Ten Weeks After

I thought it was nine, and if I’m forgetting where I’m up to, obviously I’m well into recovery. I’ve been like a nana driving along in first wondering why I can’t go faster and it’s not because I don’t know how to drive, it’s because it’s a fucking automatic and it’s stuck in Limp Mode (that’s a thing, yes it is). Which I try to accept, but fuck me it’s trying. Some days are good — some hours are good, and then I go back to sleep, or deal with weird tension pressure tingling numbness swelling low grade discomfort that wears at a bitch. And then there’s the pimples and other skin fuckery, which I also accept as my face’s pretty natural reaction to be half pulled off. But no pretending it isn’t distressing as fuck.

And then there was today, a Friday at the end of a week that was a real struggle in keeping any energy. It was sunny, 25° and feeling hotter, which I know from the last five weeks of riding complicates things. So I kept it simple, just make it through four laps, that’s all I had to do; three even, if I felt shit. I was concentrating on keeping my elbows bent, and breathing through my nose, right back in low energy Ramadan training there.. The bent elbows thing, particularly when they approach 90° is for me a constant movement of pushing forward, down or pulling back with my hands, so my arms are supporting much of my weight, and hovering, so I’m holding my position with back and hamstrings, as well as moving forward and back on my saddle. It’s constant work. The result of this is also I am more aerodynamic, and put down more power more easily. So I ended up feeling rather good.

Rather good as in maintaining 30km/h+ for 2/3 of each lap. Very unexpected, that. And feeling solid. It’s the first ride since surgery where I actually had energy and could push a bit. Gentle pushing, but consistent and way above where I’ve been until now, and for a duration, and repeatable. Slowly getting there. Slow time all the way.

Eight Weeks After

I was doing laps of Tempelhoferfeld this morning and had a realisation I’d definitely gone over another hump in post-surgery recovery, ’cos I was back to my usual getting way too excited and loudly, “Yes, bitch! Eight weeks! Fucking nailed it!” carrying on. Which is the first time I’ve felt this good since having my face peeled off on June 13th.

Last week I managed training on five days: three shorter and lighter than usual rides, and two of a mix of core, Pilates, stretching. The week previous to that, I’d ridden twice early in the week and felt like I’d been ambitious in even that — the “six weeks until you can resume training” thing is real. Mid-last week, I felt frankly fucking horrible, like dirty anaesthetic was leeching out or some other vileness. Maybe the lack of endurance training for 6 weeks was churning stuff up. The surgery itself was also unimpressed with me. This week though, tiredness and soreness is very much from doing the work.

Not the full work, and still a long way to go, but getting work done nonetheless. I can neither push into all-out efforts, nor maintain a long endurance effort. Doing hard, core training with weights is also out, as is most of yoga, and anything upside down is not worth the scummy feeling. I’m not going to beat myself up for this though, I tend to recover slowly from surgery, or rather, I seem to take my time, and there’s more than enough I can do with is directly beneficial to rehab and recovery.

I also, for me, put on a bit of weight these last eight weeks. Plenty of not training and plenty of post-op eating (so fucking hungry, I swear I was in overdrive). Which on one side was difficult for me, feeling my muscles lose the density they have when they’re being used all the time. And putting on some fat is a new physicality for me — all of which is relative, as I have a default weight I end up on when I’m training heavily, irrespective of how much I eat. This is not about self fat-shaming, rather about how my physiology swings from skin and bones if I’m training heavily and stressed, to where I’m at now, which is one of the longest periods I haven’t trained for in many years — the not-training is what’s been difficult. On the other side, I really fucking love it. I’m pretty sure I haven’t been this curvy before and I am down with this shit. Which I’ve always known, it’s just for my physiology thrashing hard and being curvy are a ‘pick one’ reality, and I go with the former ’cos stupid is as stupid does.

So, like I’ve already said to someone who’s probably going to read this, I’m torn. I like where physically I’m at right now, and I know ramping up training (with two big rides coming up) will strip this off. I have no solution for this, so I’m going to eat chocolate. Also to celebrate eight weeks and still 110% No Regerts!

