17 Jul The performative rope; London Shibarifestival 2013
Another backlog post, which was written in 2013.
The discussions about performance and it’s relation to rope has started taking off, especially because of the increasing numbers of events catering to performance. In this post, I will add my own thoughts to that discussion, as well as writing about some of the performances during the London festival. I’m not going to mention all of them, I don’t have the energy for that… The reason I’m not mentioning Akira Naka & Iroha Shizuki in this post is because he deserve a post of his own. You can read about experiencing a performance of them both here.
I have been on the fence for some time in regards to performance and rope. First of all is because I feel jaded by the complete and utter obsession in regards to tying for an audience in the rope community. We are so focused on this now, that the general discourse of rope becomes performative in itself. It is hardly possible to attend an event and have a regular scene without someone afterwards saying something about it being a performance afterwards. We are feeding that monster, there is no way around it. I understand there are exceptions to everything but the issues surrounding this has been bugging me for a while. So much that I took a complete break from performing myself in order to figure out my own motivations. But should I really complain, since it is good with more rope out there? I’m going to be a grumpy sod. Perhaps it depends and perhaps this obsession about the stage and the performance only promotes certain types of ropes being seen as well as making ourselves into the spectacle?
What are we really after when we perform on stage and what are the stories we are telling? How do we stay true to ourselves as rope lover and assess our skills in relation to what we know, not in relation to the applause we receive? This has been questions I’ve asked myself this year, resulting in me taking a long break from performing, simply because it became a toxic merry go round. It is not about pissing on someone’s passion, it is questioning a trend within a community, and surely we must be able to look at our own practices and examine them?
There is some amazing artists out there, who deserve all the recognition they get, as well as those who manage to merge the skill of entertaining the audience while still staying true to themselves. Some of these artists were indeed present at the festival, but if we also take into the account of the shock and awe effect which rope can have, we also get the rope which pushes boundaries not because of the desires of those involved but simply because of the shock and awe. With that the injuries, miscommunications and jadedness comes through. Not because of malice or ill intentions but perhaps because we have set up a discourse in which the performance is the only lense we might be able to see ourselves through.
Sometimes injuries happen for other reasons outside of the realms of what we can control and there is nothing we can do about it, but pushing the envelope further and further just because of the sake of the audience or the applause that (sadly) naturally follows plays in to that. I’m not talking about tying at a general party and general exhibitionism and voyerism. That is a different kind of kettle of fish. I’m also not saying that we cannot have one thing without the other, I’m merely asking for some perspective.
Performances is not the time and place to try something new, to tie that which is the most hardcore thing you know. During the weekend in London this became very clear; who was on stage tying within their scope of knowledge and skill while taking their partners, the audience and themselves on a journey and those who were not. This is not actually a name and shame post, but I’m rather hoping to put some thoughts out there. The ones I would want to mention are the ones which hit me the hardest.
Shin and Nancy. These two are mixing humor, skill, theatre and a deep respect for ropes. They dare to switch, to play, to entice, and also to make fun out of stereotypes. In this regard they are very unique.
In their performance, they did their own spin on the evil who kidnap the innocent pop star and start tying her up. Nancy in this case performed a song which made everyone laugh out loud. They also perform as a real theatre company, with awesome rope and smart solutions which makes it flow. The end, which reminded me heavily of Otonawa’s performance from two years ago, Shin has he epiphany of how much he loves her, and in fear of getting caught he first contemplates killing her but end up killing himself.
The way in which Shin and Nancy actually tell a story and engage us in the audience is what sets these guys aside as really special. It is not just about the clothes or the music, or the faces, but how it feels complete and well thought through and produced. To merely have one or more of those elements might make what we see on stage more interesting, but it can also backfire. The highly produced performances can feel soulless if they actually don’t bring in the personalities of those involved and it is here where Shin and Nancy succeed so very well in the balance. If you can see Shin and Nancy perform, please do, you won’t regret it as they love to share their skills and their passion.
