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Spirited Bodies at Telegraph Hill, 2016

15 March 2016

The first fortnight in March was a notably busy time for Spirited Bodies. Within the space of two weeks, Esther – Artistic Director of Spirited Bodies – held a women’s workshop, an older women’s workshop, a mixed gender event, and a women’s event with theatrical elements. All featured multi-models – some first-timers, others more experienced – and sought to help individuals find empowerment through art.

The events for women, including those who identify as women, were naturally out of bounds for me, but I was given the opportunity to model within the mixed event. This formed part of the Telegraph Hill Festival, and was presented in collaboration with the Telegraph Hill life drawing group, for whom I have modelled solo on several previous occasions.

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A flurry of late drop-outs meant that, perhaps uniquely, we kicked off with no first-time models, just five of us with previous form: Esther herself, Cy, Ian, Leonora and me. On the plus side, despite several artists also dropping out, we still had about as many as could comfortably be accommodated within our space at the Telegraph Hill Centre. Frances – the regular life drawing group’s organiser – called our pose times.

To begin with, models were divided into two groups. Frances suggested an opening 5-minute pose that separated girls (Esther, Leo) from boys (Cy, Ian, me). I paired with Esther for the next 5-minutes, after which Cy joined her in two 10-minute duo poses, initially standing beneath his umbrella, and later sitting on the floor. In each instance the other models arranged themselves as a threesome.

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15-minute poses came next. Ian sat next to a reclining Cy, the latter holding his fine snake-carved walking stick, whilst Leo, Esther and I worked the adjacent space. Leo sat on the floor, Esther balanced on her knees behind Leo, and I sat beside Esther with my arms around her waist and my head nestling on her ribs. Respect is due for Esther’s pose; it might look simple, but it’s especially tough on knees and thighs.

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The final pose before our interval was to last 10-minutes. Ian, Leo and Cy stood with arms around each other’s waists or shoulders, side-by-side like the Three Graces of Telegraph Hill. Meanwhile, I sat on the floor, my back to the wall, with Esther cradled between my legs and our limbs intertwined. It was a cosy end to a very nice first half. After the break, all models would come together as a single group.

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Before we resumed, a male artist asked if he could undress and join us in the poses. Frances readily agreed, whilst Esther let him know just how lucky he was – normally strict vetting rules apply but we were all well experienced and, in the absence of other debutants, his involvement enhanced the Spirited Bodies ethos. Part 2 started with a 20-minute pyramid pose: Esther and me standing; others seated around us.

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To finish, we all lay down upon the floor to form an irregular river of naked humanity. In many respects it was a 15-minute reprise of the ‘water’ pose from Spirited Sound at Bargehouse last November. Esther lay across my chest and our fellow models also connected, making themselves comfortable. It was a beautiful experience to breathe in time with Esther and allow ourselves to float away in the moment.

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All too soon we were done and back in our clothes. As is traditional, artworks were set out upon the floor for general admiration. I particularly adored the red pen work of our friend Lily. Her economic marks were laden with so much energy and personality. Indeed, several artists had produced very impressive renderings of multiple figures in such little time. Spirited Bodies still makes magic happen.

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