Interview with Green Gorilla and fairydance
Green Gorilla is a rigger based in Thessaloniki, fairydance is a rope bottom based in Berlin. Together, they have been invited by the AthenShibari team to come and teach in Athens. on September 14th and 15th. Their style, which is based on improvisation, communication and connection is something that we wanted to encourage in the local scene and we could not think of better presenters than them. Green Gorilla has inspired many riggers and models of the Greek community to think outside of the box in a previous workshop of his. We were impressed with his skills in both ropes and planning a workshop.In this interview they talk about what they like about rope, how they got started and about their teaching style.
What do you most like about being a rigger or being a model?
Fairydance: I was first drawn to bottoming because of being invited to let go. When I first went into BDSM I thought I was in wonderland because there were people who were willing to take the initiative and create interesting experiences for me (in German I’d call it ‘mich bespielen’, an untranslatable word-play) and they genuinely enjoyed that and invited me to open up and become vulnerable. In my everyday life, I create experiences for others a lot and I have a lot of responsibility. This translates to a deep yearning to let go and for someone else to take control. But there are a lot of different things I like about rope!
Green Gorilla: Rope is such a versatile medium, you can do whatever you want with it! You can use it for touch, restriction, manipulation, for being tender and for being rough. It allows you to flow with what you and your partner want and like, to follow the chemistry that develops between you. It doesn’t force you into a box, instead it lets you develop your imagination and your creativity.
Fairydance: Yes! One thing that affects me deeply is touch and being held, and with rope there is the benefit of being touched twice: by hands and rope! And I love the sensation of scratchy material on my skin. But I also very much enjoy dancy rope, playing with resistance and being overpowered, bantering and teasing each other through rope or researching body reactions. By now, there are a lot of options that I enjoy with the exception of athletic challenges.
How did you first understand that you are interested in rope?
Green Gorilla: Funnily enough, I was drawn to it because it looked intellectual, technical, like a thing that is difficult to master and therefore special – I am sometimes drawn to challenge. I had seen photos of rope of course, like everybody, but when I first saw it live during the first kink party I ever attended I decided that I must learn this. Sure enough, a couple of months later I had my first set of ropes.
Nowadays my rope is anything but technical, I guess the joke’s on me. But I certainly don’t regret getting into it in the first place!
Anything but technical? How would you describe the way you do rope? What do you enjoy about it? Have you been influenced in your style by someone or something?
Green Gorilla: When I started rope I was doing it very much by-the-book, copy-what-the-teacher-does style. Keep in mind that this was seen as the only right way to tie at the time, back in the beginning of the decade. Any deviation from the classic patterns was considered by many people as unsafe, there was a great lack of information in the West about the ‘why’ of rope, about the base of technique and why the patterns were designed the way they were. Most people in Europe basically copied a single style, that of Osada Steve: by being in the forefront of the rope world in Japan and by being a German- and English-speaker he served as a bridge between the Japanese rope scene and the Western one, bringing us information that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to get due to distance and language barriers. But unfortunately that information often got disseminated third- or fourth-hand, and you could hear people actively discourage innovation.
In that climate, I was very lucky to be able on one hand to participate in some of the very first workshops by Japanese masters on Western soil – Naka Akira, Kinoko Hajime and Otonawa Otonaya in particular brought a revolution to the technical and aesthetic side of rope in Europe. For the first time we were learning the logic of rope, the reasons why we are doing the things we do. And on the other hand I went to international meetings and saw the work of some early avant-garde European riggers who really changed my views on what we are ‘allowed’ to do in rope. The person who really broke my preconceptions is Pilar from Spain – a dear friend and also someone who does the most crazy, chaotic tying imaginable. It really doesn’t have any pattern, sometimes not even a reason in a conscious sense, it just comes straight from her heart. After seeing that, and also the work of Nicolas Yoroï from France (now living in Belgium) and Alberto Noshibari from Spain I became convinced that patterns and formality in tying aren’t for me. I needed to do my own thing, express myself through my own style, and I started experimenting with improvisation and fast, fluid tying. Nowadays I’d say I belong firmly to the more experimental side of the European rope scene.
Fairydance: Which is why some of us friends laughed at him being invited to teach as technical a topic as frictions although of course he is very good at them. Just that it is such an untypical topic for him to teach.
