Taking a step up onto the stage, my heart bangs just once against my ribcage, then the nerves vanish. Cool deep breaths. Standing in the middle. Back to the audience. Centre myself, listen to the music. Exhale. And begin. There's a metamorphosis, right there. A start point from me to me in performace. I change into something else, letting bits of me go and relying on the eyes watching me to fix me into place. I take them in whilst trying not to look, trying instead to appear exactly as I should come across. Just a girl, dancing. No hint as to what might happen next. I don't want to give the game away.
Those who know I'm doing "something" with Ringmaster and Dandy are close to the stage, most people are either at the bar or upstairs at the gallery, backs to me. I grin a little to myself. They have the ambivalence towards me I do when most stage shows are happening: the jaded attitude of the fetish scenester. Another redhead girl doing a striptease. Whatever. When I start screaming, they'll turn around soon enough. And turn they did. But by then, I could no longer see them. From the moment I get into the lights to being taken down from the ropes I'm in another place entirely. I can barely remember a moment of the show itself. Afterwards, I need to be told what happened, what it looked like, how people reacted. On stage, I'm in a certain kind of space. A heady mixture of strong sensations - after all, I am giving those watching a thrill, controlling their reactions to some degree, and I have the power of being beheld, being desired and wanted. But there's more than that.
I love doing stage performance. Part of me likes the exhibitionist aspect, naturally, but there's more to it than that. I've seen a lot of bad performance, performance that doesn't really do anything for me, inspires no reaction, is just there to be watched or ignored, depending on which way you are facing. There's a trick to performing in public, to give the crowd something that they weren't expecting, give them something at any rate. It's not the same as playing in clubs with a crowd around you. That gives the thrill of being watched, certainly, but in some cases I can be more distracted by voyeurs than exhilarated. I'm not here for them, I'm here for me, and for the person I'm playing with. On stage, I'm here for those watching. There's a parity in BDSM performance between the top and bottom, what we present is an illusion of power and control. It's a good illusion though, and all of it happens to me, many parts of it are real.
I could talk you through what happened when because we ran it through a few times beforehand, but that was practice. Cool and calm, measuring the paces, checking the rope, going point to point and setting the props. When it's live, it's different. I have in my mind the list of what happens when, drummed in by internal repetition before I go up on stage, but it's a guideline, quickly dropped if something else feels better, feels more natural. I rely on my partners to keep me safe and secure, knowing that they will catch my weight if I fall. But beneath that is another knowledge, that if I do hit the floor, I won't feel it because I'm high on endorphins and because falling to the floor was exactly the right thing to do. It's like a rollercoaster - you can know the ups and downs perfectly, but you still scream, your heart still rises in your throat. You still feel it.
Onstage, I do feel it. Full of self-stimulated panic that rides my body so it thrashes, bucks and trembles as if it were all real. And the feelings are real. I don't fake it, it's not a put on display, but bits of myself pushed outwards, performing bits of me as the rope inspires memory, the pulled blows (and they are pulled) still have force behind them to inspire fight or flight response. Held tight in strong arms flight isn't an option. So I struggle. Because I'm being assaulted, abused and tied up. I'm covered in blood. I'm writhing and screaming, feeling every muscle in my body contort and spasm. I'm in a red, red space of simulated emotions, interspersed with the white flashes of cameras and the thudding of blood in my ears. Bull in the ring with two matadors. This is how boxers feel, when the sweat drips, the crowd cheers and the blows keep coming.
I need to wait for the applause to know that we are done. Hanging half suspended and naked, slippy with blood and trying not to breath as I fake death. Mostly, I'm trying not to smile, not to burst out laughing. The relief and satisfaction of a job well done, the full force of the afterglow born out of such public catharsis. I push out a lot of dark emotions when I'm performing torture and in their wake I'm light headed and giddy. I pad naked to the bathroom to regain a little composure before a celebratory drink and bask in praise.
Later, Majeste comes up to me.
"You look like yourself again, glowing, like when we first met."
That's about right.
5 weeks ago