Training in Ramadan

I started writing this May 11th, a few days into Ramadan, wrote a bit more on the 13th, left it all until June 2nd, a couple of days before Eid, or Zuckerfest as it gets called around here, when I thrashed at it in the 30° summer Sunday.

I wanted to leave writing this until the end of the month, in case I write something contingent on a month of fasting and then blow it by eating for three of those weeks. And I wanted to write from the perspective of having had a month of training while fasting. But both are, well, I’ve been through both before, and the last two years I’ve trained for the whole month while enjoying the warmth of summer and the days passing through solstice. And I obviously have to make it plain my Suhur isn’t before 2:45am or any other time except after dawn. I do what I can, as early as I can, if for no other reason than to remember my family, my dad, my babanna Aişe. I think it’s Ramadan, and if others want to say it’s not, or say it’s bid’ah, then it’s not, and it’s bid’ah. I know what 14 and more hours of fasting feels like, after 30 days in Berlin summer, when the sun sets at 9:30 and the sky never really gets dark.

So, training. In Ramadan.

Back when I was a student, I was living with a climber and wanted in on that. He gave me a book to read, prefacing it by saying, “This isn’t about technique or strength, it’s more about the psychology, but I think that’s more useful for you.” I was a little disappointed, I wanted the mainline route from reading to climbing mad hard. But he was right. There was a line in that book which stuck with me, it’s one of the more important things I learned about climbing or any other physical activity, or being an artist, or dedicating one’s self to the discipline of doing a thing – or, as we currently say, living our Truth: “Ask yourself what you’re prepared to give up. Because if you want to do this well, you’re going to have to give something up.” This was written — at the latest — in the early-’90s, when climbing was still a weird and grotty life choice, so far from the heteronormative bouldering hall lifestyle in every suburb we’re at now. Climbing was not a sensible career move.

I find something liberating in accepting I have to give something up to be able to do particular things, that after so many years, are not merely things I do, but who I am, have shaped me from bones to synapses, are selfhood. And I like resisting the seductive fantasy of, “You can have it all,” — it’s important to. “Have it all” is only a possibility for those who already have it all; for the rest of us, to varying amounts and degrees, to ‘have’ a thing is this question of what we’re prepared to give up — on top of what we already don’t have.

The author continued, “… you’re going to have to give something up. Whether it’s job or financial security, a social life, or time with your family.” Obviously he was writing for an imagined white, cisgender and heterosexual male, for whom ‘giving up’ these things is both something he can do (having them in the first place), and an acceptable compromise, in that someone(s) else will pick up the slack. Nonetheless, the question of what I’m prepared to give up, and what I have given up, in order to dance and live in a physical, momentum-driven selfhood, in order to be truthful to my selfhood, is a primary question of my life.

Back to training in Ramadan, then.

My regular training, for pushing twenty years now, has been a mix of ballet, contemporary dance, yoga, climbing, and cycling. Currently it’s four times a week on my bike for 90 minutes, and about the same amount of time in yoga, stretching, bits of pilates, strength, and stability training, piles of junk I’ve accumulated and continue to accumulate over decades, which seem to work for me. Like brushing my teeth twice a day. Around 10–12 hours a week then; sometimes more, sometimes less, and not including pre- and post-training time, rest and recovery, all the minutes that add up.

Ramadan for me becomes a reduced routine. Getting up, eating and drinking is separated by the long daylight hours until dusk. Then more eating and drinking, eating late, drinking late — and I diverge here to say how utterly divine that first water tastes, and how fortunate I am to be able to enjoy it, it’s sensual as fuck — playing catch-up on the hydration, and not enough sleep before it begins again. Early evening naps become a thing. Sunset until dawn becomes compressed, full of self’s obligations of eating, drinking, sleeping. Time slows, sometimes it’s enduring the waiting, sometimes it’s getting lost in the sky dimming, sunset on the trees outside, the endless conversations of birds. It isn’t a time to do nothing though. The days continue, and so must training.

