Gallery

Dasniya Sommer & Silke Schönfleish — Bondage Duell

Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings, I had the great pleasure of seeing Dasniya Sommer’s new performance, Bondage Duell, with Silke Schönfleisch at Sophiensæle. I was there to photograph and film, so saw the performance as a series of movement between the real world, camera screen and intercut with frozen images and instances of blackness. It’s always a weird way to see a performance and detaches me from the actual duration and progression of a work.

Bondage Duell is in Sophiensæle’s Kantine, a medium-sized rectangular chamber on the ground floor, in which Dasniya has set the audience in a shallow arc, like theatre half-in-the-round, on the long axis. Everything is compressed, as audience we’re much closer to Dasniya and Silke than we would be if the space was arranged more conventionally, using the depth. Their movement then, is side to side, long, flattened ellipses.

It’s brutal, touching, sexy, intimate; there’s a whiteout of fog, an audio landscape going from cars (courtesy our annual visits to the shrine of Fast & Furious) to cicadas, light moving from ’90s techno to blinding footlights to the softest, haziest, dreamlike seduction. Yes, there’s rope and shibari and suspension, these are after all what Dasniya has made her art for over a decade. Silke also, first coming to her workshop in Vienna at ImPulsTanz in 2014, and since then gradually working together and towards this performance, fitting it around her career as a Regierungsdirektorin in Berlin and formerly Staatsanwältin with the Bundesjustizministerium (that’d be currently a senior government official, and previously public prosecutor at the German Federal Ministry of Justice), basically deeply scary person when at work.

Dasniya’s last performance in Sophiensæle was MA — let’s give it it’s full and proper title, eh? — MA√ 15 { idiosyncrasy } || sin x = ly – fx²¯ in 2009, all turquoise everything, one of the most significant works bringing shibari into theatre and dance, certainly a huge influence on shibari and performance in Berlin, and particularly for trans and queer artists (especially on the women and feminine sides of those things). That was eight years ago, and the rest of the world has made inroads into catching up to what she was doing then — there’s a lot of brilliant art and performance being made with shibari these days. Dasniya’s also moved on, in addition to her own work, working with the likes of Roméo Castellucci, and being a long-time regular with Berlin theatre group, Das Helmi, which in turn has led to semi-regular collaboration with Zürich’s Theater HORA, as well as slowly and very determinedly taking and forming her ideas around rope, shibari, bondage, ballet, also queerness, feminism, femininity, representation, selfhood, her own history as both German and Thai. Anyone who’s seen what she’s been up to in recent years (like smaller performances in festivals like Männer in Garagen) will recognise what’s going on here.

It’s tough, and I don’t mean just the physical brutality of Dasniya and Silke tormenting each other. Obviously I’m biased as I’ve known her for as long as I’ve lived in Berlin, and I like the work of my friends, nonetheless Bondage Duell is doing what interests me in performance. It’s not passing off superficial, trashy, glib, cool, disposable politicising; it skates dangerously along the kerb with imagery that causes discomfort not just on the stage (like the nude paint orgy scene did in the Helmi/HORA collaboration, Mars Attacks!), and at the end I’m like, “Fuck yeah, that was brilliant.” It’s a little like Melanie Lane’s Wonderwomen, or Iain M. Banks’ Culture civilisation, it’s something to aspire to, a future we are making now.

In the end I saw the generale, première, and closing nights, so I saw the performance evolve over this short season, and some of this evolution was considerable. I know Silke and Dasniya talked through various things and were much more willing to take mutually tormenting each other to places where it became disturbing for the audience to watch, which in turn allowed them to revel in causing that unpleasantness. Whether to laugh or be outraged, they’d already moved on by the time we’d formulated a response. It was the gentleness I noticed as well, how they moved together, how completely confident and knowing each other as they mirrored each other’s movement while dressed only in pink and black lingerie, spontaneously growing in beautiful, tender ways. I loved also how the audience was both shocked and in love, how they were battered back and forth by the continual flipping of these states; by the end it was like they stunned.

So, photos. This is a mix from the generale and première, a mix which conveniently turned out to cover each other’s missed spots, so forms a patchwork of the whole (well, most of, there’s a few surprises yet). It is a patchwork though. As usual, I took hundreds of photos, kind of brute-forcing the limits of my camera in low light and fog to capture something. I ended up with about a hundred I really liked, which together convey the work more faithfully than these do, these which in the end are a somewhat arbitrary choice.

