Circles of Women

Our recent women’s event was in a beautiful space at the Bargehouse (part of Oxo buildings, Southbank), well heated and well attended – with 5 models, and about 10 artists. Poses from 1 – 15 minutes, some with movement. We began dynamic and expansive, and perfected the art of very slowly opening up from an enclosed pose (3 and 5 minutes). In 3 minutes, they had moved so slowly, that when time was up, I found they had hardly opened at all! So I decided on a second round, longer to allow them to complete the movement.

All artwork from the women's session at the Bargehouse, 4/11/15

All artwork from the women’s session at the Bargehouse, 4/11/15

20151104_162404

The artists sat in a circle, some drawing in sketch pads, others leaning a board on a chair in front, one or two with their own mini easels set up. Within this circle, the models had a sheeted and cushioned area in which they created their own circles from time to time as they posed.

In daylight before we began

In daylight before we began

We created 5 minute poses for each element – Fire, Air, Water and Earth. Beautiful ensembles with flames, blowing in the wind, waves, and the solidity of Earth.

20151104_162354

marg

Hands reached up in a blaze of flames

There was a mix of experienced models including Ursula (a full time model and performance poet), and Claire (professional model, writer and feminist artist from the 80s, returning now with mastectomy), and Paula (relatively new). New models included an opera singer, who sang with Ursula in a sonorous pose; also another totally new model.

operatic notes on a page

operatic notes on a page

That was an impromtu inspiration as the singing model was clearly keen, and we have done that sort of thing before at A Human Orchestration a couple years back, so it felt enjoyable to revisit musical models. Really adds to their presence, and in this case, her voice was so powerful that the room shook. I’m not joking, and I wasn’t even next to her, touching her, so I can only imagine the vibrations in the inner circle. At least one artist was moved to tears, and several said they drew differently as touched by her tones.

20151104_171413

20151104_171439

Artists familiar, as well as some from the drawing symposium (we were a part of the Southbank Festival of Creativity) made their marks.

sing

A real pleasure to return to my perhaps most passionate area of Spirited Bodies – the sacred women’s space! Though I don’t make much of any spiritual angle, keeping the session within life art/performance narrative, there is an extra element of care and consideration that is about feeling safe, to be all that we are. We are aware, as women together, some of us nude, that we could have body hang-ups, and maybe sometimes we do. But in that space, we are supporting each other to move past that, and enjoy the bodies we are in. We create solidarity, without judgement for ourselves or each other, embracing difference. And that is all that is needed, together with listening to each other, to make a very special warm, shared healing experience.

bending in the wind

bending in the wind

We don’t have to have been especially hung-up to benefit immensely; we all gain from the shared liberation, and witnessing each other being and blossoming. Creating a helpful, proactive, responsive community as well, as we connect more, building friendships. In the end, it is the love between us that grows our collective power, beauty, resonance and connection.

20151104_163724

20151104_171402

There is space within poses for individuals to practise their own spirituality possibly. Over years of modelling, I believe I have learnt how to very quickly access a meditative state, it is second nature. I smile automatically when discomfort prevails, as doing this alters my mind state to strengthen me, minimising pain. What is more tricky is the muscles reminding me subsequently, that it was not such an easy pose I had fooled myself so well of!

wind

I also talk some of the time, during the session to point out how poses do or don’t work, to guide the models as well as instructing artists, in a different sort of life class! I played a bit of music too, but at the start, I instinctively wanted to let the silence take hold, bringing peace to all of us who had braced ourselves through the city to get there that evening.

20151104_175834

I love circles of women. Last night I danced to the full moon with sisters in a church in Vauxhall. I vary in how much I am feeling it each month, but yesterday was very serene. The DJ, Sarah Davies, gave a little talk on body language which felt very pertinent, it spoke to me. How we hold ourselves affects the way we feel, and vice versa. So we can use this to make ourselves feel stronger, even when we are not necessarily there yet emotionally, or mentally. Create bold, confident shapes with our bodies to empower ourselves.