And what happens to training? It’s slower, less intense, more careful. If I decided to go full-out, yes, I could, but the rest of the day (or more) would be shot, so I balance intensity with knowing there’s the day still remaining. It also trashes most of my cycling routine, which is heavily biased towards intervals and other hard sessions. I like suffering. I like suffering, and going hard and pushing and shoving until the very end. I like emptying myself even though the self I meet there I often have a difficult relationship with. It’s a habit, and habits Ramadan illuminates like nothing else. 30 days to be with one’s self and one’s habits.

I spent a lot of this month training just breathing. Breathing under stress as my heart rate increases and practicing how to keep the air going in and out through my nose, when I want nothing more than to open my maw and suck in some big gulps of air. Breathing when I’m at the end of an hour dropped into an aero position. Breathing and realising I probably breathe a little too fast and shallow when I’m training. A habit from where? New habits from a month of attention to self. Swapping out the habits of going hard for the habits of breathing and position.

I don’t think I have anything momentous to say about training during this month. It’s a lot like the month itself. Yeah, it’s uncomfortable and a bit of an effort to not even drink water through the day, but it’s not especially gruelling or outside the capacity to tolerate or endure, and if it ever got fucking horrific, I’d bail. It becomes pretty matter of fact after a while, even while that first glass of water in the evening never fails to be fucking glorious and rejuvenating. It requires patience and calmness, and attention to the aesthetics of living — or, for training, moving, which for me is living. The point of training in the month isn’t to stunt like I’m some aggressively competitive badass bitch doing it all (I am aggressively competitive, just I pick my time for it). As much as the month is about contemplative attention to and reflection on self, it’s not about retreat from the world, and just like everyone on Sonnenallee maintaining their obligations to life and work, so do I, as best I can. They keep the supermarkets and restaurants running, I keep … what? A physical life of art? Something? Whatever it is, there’s twenty years of it.


10 Years With Dasniya In Berlin

We went and saw Mission Impossible: Fallout and laughed for 2½ hours at the brilliant kinetic absurdity: Tom Cruise, part of the Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton lineage of getting audiences to pay stacks to watch them do mad stunts. We ate chocolate and ice cream and nachos – cinema nachos! – and drunk Sekt. In the Kino. This is Germany and everywhere is drinking erlaubt. Ten years today, ago Dasniya and I met in her Fabrik studio in Uferstraße.

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!

Dasniya Sommer’s Bondage and Dancey Stuff in February

And here’s my regular re-posting of Dasniya Sommer’s most excellent bondage and shibari workshops in Berlin, this time with performances. As usual, more more more on Dasniya’s blog and website.

Also! Remounts of two Das Helmi shows at Ballhaus Ost: Fatrasien on 3rd-5th February; and Große Vögel Kleine Vögel on 17th-19th February.

Dasniya Sommer’s February Self-Suspension Workshop

Dasniya Sommer’s most excellent workshop on the art of shibari self-suspension returns in February. One of my faves from her. All the info on her blog.

Fly high! This workshop answers all your questions on self-suspension technique. After a solid warm up we will look at different harnesses for your personal self-suspension.

The technique varies depending on its function and anatomy. It can be used for performing or simply as rope playing with a partner. After a warm up we will step by step look at safety principals, breathing, movement sequence, and progressions in the air.

For me self-suspension is also a performative tool for self-empowerment. So when you are in the air, we will pace down, finding your personal rope dance and own inner hero.

Bring comfortable clothes, a snack and ropes if you have, otherwise we provide them.

Friday, February 24th
Hours: 12 -16h
Costs: 50 €
Info & registration: workshops@dasniyasommer.de

Where: Institute Sommer, Uferstrasse 8, 13357 Berlin. U8 Pankstrasse, U9 Osloerstrasse
(Enter the gate at the big bus, walk right to the building with the big clock, turn left and immediately right up the small stairs, entrance ‘B6’)
Please take this number in case the door is locked, 0174-3937049

Dasniya Sommer’s May Shibari Workshops & Classes

“Not so exciting this time ;)” says Dasniya about May (’cos for a change she isn’t performing in a different production every second week). “YOUR WORKSHOPS ARE ALWAYS EXCITING!!!” I all-caps back. Me, who David Young denominated, ‘hostile to everything’. I haven’t decided if I think my friends’ art is awesome because they’re my friends, or if I’ve pestered them to be my friend because they make awesome art. Bit of both, more of latter than former; definite cheerleader over here.

