Sound and movement with life drawing
Spirited Bodies has been running multi-model life drawing events in many formats since 2010. In November last year, this included ‘Spirited Sound‘ – a collaboration between Esther Bunting of Spirited Bodies and Sarah Kent: sound bath artist, folk fiddler, homeopath, reiki practitioner and bodyworker. The event was at Bargehouse on the south bank of the Thames, where Kathleen Dutton – artist, creative director, practioner of zen yoga, theta healing and reiki – was a co-organiser.
Esther, Sarah and Kathleen combined forces on 23 July at Lewisham Arthouse to realise a new concept: two small workshops with sound bath, slow nude movement, stillness and drawing. Participants were invited to flow with healing sounds, and find ways to embody them – while drawing or being drawn. Kathleen would lead drawing exercises, whilst Esther directed movements and modelling. The first session would be women-only, from 1pm to 3pm, then a mixed session would follow from 4pm.
Shortly after midday I helped Esther carry equipment down to the venue. Sarah had arrived too, so once the preparations were well under way I withdrew from the scene. The day was sweltering hot and, upon returning to join the mixed session, I was not surprised to find the room well immersed in the ambience of group body work; not in fragrance but a subtle dishevelment of the original set-up, plus a glow of satisfaction from those who remained from the first two hours. It had evidently been a success.
When the room filled for the mixed session, I found myself in the company of many friends: Irene drawing, Judit drawing and modelling, Rodger modelling; several other artists were Spirited Bodies regulars. Models would be Judit, Rodger, Esther, me, a debutant male model and Sarah’s daughter, Ellie, who also drew and participated in the earlier session. With everyone assembled, Kathleen brought artists and models together in a circle for a welcoming meditation.
Our next half-hour was filled by the explanation and practice of two movement poses. The first of these was the ‘slow movement and stillness chain’ – all six models stood still in a circle while one made very slow gestures until they touched a model to their left, at which point they stopped and the other would take over. Thus, movement was passed around the circle three times during 10 minutes. For the following 15 minutes we started small and grew very slowly from seeds into full bloom.
Next we took it in turns to stand close to a large sheet of paper taped to a wall while Kathleen drew round our outlines. Not that we’re competitive, but the women’s group had already created a splendid work, so the chaps felt obliged to be on top form and make interesting shapes too. During the break, everybody contributed to colouring in spaces between the original marks. Afterwards we created a 20-minute mass sound symphony with Sarah’s instruments, then all connected for a final 30-minute pose.
It had been uncharted water for us all. I was not sure if it might be a bit too unfamiliar and model-centred for some of the artists but everybody left with smiles. They arrived expecting a genuine immersive experience, and that’s what they were given. The only regrettable part was a breakage to Sarah’s beautiful crystal sound pyramid… but she took it stoically and was still able to enjoy joining Ellie, Judit, Rodger, Esther and me for a celebratory post-event picnic at Hilly Fields.
It had been a beautiful afternoon. Some of the group’s poses had been highly original; a joy to participate in. My personal favourite was probably the first one – where all the models arranged in a circle, five static and one moving, passing on the movement and freezing in pose. The whole session was filled with new ideas and potential. It remains to be seen whether the format will be repeated, but the appetite certainly seems to be there. Congratulations to Esther, Sarah and Kathleen on making it work.
Video montage of artworks and our sound symphony with models and artists playing: