Workshop Review and Reflection - 'Rope by Aleni' Women's Rope Intensive @ Studio Kink, Sydney -Jan 14th, 2017
Vital Details: ‘Rope By Aleni’ Women’s Rope Intensive, 14/1/17, Studio Kink Sydney, $125/pp (optional party add-on not included)
If you read my first post of 2017, you would know that one of my key goals for this year is to take my love affair with shibari rope bondage from an occasional flirtation to a more intense committed relationship. I have been topping with rope since my first year in the public scene and know enough to bind someone for sensation or impact play or sex, but I lack the more extensive knowledge and skills to do complete scenes with just rope. This is my own fault, as I simply fail to practice regularly and end up having to relearn the core skills over and over and thus never progress. My first step towards achieving this resolution was to attend ‘Rope By Aleni’ - a one-day women’s only rope intensive taught by Aleni DeViate - at Studio Kink in Sydney.
I first encountered Aleni when she performed at one of my first Sydney Hellfire Club events back in 2014 - I remember it clearly because she was the first female rigger I’d seen on stage and the boy she was tying was cute! We never had a chance to meet properly until late last year, when she was supervising a Queer SKORE that my girlfriend Daisy and I attended. The room was filled with advanced riggers and I was pretty intimidated, but I managed to drag Daisy away from the studio’s cat long enough to practice my futomomo (fat-leg tie). Aleni wandered over to check in and after we introduced ourselves, she deemed the ties suspension-worthy and demonstrated how to hang Daisy from the rafters which was a real thrill! She then asked me to show her my TK2 and my lapsed practice began to show - I got confused and frustrated - but Aleni was incredibly patient and kind and stayed with me through tie and provided honest feedback and clarification when needed. It was such a wonderful opportunity and I still value it all these months later.
Daisy in Rope at Queer SKORE in 2016
So when I saw that Aleni was presenting this intensive I jumped at the chance to spend the day learning from her. Daisy was out of town that weekend and the workshop description specifically mentioned that both parties would be given a chance to tie, so I reached out to K. She is a fellow rope enthusiast from Canberra, who I always have amazing conversations with at events but have never had the chance to get to know properly. I knew she also wanted to hone her skills and would be happy to switch between bunny (rope bottom) and rigger (rope top) - my invitation was accepted with enthusiasm and a week later we met at the Studio on a very humid Sydney morning.
The day, presented by Aleni and her partner Doll, was split into three sessions:
Session 1: Back to Basics - a playful introduction to basic ties as well as safety, scene negotiation and rope etiquette
Session 2: Understanding the TK - Osada 2 Rope Takate Kote
Session 3: And now we dance - Essentials of play dynamics and intention, consent discussion and mindful rope meditation
I must admit that I went into Session 1 expecting to just go through the motions, I have done so many Rope 101 classes at this point that I was pretty confident that I could just breeze through it. So, true to form Aleni’s single column was different to my go-to and worked better, which goes to show that it never hurts to go back to square one. I also appreciated the time we were given to improvise and experiment with incline cuffs as one of my key goals is to improve my rope flow and intuition. I loved that Aleni encouraged bunnies (especially ones that were not switching) to practice these ties as well, this was part of a running focus of understanding rope enough to pick safe riggers, which is a skillset I feel we greatly under value. Aleni also spoke eloquently about the unique nature of feminine rope, the importance of making space for female riggers, essentials and nuances of rope safety and etiquette and the importance of effective negotiation (which was an ongoing theme of the day). K and I split our roles pretty evenly and found lots of time to chat during the hands-on sections. Overall, I took a lot more away from this session than I anticipated and it set a wonderful tone to the day.
We adjourned for a lovely morning tea of fruit and gluten-free brownies before returning to the studio for ‘Session 2: Understanding The TK’. Now the Takate Kote and I have a long and challenging history, I was first taught a TK at Canberra Peer Rope many, many years ago and since then have easily been taught four or five different variants on it. I know all the basic motions but a clear order of wraps, tensions and locks has never really stuck with me. Since my SKORE experience with Aleni in 2016, I had decided to focus on Osada 2 Rope Takate Kote and had practiced as best as I could, but still needed clarification on several points.