20151104_165813

I have noticed over the years, that I had to let go of jobs where the artists were too proscriptive about poses, as if I am not in control of them, it can more likely damage my well-being emotionally (as well as physically).

20151104_163628

I love how the full moon women’s dance is run by a bunch of women, tending to be about 10 – 12 years my senior I reckon. They and many of the dancers, are yoga, dance, alternative healing practitioners and artists, so a lot of strong energy in the space, and quite a few run their own women’s spaces. The chairs are cleared from the space and I set to hoovering crumbs, leaves and dust off the massive carpet. It takes a goodly amount of time, especially as I am enjoying being inspired by my moves with the vacuum cleaner! About two thirds of the way through the task, the sound system has been erected, and music begins to fill the church. Housework gets me into my first dance.

20151104_172739

A pair of artists unravel and place items on an altar, immediately in front of the church’s own, which is behind decorated gates. After I have stocked up the toilets with paper, and put the moon pictures up, Sara hands me her palo santo to be burnt, and wafted about to cleanse or smudge the space.

20151104_162157

Low-lit by highly hung chandeliers, the whole church resonates to the ska, hiphop, dance, world, ambient and darkly gothic music. We are moving through waves, rhythms of our feminine expression, of lyrical, flowing, chaotic, staccato and still bodies. I get a lot from this group. I take my friends there, and gradually get to know some of the women I meet there. It is a source of shared knowledge and deeper friendships.

20151104_163712

For me, the instructions through the mic from the DJ about how to move (just suggestions), and what we may be feeling, are often jarring with my own inner journey. I am well habituated to getting into my groove. I discovered at 18 I think, on the dance floor at Slimelight among other venues, how to reach ecstacy through dance, and I wasn’t always on drugs believe it or not! It was a passion, and I knew movement (beyond the everyday) would always be part of my life. I trained in physical theatre at Rose Bruford drama school, in South East London in the early noughties. I wasn’t a great student, but I did appreciate the variety and intensity of some of the outlandish practitioners we immersed ourselves in.

20151104_162220

Still, I do appreciate how having an MC helps to bind the group at times, as well as nurturing some of those who may be newer to dance or being part of such a group. It’s lovely to be in a group that is run by women, repurposing the church of a monthly evening, a church which in fact lends itself to a number of new age groups. At one particular phase of the evening, all the women start howling into the air, for a long long time. So happy to hear their voices, and to be taking up space as Sarah wanted.

20151104_163603

Another women’s space I would like to bring your attention to, is run by Calu Lema, as part of her Naked Movement project. She describes her philosophy, background and intentions very well, and – Details of her next women’s (naked) space, are here.

20151104_180057

I have naturally often thought, how good it would be if the full moon dance was also naked! I wasn’t thinking that yesterday though. The heating was blasting, and we were moving fast some of the time, but it is a big space, so didn’t feel cosy for nudity. Not that that’s really an option here… even in Summer. I also appreciate how it would be highly unlikely that you would get that many women at a naked dance, sadly at the moment. It is very cool to be with so many women dancing though.

20151104_164310

My own next women’s event is on Sunday 13th December, at Tanner Street, close to Tower Bridge, from 11am – 1pm. For trying life modelling and/or drawing, with some gentle exercises to get comfortable with posing, as well as explore how the poses we choose may enhance ourselves and others. Nudity is optional. Naked, we may open up more to each other, face more of ourselves beneath the layers, and appreciate our natural beauty and body shapes. But it’s not for everyone. Artists are usually clothed, and sometimes, after a few years or so of coming to Spirited Bodies, artists pluck up the courage to bare all themselves!

a sea of bodies

a sea of bodies

 

Advertisements

Performance Preparation

Tonight I was asked to break the rules of almost a century of Old School Life Drawing tradition! Elation and Joy!

