Since early 2021, I've been learning and practising intimacy choreography/direction and coordination with Prescott and some members of the HCAC community. We're learning that attending the workshops and understanding the theory is very different from actually putting what we learnt into practice.
So far, we've taken workshops from TIE and I've taken one on childbirth from Intimacy for Stage and Screen. This one was a little out of my depth, which reinforces the point that the folks from TIE made - intimacy directing is a creative role and choreographers/directors/coordinators draw on their life and work experiences to a certain extent. Always always work with an expert consultant (e.g. a midwife if we're choreographing a birth scene).
Although Covid-19 opened up many of these workshops to us through the online medium, it's always through the night for us... hoping for some workshops in our time zones soon. There's lots more I want to do and learn but only so little time and so far, no funding available. Paying for these out of my pocket is running up costs.
So IC is about telling stories about intimacy in a consent based practice and respecting the boundaries of everyone involved, especially the actors. Intimate scenes are hard to stage because it requires a high degree of vulnerability from performers. We want to tell intimate stories without compromising anyone's psychological needs, so that we have more fun doing it and acting is also a more sustainable craft. Actors should not have to say yes to everything to be "easy to work with" and no one should expect them to do so. The problem is that inexperienced actors may not feel like they have a choice if they're conditioned to carry a scarcity mindset with them into the rehearsal room - if you don't do it, someone else will. As creatives, the priority should be on the story and usually there is a way to tell the story while holding space for everyone's boundaries. And in my experience, when we over-advocate for respecting boundaries, usually people feel safer and braver, and are more able to take creative risks. Their boundaries may shift and the playing space expanded, but because they made the choice themselves, this is empowering.
I kind of fell into this work by accident, all because Prescott asked me if I was interested in taking TIE's Best Practices workshop together in early 2021 and co-facilitating consent and boundaries workshops with him. It's quite serendipitous - I'm fascinated by intimacy and its narratives. I love theatre and acting and am have a budding interest in directing. And I like language and working with and advocating for people. Basically IC is an intersection of many things I like.
I sometimes understand the craft as translating story, feeling, movement into language derived from theatre methods (e.g. Laban, Viewpoints) and movement work, and importantly, is desexualised and de-loaded as much as can be. There's a lot that can be said about this, and I'm still constantly discovering what this means in practice. For example, instead of saying "character X ravishes character Y hungrily before grinding them", we'd use tempo, desexualised language - "move their hips in a U shape making contact on every other count", shapes and rhythms, and place holders for kisses.
You'd be surprised how many actors - even those who are normally already comfortable with intimacy - say they feel a lot more relaxed performing a choreography instead of having to interpret a direction themselves. One of the most common reasons given is that it makes them less self conscious about what their interpretation might say about their personal experiences. This inevitably interferes with an actor's ability to take creative risks, and is not necessary in the grand scheme of things. Given a set choreography, actors are actually even more able to stay in the moment and bring the story to life.
"I felt more free, could connect better with my scene partner. I did not have to hesitate because I'm afraid of crossing my scene partner's boundaries accidentally. I could live in scene better." - Jedidiah, an actor we practised scene choreography with.
Does everyone need this? Probably not. Some actors are able to separate self from character much better. But we need to take care of the most vulnerable in the room for the work to be the best it can be.
So far, I'm happy learning and discovering this craft, and hope to be able to work with some directors to serve their vision. Contrary to what might immediately arise with some directors, the IC is not there to replace or undermine the director. In fact, the IC wants to help the director do their job better. The director does not have to give up creative control over the story. But imagine if there was someone on set or in the rehearsal room designated to take care of people's boundaries in staging intimacy? Everyone could just focus on their jobs. Wouldn't that take the pressure off and in as a result, enhance the experience for all?
Anyway, I learn best through talking, practising and metabolising the thoughts and learnings through creating content for others. Practice is probably the hardest to get, and the most important. It's like rewiring our brains and we don't get it right all the time. In fact sometimes I've done something and immediately thought that I could have taken more care of others. While we try to get more practice time in, we've started an Instagram account @consent_collaborative_sg to use as a platform to catalogue learnings and resources.
There's so much to write about that I cannot fit it all into one post (e.g. intimacy extends beyond the realm of sexual intimacy, and there are lots of intersections with other elements of our identities that require lots of care). Besides who has the time to read long essays these days? Social media seems like a good tool here. Over time, we'd love the account to be more of a platform for the community to learn together. Let me know if you're keen to contribute or collaborate to create content - open to ideas! We chose the name "Collaborative" instead of "Collective" to acknowledge that there's lots of work to be done together, and for me personally, I like that the word "lab" is contained within the name too, because ultimately all learning is about experimenting.
Fun facts: The logo was created by the wonderful Mila Troncoso, who is a talented actress, fitness coach and illustrator! Do check her work out at @staurolitestudios . I had sketched a really scrappy picture of two backs of hands reaching towards each other and she cleaned it up so beautifully <3. Backs of hands instead of palms to symbolise consent for intimacy.