On with the show! Which is right now wrapping up in Dasniya’s Tuesday Morning Shibari Technique class. Which is an excellent way to spent two hours on any day of the week.

Dear Friends, Bondagisti, Theateristi and Dancers,

back from a weekend in Marseille, we continue with a broad program of Shibari workshops in May. As always, you can read all about this on my blog. In the meantime:

  1. Yoga & Shibari Workshop. Wednesday, May 25th (new time!)
  2. Staging Shibari/Bondage Workshop. Friday, May 27th
  3. Morning Shibari Technique Workshop. Every Tuesday at 10h
  4. Private & Group Lessons
  5. Blog!

Enjoy the sunny days,

1. Yoga & Shibari. May 25th

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 at 6pm – 10pm
Costs: 40 Euro per person (social price 30 Euro)
Please register beforehand!

General Description: in English and German; information and additional news on my blog: Zur Zeit.

2. Staging Shibari/Bondage. Friday, May 27th

Following on from the ever-popular Yoga & Shibari workshops, we’ll be seeing where rope, shibari, bondage can go, how it can become performance, whether just for each other, on the stage, or anywhere in-between.

Friday, May 27th, 2016, 7pm-11pm.
Costs: 40 Euro per person (social price 30 Euro)

Read about our second Staging Shibari/Bondage workshop from February. Information and additional news on my blog: Zur Zeit.

3. Morning Shibari Technique. Tuesdays at 10h !

Every Tuesday: 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 May (and June 7th), 10am-12pm
Costs: 20 Euro per person, 10 class card 160 €

The workshop focusses on traditional Shibari technique. Inspired by my teachers Osada Steve, Kamijoo Saki, Arisue Go, Hourai Kasumi or Lun Ario. 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. More info.

4. 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! workshops@dasniyasommer.de

5. Blog!

Some recent adventures: Butoh workshop with 4RUDE Crime and Punishment

Where am I Going?

All workshops and classes are at Teatris/Alte Kantine or in our ‘Mini-Dojo’. Both locations are at:
Uferhallen Kulturwerkstatt in Wedding
Staircase b/c,
Uferstraße 8-11,
13357 Berlin
U8, M27 Pankstr / U9, M13 Osloerstr
Please call when you are in the court yard (by the bus café), in case you don’t find it, or the door is locked: + 49 174 393 70 49.

Dasniya Sommer’s April Shibari Workshops, Classes, & Performances

When it comes to blogging, Dasniya‘s putting me to shame. Shame! And performing! Last night I saw her in Das Helmi’s Sündenstadt (for the 4th time, I think. Almost a different work from the first); tonight she performs with 4RUDE‘s Crime and Punishment I at Tatwerk, and next week, her new morning shibari technique class, and Yoga & Shibari. Brilliant!

And because I can copy-paste, here’s her monthly newsletter. You want to sign up for it, I swear.

Dear Friends, Bondagisti, Theateristi and Dancers,

Spring is awakening! This month, with three workshops for pure technicians, yogis and the creative spirits.
Performancewise I break new soil with Butoh, and guest perform with Das Helmi.

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

  1. Shibari Technique Workshop Tuesday, April 12th
  2. Yoga & Shibari Workshop. Wednesday, April 20th (new time!)
  3. Staging Shibari/Bondage Workshop. Friday, April 29th
  4. Private & Group Lessons
  5. Sündenstadt — Das Helmi
  6. Crime and Punishment — 4Rude
  7. Blog!
  8. Workshop & Class info

Have a good week & enjoy the sun!