The back of my TK on Daisy at Queer SKORE in 2016
Aleni started the session by explaining the history, tradition and importance of the TK in Japanese-style rope and confirmed my suspicion that it was vital for advancement to intermediate and advanced classes. She then took the whole class through the tie, step-by-step, taking time to check everyone’s work and explaining the purpose of each movement as we progressed. I had spoken to K prior to the course about my need to work on this tie and she generously bunnied for the majority of the session, remaining cheerful and chatty, even when I had to restart the tie because I had wrapped in the wrong direction! The feedback given was honest and very constructive but always presented with professionalism and in a positive and supportive manner. After a couple of revisions and adjustments, Aleni deemed my tie “Perfect” and I felt particularly proud of myself!
Safety was always a key point in the discussion and everything was done in a timely manner to ensure no bunny was kept in the restrictive tie too long. We wrapped up the session with enough time for K to practice the TK on me and get some quick feedback from Aleni before we broke for lunch. I made sure to take note throughout this session and have referred to them in my practice since and can confirm that my TK has really improved since this workshop. This was without a doubt the most valuable session for me based on my needs but I feel it would be just as effective for someone learning this important tie for the very first time.
Our Presenter Aleni DV8 (Photo from DV8 House)
After a lovely lunch of salad rolls and wraps, we moved into the third and final session of the day entitled ‘And now we dance…’. This section was about playing with rope and covered themes like tying with intention, play dynamics, rope meditation and included a important conversation about consent. I went into this session with the least preconceptions and left it absolutely blissed out and inspired!
Aleni began the session with an absolutely wonderful discussion on consent, and in particular, how to respond to accidental consent violations (ACVs). We talk about consent a lot in the BDSM community and ACVs are a topic of much discussion. ACVs most often occur when a player feels hurt by or uncomfortable an element of play but explicit boundaries are not actively violated. They can included failure to negotiate for particular activities, negative feelings about play that are not communicated in the moment, or a player having an adverse realization about a kind of activity during or after. Having an ACV bought to your attention can be very confronting and emotional regardless of your BDSM role but, as Aleni said during her presentation, learning to respond compassionately and gracefully is absolutely vital. They focus on validating the experience of the victim, removing ego from the situation and dispelling fallacies were incredibly refreshing additions to the community dialogue. I hope this is a spiel Aleni takes into other workshops and teaching opportunities because her approach is insightful and important.
That important discussion out of the way, we moved to the hands-on section of the afternoon. The overarching theme of this session was about intention, which is something I think about a lot in kink and something I often neglect in rope. The mechanics often distract me from it and its to the detriment of my rigging, so I was definitely paying attention. I found Aleni’s method for teaching this section fascinating and incredibly successful: she taught us all a very simple tie with two variations, one that drew the hands behind the head and one that bound them to the chest; we were then told to tie it extremely slowly and then tie it again with our eyes closed. This process gave us a simple skill to apply so we could focus on the key lesson. Aleni asked us to decide on what we wanted out bunny to feel and explained how to create that sensation with movement, position, proximity, pacing and breath. It was absolutely wonderful and K was an incredible partner for this kind of energy work.
I really valued this session because it bought rope back into the familiar for me, despite the technical elements, at it is core it is about connection and sensation - which is something I am intimately acquainted with. This sense of re-connection was really bought home by the final activity of the day, a guided rope mediation where Aleni lead us through the same tie but in a beautiful meditative form with instructions for both the rigger and bunny. We completed it twice, so K and I both got to switch roles and I could not imagine a more perfect way to end the day.
There was a women’s only rope party later that night but I did not personally attend.
Obligatory Laneway Selfie En Route to the Workshop. Wearing the shirt Daisy bought me at Melbourne SEXPO. (@thesensiren on Instagram)
I was very excited about this intensive from the moment I read about it and it did not disappoint for a second. I left inspired, reinvigorated and more confident in my skills as a rigger. Aleni (and her partner Doll) was an incredible presenter and the content was diverse, holistic and interesting. I am so glad I invited K along, not only because it was a great chance to get to know her better but also because her energy was such a beautiful addition to the experience. I took something really valuable from each session and have applied the things I have learned from both my rope and non-rope play. I have managed to have a few practice sessions since and am already feeling myself improve.
In my experience, Studio Kink is a wonderful space and institution and a really valuable asset to the community. I would highly recommend their workshops and events to people of all skill levels and am really look forward to participating in their progressive class program this year. It is also worth noting that non-female identifying members of the SK team were very respectful of the women’s only space. Many thanks to Aleni, Doll and Studio Kink for putting on such a lovely day and identifying a definite need in our community.
This review was not sponsored, I purchased the ticket with my own money, I hold no interests in Studio Kink or its programs.