Dasniya Sommer — “Bondage Duell” At Sophiensæle + May Performances & Workshops

Everything Dasniya Sommer in May, in Berlin, Lyon, Bremen, performances, and workshops, and the première of her new performance, next Friday May 18th at Sophiensæale.

Dear Friends, Bondagisti, Theateristi and Dancers,

a bunch of performances in Berlin, Bremen, and Lyon this month, plus Tuesday mornings Shibari Technique in Haus Sommer.

As always, you can read all about this on my blog. In the meantime:

  1. Bondage Duell, with Silke Schönfleisch at Sophiensæle, May 18, 19, 21
  2. Nun on the Moon, at European Lab, Lyon, May 25
  3. Der besuch der verknallten Dame, with Das Helmi, at Theater Bremen, May 28
  4. Tuesday mornings Shibari Technique, in Uferhallen, Berlin-Wedding May 9, 23, 30
  5. Private & Group Lessons
  6. Blog!

Enjoy the arrival of spring’s sun!

Dasniya

1. Bondage Duell, with Silke Schönfleisch, at Sophiensæle

As part of the Every Body Festival in Berlin’s Sophiensæle, I am happy to première in Berlin Bondage Duellwith Silke Schönfleisch.

A 178cm tall ballerina and a 114cm small female government official on a tricycle appear on the scene. An uneven fight. The weapons: rope, muscular bodies and a thirst for adrenaline. Using classical dance means and Japanese bondage techniques, Bondage Duell examines physical and social patterns of bonding, empowerment and constraint. A place where cruelty and freedom, fun and curiosity lie closely together.

Dance: Silke Schönfleisch
Choreography & Dance: Dasniya Sommer,

Dates: Thursday 18th, Friday 19th May at 21:00; Sunday 21st May at 19:00
Location: Sophiensæale Kantine
Tickets: 13€ / 8€ (Online tickets)
Kombi-tickets: 18€ / 12€
More info: Sophiensæle

A production by haus sommer in coproduction with Grenzenlos Kultur Theaterfestival and SOPHIENSÆLE. Photo © Holger Rudolph

2. Nun on the Moon, at European Lab, Lyon

I will be speaker/performer at European Lab 2017 in Lyon in the Nuit Immersive, by Tracks and organised by Adami and European Lab.

Featuring the interactive contributions of a selection of unique and pioneering artists, the Nuit Immersive will be a night like no other. No seats or popcorn-holders, no stages or “fourth walls”, the Nuit Immersive will instead plunge you the public into the heart of the creative process and invite you to move around and explore this interactive performance as best you see fit. Advanced warning: here, the sign clearly states “PLEASE DO TOUCH”!

Date: Thursday, 25th May, starts at 21:30
Location: Les Subsistances • Le Hangar
Tickets: 8€ (Online tickets)
More info: European Lab

3. Der besuch der verknallten Dame, Das Helmi & Theater HORA at Theater Bremen

Once more with Das Helmi and Zürich’s Theater HORA, in Theater Bremen’s Festival Mittenmang.

Date: Sunday, May 28th, at 18:30
Location: Kleinen Haus, Theater Bremen
Tickets: 9€ – 20€ (Online tickets)
More info: Theater Bremen, Das Helmi, Theater HORA

4. Tuesday Mornings Shibari Technique in May

The workshop focusses on traditional Shibari technique, basic and intermediate level. Inspired by my teachers Osada Steve, Kamijoo Saki, Arisue Go, Tamandua Ropë. We start with the basics and security principles. Learning initial knots and floor work patterns with a partner. When these principles are set, we approach complex figures and suspension technique step by step.

Dates: Tuesdays, May 9th, 23rd, 30th, 2017 (No class on the 16th!)
Time: 10am-12pm
Level: Intermediate
Costs: 20 Euro per person
10 class card 160 €
@ Uferhallen Kulturwerkstatt – Wedding. Uferstrasse 8, 13357 Berlin. Entrance B
More info: Shibari Technique Morning Classes

Please call when you are in the court yard, in case you don’t find it, or the door is locked: + 49 174 393 70 49.