Laced Lines and Laura Cylon’s performance really radiated lust, honesty and intention. Without any gimmicks, and with a solid grounding in good rope, they allow us to see what they do and what they love, without any gimmicks and without any add ons. From experience I can tell you that it is terrifying to be on stage and bare it all, heart and soul. Therefor, seeing how LL moved with her partner was deeply touching and very inspirational. Her awareness of her partners body and movement, together with an extremely conscious and kineastetic approach to every single action rendered Laura in a beautiful face up suspension, very low above the ground. This is how Laced Lines ties, this is how she showed us what she loves. The most touching moment was probably when Laura shed a single tear that slowly dripped from her check, while she was suspended. Not possible to see from afar, but that tiny detail really grabbed me.
As it is already possible to watch Dave and Clover’s performance in a video online (http://wykd.com/index.php/2013/10/14/london-festiva… I’m not going to write much about it, except for how fluid and simply gorgeous it was. Clover is one of those ropebottoms which always seem to stand out. She does a lot to raise the concerns of rope bottoms and is a very strong spokesperson. Watching her in a performance always reminds me that what is created is a mutual challenge and a precise ongoing conversation where the body speaks. Dave and her deserve all the recognition they get. His tying was recently featured in a movie that premiered day day after the festival in London, Love, Honor & Obey. (http://wykd.com/index.php/2013/09/19/love-honour-ob…
Jack and Zahara was two others who in their performance are always so raw, real and intense. Jack has a unique style and Zahara must basically be made out of fiberglass. They demonstrated this beautifully during the festival, where Jack tortured Zahara very hard with the help of a thick, horrible coconut rope. But he started on the other end, with thin twine around her fingers and toes up to the suspension point, leaving her balancing. She has a background in dance and he as an opera singer, and their genuine expressions on stage draw the audience in as they are personal but not private, and being really funny. Zaharas expressions of pain are mirrors of Jacks facial expressions of joy, mischivious moments with coconut rope wanks (simulated with her having a coconut rope between her legs that Jack is wanking) that also show that they still retain their sense of humor. That kind of balance with genuine, heartbreaking moments left me crying watching them. Again.
Miumi Yu was tying Gorgone and here was yet again a narrative that was seen in the general theme, but it did not overpower the rope itself, which was beautiful, tempered, precise and demanding of Gorgone. Gorgone was the schoolteacher who Miumi-a schoolgirl by mistake spilled out rope in front of. When asked about all of that rope, Gorgone was then taken down and tied. Beaten with everything from rulers (that broke) to a notepad, the show itself remained within a theme which was possible to engage with but did not detract from the awesome sweet evils of Miumi and the way in which Gorgone handles rope (mindblowingly beautiful). It is easy to see how Miumi has trained and practiced with Kinoko, and while there is some of his tying there, she also have a presence of her own that is really significant, a calmness and stillness about her rope work that is really enchanting.
Different stages requires different performances and yeah, sure, it is all about context. What the punters want. I’m not personally very interested in circusy, flashy, club rope with millions of transitions, nor find that I need or even desire tits and arse for it to be interesting. I want to sit up close, and I want see rope where the focus is first and foremost on those who are tying. Maybe I’m projecting my own desires onto those who are tying on stage, but so be it. Someone very smart once said that, except for only tying that which is not the most difficult thing you know on stage, the priority of the rigger in a performance setting should always be in the following order; rope partner, audience, oneself. This is what is different when you perform. It is not just you and your partner, you have to move something which is beyond the little bubble that you two have. What that means practically, such as larger movements and not standing in the way of the audience is one thing. The other is that which is about bringing those who watch in. Taking them on a journey, together with your partner. Creating a balance between what you do and all of the other elements such as the music, clothes and props. That is a skill those who I mentioned in this post certainly possess.
Mentioned in this post