Text © Lila Moore, 2013
Dance on Screen with Dolphins
The Formal Aspect
In the PhD thesis entitled 'Dance on Screen', "I approach choreography in screen terms thereby referring to the expression of movement in the broader sense, including performance, body language, the motion of objects and natural events, and rhythms and movements created via film/video technology" (Abstract: Dance on Screen). I emphasise the hybrid nature of the form, thus allowing the integration of various forms and sources of movement which are not necessarily human or relating to dance in a traditional sense.
The Dolphin Dance Project is an example of the potential of hybrid choreography which is experienced through the mediation of video camera and screen technology. It illustrates a new form of dance choreography co-created by human dancers and dolphins. It is a process where intelligent sea creatures collaborate with human beings through movement and rhythm in a gravity-free space-time. It also demonstrates the creative potential of this 21st century hybrid art form which combines video and choreography, and integrates human dancers, dolphins and screen-based technology.
The Mythic Content
In 'Dance on Screen', I demonstrate the theme of the Mythical Journey as correlating with the aesthetics of choreography for the screen. I argue that the hybrid aesthetic potential of the choreographic form may reveal dimensions of existence and states of consciousness that are unavailable through other 'live' performances and aesthetic mediums. The mythic content is sourced and represented via symbolic, poetic and metaphoric images that the organic or non-organic body/object produces as it moves in space-time.
The Dolphin Dance Project brings to mind the mythic relationship between humans and dolphins. From a transpersonal perspective, dolphins remind us of our inner world which, like a treasure or a sealed Pandora's box, is often hidden under the sea. The dolphins metaphorically represent access to the depths of the psyche and to the realm of the collective unconscious.
'Delphi' is the Greek word for dolphin, and its derivative 'delphys' means womb. Delphi was also the name of the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world. According to the mythic lore, the location was guarded by a Python, which was a female dragon who lived underground and protected the navel of Gaia, and the womb of the Earth. Dolphins are, therefore, associated with Delphi and with the qualities of depth, wisdom, vision and prophecy. They are also symbols of knowledge of the Self and of Destiny which often bring about personal and collective healing, transformation and fulfillment. In mythological depictions, the dolphins are sometimes portrayed accompanying the sun god Apollo, the god of Delphi, and Aphrodite (Venus), the goddess of beauty and love who was born of the foam of the sea.
Aphrodite (Venus) Marble statue of Venus with dolphin. 2nd century CE. Credits: Barbara McManus, 1991.
Transformative Concepts and Technology
In our day and age, dancing with the dolphins takes on new forms and meanings as illustrated by the Dolphin Dance Project. Human dancers replace the mythic gods. The humans don't dictate the dance to the dolphins or coach them to perform, but co-create the dance with them as equal partners. The dolphins join the dancers spontaneously and leave when they wish.
It is challenging to overcome the human tendency to exhibit superiority over animals and force them to fulfill human expectations. Most of the images of animals that we watch on screen and online on a daily basis are manipulated for human purposes and needs. It is difficult to 'capture' (film) dolphins (or any other animal) and show them as images on screen without projecting conventional and limiting perceptions of their characteristics and environment. As viewers we are likely to project our own ideas and emotions on the filmed sea creatures, unless we are guided by the film-makers to see them differently and through alternative visions.
"The Dolphin Dance Project believes that one of the most powerful ways to transform how our global civilization relates to its natural environment and treats the other creatures with whom we share the planet is to challenge the common assumption that we are separate from the rest of nature" (Blog). In my opinion, the project challenges the patriarchal worldview that humanity is above, and superior to, the rest of nature, and inherited a privileged status on Earth. In the project's videos we can observe the dancers following the natural movements of the dolphins and creating the possibility of interaction on both species' terms. The films function as transformative experience as they offer the viewers an experience of "the mutual understanding and creative collaboration" of humans and wild dolphins.
This unique project has stimulated my research of Transformative Cinedance, which has been recently enhanced by additional research of Kinesthetic Empathy. I suggest that the transformative experience of the Dolphin Dance Project's videos is the result of a kinesthetic experience which is greatly enhanced by 3D technology. This and other factors are discussed and analysed in my research.
This research evolved from my PhD research in which I explored the creative potential of screen choreography to transform, and enlarge the scope of, our experience of space and time, involving the interaction of body, psyche, nature and technology.