5. Private & Group Lessons

Of course it’s always possible to arrange another time for private and group workshops, sessions, choreographing ropes for performances, and other long-planned or spontaneous ideas. Drop me a line!

6. Blog!

Recent adventures make their way to my blog, perfect for a spring weekend afternoon of reading and pictures.

Dasniya Sommer — Bondage Duell at Sophiensæle

In two weeks: Dasniya Sommer’s Bondage Duell, with Silke Schönfleisch premières in Sophiensæle. We all know who Dasniya is, but who’s Silke? That’d be Staatsanwältin Schönfleisch with the Bundesjustizministerium, or Public Prosecutor for the German Federal Ministry of Justice. Who rolled up (literally) with her dog Jack at Dasniya’s Yoga & Shibari workshop at ImPulsTanz in 2014, did weird things with us, and since then Dasniya and her have been working on performaning together, having their first outing in Mainz late-last year, and now here’s their new piece in Berlin, part of the Every Body Festival in Berlin’s Sophiensæle. Am I excited? Oh yes!

A 178cm tall ballerina and a 114cm small female government official on a tricycle appear on the scene. An uneven fight. The weapons: rope, muscular bodies and a thirst for adrenaline. Using classical dance means and Japanese bondage techniques, Bondage Duell examines physical and social patterns of bonding, empowerment and constraint. A place where cruelty and freedom, fun and curiosity lie closely together.

Dance: Silke Schönfleisch
Choreography & Dance: Dasniya Sommer

Dates: Thursday 18th, Friday 19th May at 21:00; Sunday 21st May at 19:00
Location: Sophiensæale Kantine
Tickets: 13€ / 8€ (Online tickets)
Kombi-tickets: 18€ / 12€
More info: Sophiensæle

A production by haus sommer in coproduction with Grenzenlos Kultur Theaterfestival and SOPHIENSÆLE. Photo © Holger Rudolph

Dasniya Sommer, Silke Schönfleisch — Bondage Duell
Dasniya Sommer, Silke Schönfleisch — Bondage Duell

Jüterbog Saint Mauritius

Jüterbog has been on my list of German towns with a connection to Saint Mauritius to visit. It’s approximately spring, which means time for weekend bike trips with David, and as we haven’t gone south, and the Berlin-Leipzig bicycle Autobahn goes through Jüterbog, it seemed like a good combination of for a Saturday.

So, the bike path. It’s an Autobahn. For the most part. Sometimes it’s like Paris-Roubaix, but mostly it’s gloriously hoonable, with twists and hairpins as it weaves between farmers’ fields and forests, those pretty but somehow disturbing towns by lakes where Baroque and Gründerzeit mansions and estates gradually return to earth, drivers that are embarrassingly polite when they need to overtake you on the occasional stretches of road, utterly, utterly flat except for one long, low hill we passed by that might have been a mirage or a crop of taller than usual trees, a couple of downhill stretches into Jüterbog that make me yearn for a UCI Tour von Deutschlands Osten — it’d be like Ronden van Vlaanderen.

We ended up in Jüterbog’s town square looking for coffee after not that many hours pedalling. Jüterbog is one of those walled villages on the borders of the Holy Roman Empire a thousand years ago, then called Jutriboc. It fell under the rule of the Archbishopric of Magdeburg, and as Magdeburg is where the earliest extant representations of Saint Mauritius as a black knight are found, he turns up regularly in churches and towns of the diocese. I knew he was in Jüterbog, I just wasn’t expecting to see him — and his impressive codpiece — on the north-west corner of the mediæval Gothic brick Rathaus, watching over us in the café.

Translated from the plaque:

The statue of Saint Maurice points to the town’s incorporation within the Magdeburg diocese (1157-1635). In 1507, the lord and Archbishop of Magdeburg Ernst von Sachsen, donated the sandstone figure in the form of a contemporary knight. After damage, the canopy was restored in 1935, and the statue itself in 1958-1960, courtesy Karl-Heinz Sachamal. The original is in Mönchenkloster.

As usual, he’s missing his lance, but the stonework of his gauntlets and shield are some of the best I’ve seen. We didn’t hang around long, so I saw neither the 12th century Liebfrauenkirche nor Mönchenkirche, which is now a museum, though did make it to the top of Stadtkirche St. Nikolai, via a claustrophobic and murderously easy to defend stairwell, whose massively thick walls reminded me of Torri Asinelli in Bologna. Along with a dozen other towns nearby, I have idle plans to return for the unseen museums and churches.

