has to do with the power of our intentions. As we readied ourselves for that final boat ride, Kasumi took me aside. Peering up at me, but seeming as though she could look into my heart, she asked me what my intention was for that morning. You must have a single focus, she told me…now, could I tell her what it is? I was caught off guard by her directness, but glad, in a way to have to affirm my intentions, for I had felt they had wandered unexpectedly during the preceding two days of shooting (more about our challenges in upcoming blogs!). I told Kasumi that I wanted to share a dance with the dolphins. She nodded at me, taking the role of a wise teacher, and reminded me that the dolphins and I must be as one. That is what is important, she repeated – becoming One. Yes, I agreed, I need to stay focused on creating harmony…between species, amongst humans, within myself…
Kasumi helped me focus on an incredibly powerful and helpful intention that morning. It seemed to unify the ‘human pod’ and helped us meet the dolphins with just the right attitude of playful collaboration. I have yet to review the footage from that day but it was wonderfully satisfying to end our filming with such a great session…harmonious humans and friendly dolphins!
I’ll stop here for now…but please stay tuned…more stories from the shoot and some sneak preview footage of the first dolphin dance will be on their way very soon!