1. Shibari Technique. Tuesday, April 12th

Tuesday 19 & 26 April; 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 May; 7 & 14 June
Costs: 20 Euro per person, 10 class card 160 €

The workshop focusses on traditional Shibari technique. Inspired by my teachers Osada Steve, Kamijoo Saki, Arisue Go, Hourai Kasumi or Lun Ario. 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. More info.

2. Yoga & Shibari Workshop. Wednesday, April 20th

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016 at 6pm – 10pm
Costs: 40 Euro per person (social price 30 Euro)
General Description: in English and German.
Information and additional news on my blog: Zur Zeit.

3. Workshop: Staging Shibari/Bondage. Friday, April 29th

Friday, April 29th, 2016, 7pm-11pm
Costs: 40 Euro per person (social price 30 Euro)

Following on from the ever-popular Yoga+Shibari workshops, we’ll be seeing where rope, shibari, bondage can go, how it can become performance, whether just for each other, on the stage, or anywhere in-between.

Read about our first Staging Shibari/Bondage workshop from January. Information and additional news on my blog: Zur Zeit.

4. 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!

5. Sündenstadt — Das Helmi

Das Helmi’s puppet theatre mayhem of Frank Miller’s Sin City returns to Berlin this month. Join me at Ballhaus Ost!
Sündenstadt 1
19h, Fri 15th & Sat 16th, April
Ballhaus Ost
Pappelallee 15,
Prenzlauer Berg

6. Performance: Crime and Punishment

A Butoh performance by 4RUDE and workshop participants
(including me :)
On April 17th, at 8pm
Tatwerk Berlin
Hasenheide 9
Gewerbehof – 2. Hinterhof, Aufgang 1, 3. OG
U7 & U8 Hermannplatz

7. Blog!

Some recent adventures:
Photos and the the story behind the second Staging Shibari.
Working with Rita Stelling and Veit Sprenger in Enter the Hydra

8. Where am I Going?

All workshops and classes are at Teatris/Alte Kantine or in our ‘Mini- Dojo’ in:
Staircase b/c, Uferhallen Kulturwerkstatt
Uferstraße 8-11, 13357 Berlin-Wedding
U8 Pankstr/U9 Osloerstr

Please register beforehand, then we’ll send you the details.
Please call when you are in the court yard (by the bus café), in case you don’t find it, or the door is locked: + 49 174 393 70 49.


Staging Shibari

Last month Dasniya returned to teaching Yoga + Shibari in Berlin. And a new workshop / experiment: Staging Shibari. Dasniya’s been working a lot in theatre and on the edges of performance / installation art (works coming regularly from dancers) in the last couple of years, with Das Helmi, Angela Schubot & Jared Gradinger, Markus Öhrn, Veit Springer, I forget who else – as well as working on her own. All this has percolated around shibari and rope, ballet, performance on stage, that’s unfolded ideas present in her earliest work (both the ridiculously famous MA, and not well-known at all but so what, G4), and seeing there’s been a steady stream of dancers and theatre people banging at her door, she decided to start a workshop / experiment thing called Staging Shibari.

The first one was a month ago, the second, later this week (7pm Thursday, March 31st in Uferhallen Wedding if you wanna know), and I’ve had photos from that first one on my laptop waiting to be blogged for weeks now. So here they are!

As with Yoga + Shibari, it’s a 4-ish hour process, starting with some light yoga warmup for an hour and a bit, as a group all in Dasniya’s studio (which now has a forest of hanging points drilled into the ceiling). Then some talking, what ideas we’d like to mess around with, who wants to do what (tying, being tied, hanging/not-hanging, outside doing lights or sound, photographing), what happens where and when, what we’re wearing (rubber dog hoods! – if you’re lucky…), what needs to be prepped, generally a structure and plan to keep an eye on, so we can individually pay attention to each other and impel things along. Basically we’re rehearsing. Not everyone has worked in theatre, though many if not most have performed in some context or another, from playing in bands to bondage/shibari performance, so the actual thinking and planning through as a group is as much a part of the thing as the doing, and takes a while before we’re all up and ready and the go button is pushed.

And then there’s this (in no particular order). Much fun. Certainly theatre.