Gallery

Melanie Lane — Wonderwomen, HAU1 Dress Rehearsal

The brilliant Melanie Lane’s new performance, Wonderwomen opens tonight in HAU1, with: the awesome pair of professional bodybuilders that are Rosie Harte and Natalie Schmidt; set and costume design by Robert Bartholot; music by Clark; lighting by Fabian Bleisch; and feministing up in your dramaturgy by Frances d’Ath (yup, the one who has this blog). It’s on the main stage, and looks deadly. Here’s some photos from dress rehearsal yesterday.

Kinbaku Study Group in Berlin

Cross-posting this from Dasniya’s blog. The rather brutal and exceptional shibari / kinbaku-ist Tamandua, whom Dasniya and I met in Stockholm, and who now lives in Berlin is organising a Kinbaku Study Group at Haus Sommer in Uferhallen, Berlin-Wedding. I’ve seen photos of him tying Dasniya, and Dasniya’s talked with me a lot about his work. I think he’s doing some of the most interesting — and probably most sadistic — rope work in Berlin. More info on his tumblr.

Starting up: Regular kinbaku study group

Now looking for people in Berlin interested in joining a small kinbaku/shibari study group starting beginning of May.

This is a good opportunity to learn focused together with other students and where your personal development can be followed and taken properly into account during the process.

Lessons will take place in the evening every second week. See dates below. For each class opportunity there will be a different theme to get the chance to get a familiar with the broad spectrum of ties and approaches to kinbaku that exsist out there. During these weeks we will be touching on topics such as plenty pattern and shape learning, controling a body and being controled as a body in ropes, communication, aesthetics, technical problem solving, rope handling and treating and other nerdy content.


Participants should be of level advanced beginner or intermediate at the start of the course. And yes, we will also be getting into working with suspension points when the level for that is met.

You can attend with somebody you know already but it’s great if you are also comfortable with switching and coupling up with other students taking the course. Whatever you feel fine with.

It is possible to sign up for 3 or 6 classes at a time. It is adviced to not skip more than one class in a row since the idea is for the classes to be progressional.


Evenings 18:30-21:30
May: 4, 18 (Thurs), 31 (Wed)
June: 14, 28 (Wed)
July: 12 (Wed)
3x3h classes: 120 per person
6x3h classes: 200 per person

Location is close to Pankstrasse in Wedding.
Email tamanduaengstrom@gmail.com to register

Tamandua tying Briki
Tamandua tying Briki

Melanie Lane’s Wonderwomen at HAU Berlin

Yes! The one with the two women bodybuilders! In Berlin and on the main stage at HAU. Next week! And then back to Leipzig for you all down there. Here’s all the details:

Melanie Lane invites you to her new work Wonderwomen, at HAU1 Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin.

Wonderwomen invites the two female professional bodybuilders Rosie Harte and Nathalie Schmidt to meet in a performance context. They contemplate their highly demanding sport that amplifies and transforms the body. While striving for an ultimate physical form, the women navigate their profoundly trained bodies and the potential for a new body language. Wonderwomen is a dialogue that brings together strength and vulnerablility, representation and transformation, athleticism and femininity.

Concept and choreographie: Melanie Lane
Performance: Rosie Harte, Natalie Schmidt
Light design: Fabian Bleisch
Sound design: Clark
Set and costume design: Robert Bartholot
Dramaturgy: Frances d’Ath
Choreography Assistant: Florian Bücking
Production-management: M.i.C.A.

HAU1, Berlin: April 21, 22, 23, 19:00
LOFFT Das Theater, Leipzig: May 12, 13, 14

Melanie Lane — Wonderwomen
Melanie Lane — Wonderwomen

A Year Of My Heart

A year ago, I decided to get all analytic on my training. Mainly I just like tech and pretty representations of data. So I bought a heart rate sensor. And now it’s been a year of me using it almost every time I train. Which means I can look at a year in the life of Frances training, with all the … whatever that reveals.

What does it reveal, Frances?

