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

 

Human Orchestration, an explosion of nudity and sound

Dear Blog, this event has moved me; or rather it has been a culmination of a series of drives to ascend ourselves. We have created a new standard, a higher level of our art as models with a way to give voice to our internal thoughts and feelings, in the same time that we pose, collectively as a group. We communicate as one, individually audible, and collectively uplifted, empowered to speak back, feedback in real time, more than just a look or building up a feeling inside. This is a way to channel ourselves further into the art through the people drawing us.

I speak as if I posed, but really I was an orchestrator, conducting from the side. I was not even naked, but in my skin coloured body suit which is like being naked but with less definition, and room for a muffin top which otherwise doesn’t exist, squeezed up from tight leggings. I helped to deliver instructions, and as well I was a negotiator. London Drawing had their idea of what would happen, and sometimes the models had theirs. The balance was fine, and beautiful too. Spontaneity necessary, the models’ prerogative more than an important gesture, and truly the soul of Spirited Bodies. We are not just mannekins to be ordered by artists! We are creators too, and well we understand our craft, and what it might be to step outside of a comfort zone and the value therein.

With Ursula atop a pyramid of models, who were as Matt put it, “semi-autonomous noise generators”. Not entirely autonomous as they had to adhere to a few cues from myself as well as work as a group, listening to each other, and letting the sound come naturally from within them, or about their body, whether a note, a hum, a tap or a click. And Ursula led; although notes were preferred by London Drawing, she had a feeling to sing snippets of words too. I did not want to block this idea – nor could I – which was very creative and powerful. Ursula is a pun-meister and creates new arrangements of popular songs to suit the moment, in this case the present time of being drawn by artists. ‘Big Spender’ began, “Let me get straight to the paint!” (or was it ‘pen’?) At times she was not singing known songs, but rather voicing an undercurrent in the room, almost as if furniture could speak. “How do you feel when we are posing for you?” or something like, yet in sonorous tones. This part with the words was unrehearsed, and undiscussed. But the other models got it straight off and chimed in with their part, especially Tom and Christine our other professional singers.

The Church, St Johns, was perfect and seemed to beg our performance. With chairs neatly rowed for the usual practice, this awesome space demanded to be shaken extraordinarily, furniture strewn and space transformed. A light, almost completely open space with organ gallery at opposite end to altar, the high ceiling called down to us to fill it with our sound. Not just singing. Not how it has been done before, but something stretching the congregation to make it really listen, and to make a music out of just our everyday breathing, sighing, laughing and uttering, because we are celebrating the joy and wonder of being human for all our flaws, we are extraordinary too.

The Reverend Giles praised our art in spite of its controversial nature in the eyes of some of his congregation. He at least can see that the naked human is at the heart of Christianity. I suddenly felt like he was blessing our work, giving us Christian approval and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. But it was a compliment and he was right. At Spirited Bodies we are about allowing people to find their truest selves without fear, to be the best that they can, in such a way that they must face themselves truly. There may be something Christian about that, and it is certainly spiritual. I had a very good feeling about Giles, welcoming us thus. He knew that we belonged there too. We offer something that his church also needs, and I really enjoyed this event more than any other.

Surprise when our models posed as artists. Horror when they gradually stripped off next to their unknowing neighbours – “will it be me next? Do I have to take my clothes off too?” Quite a few models remarked that this part – the first part – was similar to an event I and several of us took part in during the Summer at Guerilla Galleries, called ‘Inversed Voyeurism’. Turning the tables on people’s, especially artists’ expectations of the model, the idea that the model is something separate, like an object.

These were not typical Spirited Bodies, and yet they were also very typical. And very experienced. People who we have gotten to know, through our events and others like them. These people love to be part of nude art. Some will travel the world for good opportunities. Maybe it is their religion. As well a couple who were very new to what we do. A very nervous woman who fared very well.

A success of working relationships. Our 3rd collaboration with London Drawing. We get better at knowing what to expect and how to navigate the sticking points. And a growing team of dedicated Spirited Bodies; our soul is thriving, we just want to keep growing and travelling further with our shared passion.

The following photos of artwork are courtesy of Steve Ritter, who also wrote about Saturday’s experience; http://charoigne.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/a-human-orchestration/ as did Matt Whyndham; http://repulsivemonkey.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/life-modelling-3-and-bit.html In many ways they each have outlined more clearly what actually happened than I have, but it would be boring if we all wrote the same.

IMG_1324

capturing the architecture with the figures
capturing the architecture with the figures
Models interspersed amongst artists
Models interspersed amongst artists

IMG_1329

IMG_1335

View from the gallery, art work spread on the aisle
View from the gallery, art work spread on the aisle

IMG_1339

IMG_1348

the sum of our parts
the sum of our parts

IMG_1363

IMG_1364

models singing an echo in a line
models singing an echo in a line

IMG_1367

A finale of models on a platform in front of the altar
A finale of models on a platform in front of the altar

IMG_1380

IMG_1381

IMG_1382

IMG_1383

IMG_1384

IMG_1385

a sort of human pyramid
a sort of human pyramid

IMG_1394

a flaming cross
a flaming cross

IMG_1398

And from our life model friend Santosh who also took several photos:

1381678_172474486281759_1317847248_n

1394132_172474159615125_1506118946_n

aisle Anne & David talking to the artists

altar

collage

Rehearsing the final pose
Rehearsing the final pose
Setting up the 'singing drum' pose
Setting up the ‘singing drum’ pose in the morning

image

lights

windows

Looking forward to more of such collaborations, with gratitude for a remarkable team effort on all sides, and the pleasure of enjoying some outstanding artwork.

Here is some more from artist Jess Miller; http://jessmillerart.com/2013/10/13/the-drawing-theatre-2013/

Favourite moments? (1) Seeing artists squirm as other ‘artists’ were given the nudge, and obliged by removing clothes. (2) Grinning fiendishly from the outside as the models raised their pitch and crossed into new territory empowered by voice. (3) Watching Morimda take the central standing position in the final piece, as the guy before needed a break. The symbolism of a black female replacing a white guy on the top spot gave me a big kick, and, after all, we wouldn’t be here without Morimda.

Will be sharing more pictures from London Drawing soon.