In November 2013, we gave our first live underwater dance performance for an audience of humans and wild dolphins.

“Angle of Refraction” was an experiment to see if we could produce a live event that offers an immersive experience, just as we do for our film audiences. Our intent was also to share with the local community the work we do (without dolphins) to train and prepare for our on-camera improvisations with wild dolphins. It was a kind of ‘thank you’ to the humans who are always so welcoming to us, and who are so attentive to making this location a safe place for the dolphins.

An audience of snorkelers watched “Angle of Refraction” from the surface. For 20 minutes, the dancers (Kathleen Fisher, Chisa Hidaka, Yuki Kusachi, Jillian Rutledge and Kayoko Sawamura) repeatedly dove down 30 feet or more, spiraling, arcing and dancing our way up the water column in duets, trios and finally a quintet.

And there was also a dolphin audience that gathered as the performance progressed, repeatedly passing by as if to check out what was going on. Their unexpected appearance was a delightful surprise. I wonder what they thought of the event?

Johanna, who was in the (human) audience for “Angle of Refraction” observes in the video that dancers were ‘blending in with Nature’ and that through them she was able to feel ‘so connected’. That’s exactly what we hope for our audiences.   Instead of showing humans standing uniquely separate (and above) all other creatures, we embrace the possibility of being an integral part of our ecosystem as we dance in the ocean’s depths.  The angle of refraction refers to the shift in perspective that Johanna experienced and that we wish to convey to all of our audiences.

In 2014, we returned our focus to developing our dance on film.

In our recent films, the camera actively participates in the movement, so the audience also feels the sensuous, fluid motion of an underwater dance. In this example there is an attentiveness to the camera work, just like the ‘physical listening’ the dancers use to discover the spirals and arcs we do to compliment those of our dance partners. This is how we use the ‘magic’ of film to bring the experience of dancing in the ocean, of relaxing the separation between what is human and what is ‘natural’, to distant audiences.

Isadora Duncan said, “You were once wild here. Don’t let them tame you.” And the call to be more ‘wild’ or more ‘natural’ has remained a strong thread in the works of modern and contemporary choreographers in America to this day.  We feel privileged to extend this lineage into the ocean, dancing in the deep.

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