Well, other Frances. I trained 156 times — that I recorded, let’s say 170 because I pretty much did not train without it unless I forgot either sensor or phone. For a total of 190 hours — there’d be a few more in that for the times my phone battery died. For a measly distance of 1481 kilometres — of actual training rides, not including cross-town, Kreuzberg-Wedding type stuff, so maybe double that at least, no wonder I spend so much on my bike and it feels like it’s constantly in need of repair. Hey, just like me! (Wow, there’s a realisation, right there.) About 1/3 of that was ballet, another third cycling (mostly road at the moment, but some cyclocross), 1/6 bouldering, and the remaining 1/6th a mix of yoga and core training.

Oh, and supposedly I burned around 121,000 calories, which is about 60 days of eating 2000 calories a day. I’m not really convinced about this. I think it’s more of an imaginary number, and not the mathematical kind.

What else? Speed, both average and top are derived from iPhone GPS. I’m not sure how much dispersion there is in this, but I suspect it can easily be 5km/h or more in either direction. My next gear purchase (after … umm … new brakes and probably new rear derailleur pulley wheels) is a speed/cadence sensor — which probably means also a proper cycling head unit instead of phone …

I seem to unintentionally train in 9-10 week blocks, then give up in despair for a couple of weeks, then, like a goldfish circling its bowl, forget all that and get right back into it. Knowing that this might be my natural rhythm though, it could make sense to train in 9 week blocks with a week off, if for nothing else than keeping my enthusiasm. Also I doubt I’ve been training like that this year, my rhythm’s all over the place.

My maximum heart rate seems to be constant around 190 (excluding the huge jumps into the 200s that were either the battery going flat, the sensor getting jostled, or actual random heart weirdness from having stupid fun training in -10º weather). I dunno, I have no context or expertise for reading anything into these figures, other than I seem to like training if it involves a degree of discomfort and some suffering — which I didn’t need a heart rate sensor to tell me.

So, a year of data. What to do with it? No idea! Will I keep using it? For now, yes. It’s become automatic to put it on. I don’t really use it during training, though I’d use it for cycling if I could find an iPhone mount that could hold my ancient 4S. But mostly I do it on feel, and that corresponds pretty closely to the various heart rate zones. I do do regular post-training gawks, to compare how I felt with actual data — and knowing that data across sessions gives me a bit of a feeling for where I’m at on a particular day or week. And one other thing: I train a lot less than I think.

Worth it for seeing a year of training all pretty like that? Yup!

Polar Flow and H7 Heart Rate Sensor — One Year Weekly Training Report
Polar Flow and H7 Heart Rate Sensor — One Year Weekly Training Report
Polar Flow and H7 Heart Rate Sensor — One Year Daily Training Report
Polar Flow and H7 Heart Rate Sensor — One Year Daily Training Report

Victoria & Albert Museum

All the Victoria & Albert Museum. Well, all the mediæval stuff. That I could find. Plus some renaissance stuff, and a couple of other nice pieces. Masses of art from a Sunday afternoon with the awesome Jennifer Evans for company. Shared hangover also. In the sun in the courtyard garden. Romping the halls and galleries.

I saw: half of Level 0; less than a third of Level 1; a bit under half of Level 2; not much more than a quarter of Level 3; nothing of Levels 4 and 5; dunno if Level 6 even exists. All that in five hours until I got kicked out. I get booted from museums at closing time like most people get booted from bars, pubs, and clubs.

I missed: The brilliant Würzburg St. Maurice wooden statue because … I dunno. Was the room closed? Did I think there was nothing in the next room? Like many museums, incompleteness is a reason to return, to the city and the museum.

Best thing: It’s free! Blimey! So was the National Gallery. What kind of witchcraft is that where museums are free? Other best thing: It’s organised by material as well as chronologically. Which is frankly awesome. Another best thing: It was packed. And I mean packed. They must get millions of visitors a year. Yay, art! (Good estimate based on a single day, Frances: 3.5 million in 2015.)

How many photos did you take, Frances? A shade over 300, including captions. And how many have you blogged? This is the bit that always embarrasses me when I’ve finished editing them all: 111. The number’s kinda like an objective remark on my tendency towards excessive fun. I mean it’s not like I’m banging heroin anymore, is it? Museums it is, then.

  1. Victoria & Albert Museum — Level 0
    • Medieval & Renaissance 300-1500
  2. Victoria & Albert Museum — Level 1
    • Medieval & Renaissance 1350-1600
    • Cast Courts: The Weston Cast Court
    • Sculpture 1300-1600
    • Raphael
  3. Victoria & Albert Museum — Level 2 & 3
    • Medieval & Renaissance 300-1600
    • Rosalind & Arthur Gilbert Collection
    • Sacred Silver & Stained Glass
  4. Victoria & Albert Museum: Margot Fonteyn’s Swan Lake Tutu
  5. V&A

Gallery

Victoria & Albert Museum — Level 2 & 3

I took another diversion through the Asian Collection again before heading up one of the many sets of stairs to Level 2. More mediæval art. I was kinda committed to it at this stage, as much as I wanted to go off at random. I could have spent the whole day on the ground floor, working my way through the Asias. One thing I really liked here, and I reckon it has a lot to do with both the museum being free to visit, and London having a far more confident mob of people from more recent-ish immigration backgrounds — even the Mayor, the most awesome and we can all agree pretty bloody fine Sadiq Khan, son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver — was so many people were not the default white / northern European I see in Berlin museums. Plus I find it entirely awesome when I see groups of young guys running around the Middle East, South Asia, and Islamic collections getting really excited about the pieces cos they identify with them and see themselves or their history in them. This is something I genuinely miss and struggle with in Berlin, the monoculturalisation and paucity of the rest of us in — I don’t know exactly what to call it — in mainstream German/-ic culture. It feels to me that in London at least (despite the white nationalism of Brexit and all) immigrants of any generation are Londoners / British / not sure the most applicable appellation here, but you get what I mean, in a way I feel the comparable groups in Germany are not and perhaps will never be allowed to be. I miss that confidence and feel in Berlin being an immigrant or just somehow being marked as an outsider means keeping your head down, constantly scanning in case whoever walking towards you on the street is going to bring one of the so many forms of bullshit with them.

I was also thinking, as I plundered the Level 2 mediæval stuff, that it might be time to properly go eastwards and indulge my enthusiasm for Islamicate and Persian art as much as I do old European stuff.

There’s a couple of pieces here (The Adoration of the Kings, images 1 and 2; Descent from the Cross, images 9 and 10) are only details because I couldn’t photograph through glass. One of the most spectacular pieces is the wooden altarpiece by (probably) Giovanni Angelo del Maino and Tiburzio del Maino (images 3-7). This is simply extravagant and endlessly intricate. The detail is in the crush of the public arrayed along three levels and decreasing in size as they move higher and further back. The three crucifixes stick like masts high above the mass, the flanking pair bowing outwards in the emptiness, a forest of spears, halberds, and pikes at their feet. Lower left, the first figure above the predella is a woman breastfeeding. There’s children everywhere. In the predella itself, the central panel is the Adoration of the Shepherds, which I saw a lot of in London.

Plenty of other beautiful pieces. The Dish with a Couple and an Inscription by Workshop of Giacomo Mancini I loved because it’s secular, and one of the first pieces I saw that went this way; Plate with Three Graces by Workshop of Maestro Giorgio because it goes into Greek mythology; the various Virgin and Childs all of which so different from each other. The out of that and into Cast of Judith and Holofernes, from the original by Donatelli. It’s in the Simon Sainsbury Gallery high up on a plinth, suitably brutal and awful.

Up to Level 3. I spent a long time in the Materials and Techniques sections, a lot of design in metal, glass, enamel, porcelain, silver. I didn’t photograph much; there was far too many pieces to even think coherently about. Even with a full day I doubt I’d get through everything. Two to three days would be probable. So I finished with stained glass.

There’s a brilliant, small piece, Christ as the Man of Sorrows, with the Imago Pietatis, what I call a Bynum (because of her work, Wonderful Blood), Jesus literally dripping blood and filling a bath with it, the objects of his torture arrayed around him. I’ve never seen this subject on glass and despite being from the mid-1600s, it looks like it belongs three hundred years earlier. Then lucky last, The Adoration of the Magi by (possibly) Master of the Holy Kindred, another work massive and far above me (so it’s a little distorted from straightening it out). And shortly after I got kicked out. Out into the late-afternoon sun, onto a bus and see London pass by for an hour as I northwards home.