Green Gorilla: It was the first formal workshop I did in Greece, teach frictions in Athens. I like the technical part of rope in an intellectual sense and had the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s most accomplished technical riggers so I was glad to be able to share that, but for me rope works best when reduced to the essentials, when it’s just minimal technique, spartan means, just one or two ropes and no patterns. Then all that is left is you, your partner and the communication between the two of you.
Fairydance, how have you gotten into rope?
Fairydance: I had my first experience with restriction in my early twenties with velcro cuffs. It didn’t work out because that guy was confused about both of us enjoying the traditional gender roles. Well. I liked it and felt very much empowered by letting go. Much later when I started a new chapter in my life at the end of my twenties I resolved to further explore BDSM and found pictures by Zamil and maliZ who at that time (2008) had a project ArtSensual and were performing and teaching in Berlin. In their performances they were telling stories with rope and some of the emotion translated to their picture galleries. I saw this and immediately knew this was something I wanted! I wasn’t sure about pain yet and very doubtful about power exchange, but rope went high up on my to-do-list. Matthias Grimme had an email list at the time (fetlife wasn’t in place yet) where mostly riggers from all over Europe and North America exchanged, trying to learn more about safety etc. I joined that list and was surprised by the warmth of the community. I was especially happy to be invited by Zamil to their monthly rope party in Berlin, I think it would have taken me much longer to make my way to the first event on my own. And soon after I had my first rope experience which confirmed my desire for rope and also showed pain can make me fly. Well, there was a long break after that due to relationship reasons or the lack thereof and I only reentered the BDSM scene more fully in 2012 and the rope scene in 2015.
You live far away from each other, how did you meet?
Green Gorilla: We met in Spain, in a workshop presented by two of our friends from the rope scene, Kristina Marlen and Nicolas Yoroï. I was looking for a model and asked the organisers for help.
Fairydance: I thought the workshop was interesting but wouldn’t have had time. Then my schedule changed and Kristina Marlen posted that a very good rigger was looking for a model. In most cases I would never ever have gone to a workshop with an unknown guy in a different country. But I had a rare high-spirited and brave moment and spent the week with him… Well, it was great – one of my best spur-of-the-moment decisions ever!
What do you enjoy about tying together?
Fairydance: I think we both enjoy combining rope with touch. Actually, this was also the topic of the first workshop we gave together soon after we met. Also, Green Gorilla’s versatile style works very well for playful and/or mobile dancy rope which is something I enjoy a lot.
Green Gorilla: Fairydance loves movement, dance, she can be very expressive. I see tying as a fluid, sometimes rapid interaction and I like to incorporate movement and tactility. I was impressed from our first tie together from how well she responded and even added to the way I tied her.
Fairydance: Also, when we’re both in the mood, he can be really mean and ruthless. I love that intensity! But when something doesn’t work for me he is great at changing track and doesn’t lose his beat. This gives me a very safe feeling to let go! I love it that we have so many different ways of doing rope together which we enjoy. And sometimes we’re just goofy and have fun.
How do you communicate in rope?
Green Gorilla: I place great value in ‘reading’ body language, posture, the subtle clues that my partner gives me, and I consciously use the same signals myself to convey emotion, mood, desire. I also use words, both as a means of enhancing the scene and as a way to actually communicate useful information. I think the idea that talking to your partner and asking them things during the play ruins the mood… that’s only true if you do it wrong. Words can be very powerful.
Fairydance: I would say I use all possible means of communication. Often before a scene I don’t have a clear picture of what I want. I like to be surprised, I like to go with the flow and see where the scene takes us. So I tend to clear a few parameters with the person I tie with before and then I prefer to communicate during the scene using body language and words. And I appreciate my partner verbally checking in from time to time, this has never thrown me out of sub-space but rather allows me to dive deeper.
And I like to ask riggers about their likes and dislikes before a scene, because I have a big range of bottoming options and I can commit more whole-heartedly if I know e.g. if my rigger likes resistance, mobility, yielding in a non-verbal way etc. Often this question has drawn blank stares but by now I have the impression more riggers get used to the idea to also talk about their own wishes and limits. I think this is progress.
