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.