ArtPlay Magazine: How long have you been practicing Shibari?
Anna Noctuelle: I discovered shibari about a decade ago but had a very long pause in between and came back to it or shall we say rediscovered it only a few years ago.
ArtPlay: How did you first come into contact with it?
Anna: I was introduced to it by my boyfriend back at the time.
ArtPlay: Where there any places or people that shaped that first experience for you?
Anna: This boyfriend shaped my first experience, as I exclusively tied with him. Back then there wasn‘t a dedicated Shibari community in London as we know it now, we mostly did it at home, sometimes with friends but mostly alone.
ArtPlay: What about the practice initially appealed to you?
Anna: The beauty of it. In every sense. And that’s what appeals to me to this day. I’m in awe for the beauty of it. But this is something you have to feel and contemplate and make palpable for yourself. No explanation and no one else can do that for you.
ArtPlay: What is Shibari to you?
Anna: To me, Shibari is a dance of the soul.
ArtPlay: How do you feel about Shibari moving on from its roots in BDSM into a more philosophical practice?
Anna: I don‘t think it is moving into a philosophical practice. The approach or philosophy has always been an integral part of it. But if you mean that we start to see more variety in the application of it and people in the West now coming from various different backgrounds other than BDSM to discover it then I find this a very positive development. Some people fear the „bastardisation“ of Shibari because of this but we have to allow things to evolve and move. We can‘t stop things from moving forward. We can‘t go backward and if that means we see more variety, more teaching, more performances, more exposition of the art form, higher technical standards and skills and more people discovering it then that‘s great. It is our responsibility to try and give people as much context and insight into its philosophy and nature as we can, so the true essence will not be lost „if in fact there is a true essence“.
ArtPlay: How is Shibari a tool of mindfulness?
Anna: Rope is nothing but a tool, the intention makes all the difference. The way I like to see it is that rope forces you to be in the present, to not see past or future, as any fear is a projection of a possible future. When you give yourself to the present moment entirely, you are accepting, your mind becomes still and you become one with everything. And in that sense it‘s a spiritual moment. Rope can teach you pleasure and pain, acceptance, humility, patience, joy and bliss. It can teach you life and maybe even wisdom. And I feel I have only just about scratched the surface of it’s possibilities.
ArtPlay: Are there similarities between dance and Shibari?
Anna: It might seem paradoxical at first to say Shibari is a dance when dance is associated with the freedom of movement whereas Shibari seems to be all about the restriction of movement. But I find a lot of similarities between dance and Shibari, in fact Shibari, to me, is dance. Dancing and thus also Shibari is creating a sculpture that is only visible for a moment. Both art forms have a very ephemeral quality that echoes the finite nature of life and the infinite nature of love. The act of tying unifies us in movement, the one who moves and the one who is being moved and if we extend that to being emotionally moved we could even say, we move each other and the souls begin to dance. Albert Einstein said: „Dancers are the athletes of God“ and he touches on the notion that movement as a form of expression and communication seems to reach deep into the heart and connects us to something higher. Boundaries are exposed to be mere concepts. Dance is about the realm of possibilities, of what the human body can do and of what the human spirit can do. And it’s about listening. The same can be said for Shibari.
In classical ballet and in ropes we seek to create space within restriction, create space for movement, feelings and expression. In our attempt to do so, we resort to different techniques that vary from person to person. Coming from dance, I borrow quite a few techniques from there.
I also find similarities in the tools used. Pointe shoes and rope are tools for transformation. And transformation is always violent. It can be physical or emotionally violent. Pain has to be transformed to create beauty. Pointe shoes have to be broken in and treated in specific ways so we can actually use them and every dancer has their own personal tricks and routines in doing so. Pointe shoes have to be mastered, we get attached to them as through preparing them and dancing with them they become something very intimate and personal. However, as soon as they become comfortable, they are at the end of their lives and have to be replaced and the whole cycle starts again. It’s very similar to rope. Rope too has to be treated in specific ways, broken in, we tend to get attached to it and as soon as it becomes beautifully smooth and flies in your hands it’s about time to replace it. To me, there are so many similarities, on a conceptual, emotional and practical level.
ArtPlay: How did you start combining the two?
Anna: To me both is dance, they’ve always belonged to the same family and thus the feeling of combining them was somehow logical. Ballet seems to be something I bring to the table unconsciously when I tie with someone and the person tying me picks up on that energy and draws from it. From there it was just a small step to explore the relationship between ballet and Shibari on a performance level.
You did a political piece „Sacrificing Europa“ Do you think politics is relevant to Shibari?
I think in a performance setting it’s legitimate to use this art form as a vessel to tell stories and also to tap into current topics. MnR and I felt very strongly about Brexit and Shibari was our chosen form of communicating our feelings to an audience, not least because Shibari can have a strong visual vocabulary that we wanted to utilise for this
ArtPlay: Have you tied with Soptik before?
Anna: Yes, we first tied when we went to Eurix together about a year ago and in fact it was Soptik who asked me to bring my pointe shoes when I flew over to visit him.
ArtPlay: What is your „rope relationship“ to each other?
Anna: I watched Soptik tie and teach at a few Eurixes before I asked him whether he needs a model for the next Eurix. His style, approach and preferences struck a chord with me. I didn’t expect a yes. I didn’t even expect him to remember me, but apparently he did and he said yes. Since then we’ve tied together, taught together, laughed together and breathed together. I’m ineffably thankful for all he’s shared with me, for his kindness, generosity and trust. Riding on the wings of this dragon is special. (Soptik is the Czech name for Grisù - a little dragon in an animated television series who dreams of becoming a firefighter).
ArtPlay: How do you think the relationship to your rigger affects the ropes?
Anna: C.G. Jung said: “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two substances: If there is any reaction, both are transformed.” The chemistry of the two people coming together to tie affects and determines everything.