Hesketh Hubbard at the Mall Galleries have a well worn routine. They are a big life drawing society who have met weekly since 1930 and always have 4 models; one portrait, one long pose, one on 15 minute poses and one on half hours. I was booked for this last position but that is beside the point as I was instructed for the first time in the organisation’s history, to ‘do what I want’! They asked this of me knowing my penchant for slow elaborate movement, like a dance in slow motion or my own version of t’ai chi. It’s what I do when warming up for a session and they decided they would like it to be the main event. Hooray for being allowed to be me!

A few days ago it dawned on me this actually requires more thought than normal – or does it? I mean there is the pressure to perform. I had to keep up the warm up (normally 15 minutes of movement max after a period of silent, still meditation – about 10 minutes) for 2 hours! These are artists who are used to a very rigid structure; they might want some word on what to expect. I told them what I knew in that moment, it was very much in the moment. The idea was to give me a chance to truly express myself and if that shook them up a bit (so used to their silent, still, obeisant models) so much the better.

They have known me since near the beginning of my life modelling career, some years ago and they have seen me grow as Spirited Bodies began in their session and several of them have followed it since. We will be returning to The Mall I am pleased to say early in the new year with a more evolved version of Spirited Bodies.

I have been rushing around with endless things to do; I had not planned a routine for this evening, but as I woke today and on the cycle ride into court (I was on jury service) I figured out how I operate. I woke before the alarm and saw sunlight streaming in through the gap in the curtains. I took a moment to gather my thoughts, feel where I am at. I felt joy, excitement and I had the memory of a dream of being at The Mall and Simon (organiser) had left a small sound system there and I realised I could have though had not brought music in. Overall the dream feeling was positive, uplifting, if slightly daunting. I launched into my day with clarity and enthusiasm. I wanted to dress in a way which expressed my essence today and allowed me to move. A packed schedule would not afford me time to practise, but in the right outfit my every move would be a rehearsal. I can access different parts of my character at different times; if I am on the ball I have a say in how and when that happens. Clothes affect how others interact with me and how I feel. I am a very physical being who enjoys the sensuality of movement. Some clothes enhance that sensibility, others inhibit it. Some clothes demonstrate to others that this is part of who I am, others hide it. If I need to access the slithery, dynamic me then I am well advised to dress for it, before I undress.

The Music On the way to court thoughts raced as I pedalled hard – I was late. Despite the dream there would be no music at The Mall, I was sure of that. The only thing that would be different to usual would be my movement. There would however *be music in my head* that would inform the groove of my twist. I would channel some of the techno that an ex-boyfriend implanted into my computer a few years ago. My neighbours must be sick of it as I’ve been playing it regularly and loud. It makes me want to move involuntarily, voluntarily, every which way. It would guide me along with every emotion that pulsed through me since I would move ultra slowly so that the fast beated music may drift in and out of my consciousness. Sometimes I found a position that felt sensational so I stayed there for a while (” This is a pose, I will stay here for a few minutes”) so artists could get more than the line of my thigh or rib-cage. I had done a sequence like this but nothing so long in ‘Girl In Suitcase’.

As I pedalled I thought about clothes and channelling. Choosing items to enhance the way I am today, gave me a lift. I keep bits and pieces from throughout my adulthood. If I’m on a rebellious one, or a sexy one, or a playful one, I’ll find a treasure of ’93, ’97 or 2006 to remind me throughout the day. The tightness of that body, brightness of the tights, holiness of the stockings will send waves through me as I sense them against my skin.

With love and gratitude for the artists this evening, it was a liberating pleasure. Not being tied to their timer gave me reign to be more fully me and find my better poses. We are enjoying the journey together!

Since Spirited Bodies often operates on this freestyle posing basis, I now have new impetus to share knowledge on finding one’s own inspired poses and movement between. Several of the models at the recent event, whilst also loving the experience did mention in feedback that they could do with more guidance.

In my lunch break at Southwark Crown Court I caught up with this fantastic set of sculptures not far from Tower Bridge.

I couldn’t find the artist’s name but the theme seemed apt – dancers having fun relaxing in the poserish way that dancers do! Pen and paper at the ready

dance shoes at the side of the pool