Do you see/practice ropes as something that is absolutely connected to BDSM or maybe not?
Green Gorilla: I believe that everybody should find in rope the things they personally love, and of course different people start from different places and have different needs. While rope was historically very much a BDSM activity, and that holds true for me too, I know that others treat it as a physical challenge, an artistic endeavour… It is all valid in my eyes.
Fairydance: I agree.
How did you first get into teaching rope?
Green Gorilla: I wanted to organise in my mind the things that I had learned, and teaching forces you to do this. Of course knowing how to teach is a skill in itself, so then I had to learn *that* too. In the end I think it is worth it, especially since my style is based on improvisation which is a notoriously difficult thing to teach: I had to really codify my methods, all the things that I was doing instinctively or unconsciously before. In the process I had the opportunity to critically examine everything, to refine my methods, and my rope definitely gained from it.
Fairydance: When I told a friend I was starting to teach rope, she laughingly said: “You end up teaching everything you have a passion for!”. I guess that’s true: My love for ballroom dancing and performances lead to becoming a ballroom teacher and I am a professional trainer regarding gender relations, sex education, anti-discrimination, etc. I think this is because I love teaching and facilitating learning processes and I enjoy combining it with my other passions. Although after losing some of my joy in dancing through teaching obligations, I decided to not fully base my living on teaching something that is a private joy for me anymore. I still ended up teaching rope because it is inspiring to develop new material and teach with Green Gorilla and because I just love facilitating and witnessing learning processes and watching how students work with the material we offer. So we pour a lot of love into our workshop preparation, but we also take careful decisions how much we teach and where we go so that it does stay a joyful endeavor.
What do you enjoy about teaching rope? What is important to you when teaching? Are there people or experiences who influence your teaching?
Green Gorilla: The best thing for me is watching people get new and exciting skills, and then have fun using them! I love sharing what was so hard and revolutionary for me to learn, that rope doesn’t have to be formal, it doesn’t have to be done in one ‘true’ way, that people can really express themselves through their tying.
In the same vein many people usually associate tying, especially advanced tying, with suspension. I personally find more joy in staying on the floor and doing simpler, less flashy things but with the intention of creating a lot of impact to my partner. It’s an approach that isn’t widely taught in the scene, many people aren’t familiar with it; instead they only get to see progression in tying as being able to do more and more complex patterns, suspensions, transitions et cetera. When I teach I like to emphasise on using the very basics, on being spartan and intentional, on perfecting the little things that often get overlooked but really make a difference. This is how I tie myself, and I generally find that the people who come to our workshops really appreciate this approach.
Fairydance: I agree that this versatility in Green Gorilla’s tying style allows for a lot of interesting interaction. In teaching I especially love witnessing joy and beautiful interactions but also personal insights and new paths in partnerships! My personal agenda is to teach material that aims at widening the participants’ repertoire of interaction and partnering, of topping and bottoming. And to see that beyond technical questions tops and bottoms (or riggers and models if you prefer) both contribute to how a session turns out. I love to offer new things to try for scene-building and to better get to know oneself and each other. I love experimentation.
Our teaching has on the one hand been inspired by some inspiring rope teachers, especially Kristina Marlen, Nicolas Yoroï, Sophia Rose, and Peter Soptik. I encourage everyone to take classes with them.
I also took a lot of inspiration from my dance teaching. With my colleagues at the time I did a lot of research into partnering, leading and following, rhythm variations etc. and on how to teach this. I also took some aspects from studying acting at school, especially regarding how to activate different mind-sets by still staying fully myself. And last but not least in my job as an educator I have gained a lot of insight into how to facilitate learning processes, how to respect people’s boundaries and still offer them intense experiences, how to work on communication and self-reflection or how to pace a workshop.
One of our principles is to prepare for diversity at a workshop. We know different people have different experiences and needs. My image for this is a flower bouquet. We aim to offer a bouquet with enough interesting flowers for all participants but we also give them some responsibility for their own learning process. This means we create material and exercises that participants can shape according to their needs and wishes and we are happy to offer personalized advice and impulses. And we highly value feedback as one major learning tool for us as teachers. I am very curious for each new group and the mutual learning process that happens at each workshop between teachers and students.