Stretch Festival – Day one
Village Berlin is a gay community center, set up and run by two men who are also partners, Eric Le Rouge, and Kai Ehrhardt. The center has an art gallery called Instinct, and they’ve developed a calendar of events from Movie Night, Book Club, Naked Yoga, and Cuddle Puddle to name a few. Village Berlin also hosts the Stretch Festival – a weekend of workshops that explore sexual identity, expression, gender, queerness, mental health, community, and connection. This is our first hand report of what a weekend at Stretch could be like, as told by our Social Media Officer, Joseph.
Touch, Spank and Romance
Eric invited me to Stretch Festival. Although I went as the Social Media Officer for ROMEO, I was also there as a single gay man hoping to learn something about myself and possibly grow. This blog post is an account of my journey throughout the weekend.
The schedule is pretty packed full over the three days. There are several classes running throughout the weekend, and you’ll have to choose which ones you most want to do most. It is not possible to do all of them, but you can attend a healthy amount. Here’s an example of the choice on Friday alone.
Touch Meditation with a stranger
My first class is Touch Meditation by David Pena-Charlon, a Spanish practitioner based in Brighton, UK. He begins with a story about fire and elements, the beginnings of mediation and its evolution.
We are fifty gay men, perched on mattresses and blankets, caught up in the storytelling skills of this handsome man. When the atmosphere of safety and calm is established, David invites us to spread out. We are asked to find a partner without speaking, just eye contact, and then to touch meditate together. I chose this class as I wanted to meet and talk to David, but I’m engrossed in the touch mediation, and it carries me to a place of reflection and intimacy with a stranger. The man beside me makes eye contact, and without speaking, we select each other. We sit opposite each other on the floor yogi style, knees pressed together, and begin to touch meditate. David leads the meditation with certain suggestions from time to time throughout the session.
Touch and Smell Meditation
I run my fingers along my partner’s arms, he reciprocates, and we are flowing our hands over each other’s bodies. We build up a slow and gentle rhythm, and each cycle goes a little further. I enter a trance of happy familiarity with this stranger. We are cheek to cheek; I’m touching his spine, his hands are on my temples; we move again, and his fingers are tracing my back as I sooth his temples in return. I begin to notice his smell and my own intermingle.
It feels like only a few minutes but an hour has elapsed. It’s time to finish. I hold my stranger, and he holds me; we cuddle in a seated position. I’m extremely relaxed. For me touch meditation is intimate; not sexual, just friendly.
There’s a ‘check out moment’ at the end; some share their stories, others remain wrapped up in each other. I say thank you.
A little Tenderness
I have to dash to find Eric and Kai, and can’t share more with my newfound touch-mediation husband. If I had more time, I would tell him that it was splendid to stroke and caress a stranger; that as a single gay man I find it easy enough to find sex, but challenging to find affection. This class helped me to experience a little tenderness.
Eric and Kai – The Founders
I meet Eric Le Rouge and Kai Ehrhardt. They developed Stretch from a thought to a recurring festival. This is the 9th Stretch and each time it’s a little different; sometimes it’s two days with more extended sessions, sometimes three with snippets of what the journey could be like for you.
Eric is the front man, running the building, and in charge of marketing. Kai is the experienced therapist who mentors many of the newer practitioners during their training. He wants to provide a space where gay men can come together, heal, and share stories. At the same time, trainee facilitators can further hone their skills with some real hands-on experience.
Their ambition is to create and grow a community of gay men, who try to find their footing in the world and heal within, and as a community. It’s all about being included in the story of humanity.
Spanking for Beginners – David Bloom
After speaking to Kai and Eric, I rush to Spanking for Beginners led by David Bloom. Eric joins me. David has a powerful voice that fills the room. He talks about spanking and how it’s not merely the act of striking, it’s about breathing and synchronicity – you and your partner must breathe into it. I love kink and fetish and am very partial to a little dominance, but spanking on its own has never really appealed to me. I’m here to see if there’s something I missing and if I can learn how to enjoy it more.
David Bloom tells us that you need to be exact and measured in your movements. You must display (your) control to your partner by striking a fixed spot on the wall again and again. You never actually touch the spot, but you point very close to it.
Then you do this to each other. My finger lands with millimeter precision on Eric’s skin, his chest. I don’t strike or prod him; I just quickly, and with accuracy, flex my arm and lightly connect with his body.
Wildly Erotic Spanking at Stretch Festival
We were previously instructed to feel our feet on the floor, breathe from our feet, be in contact with the space around us. Now while grounded I begin to spank Eric, and it is wildly erotic. I’m not into force or beating. I do enjoy slapping an arse from time to time, but ritualistic methodical spanking is not something I’ve tried. When its Eric’s turn to spank me, I must confess he is much better at it, and the satisfying slap sound of a decent spanking rounds off my rump. He smacks the bejesus out of me with care and confidence. I don’t enjoy being the receiver, but I respect the technique and skill of the striker.
After a check out session, we thank David Bloom for his time and considerable skill as a teacher and leave with red rumps to prepare for the next experience.
Romantic Move – David Garcia Garcia
My third and final workshop for the day is Romantic Move led by David Garcia Garcia. The session is based on Gestalt Therapy and invites you to use movement to understand why love is sometimes not returned, and how often we don’t fall in love with a stranger but the parts we see of ourselves in another. It’s methodical, safe, and a good taster of what Gestalt is about. In each workshop you get a sense of what the whole therapy is about. Depending on the classes you select, you could have an emotional experience over the three days at Stretch Festival, but for deeper work, you might need to book a few more sessions.
Time to Process Day one
So then, heart opened, bum spanked, and mediations touched, I end my first day at Stretch Festival. I arrive at my apartment, and I finally get to process the many stimuli of my exciting Friday in Berlin. I go to bed a complete person, and drift to sleep in the middle of imagining what workshops and classes my Saturday will contain.
All Images: Jean Baptiste Huong
Even More Stretching
Stretch Festival is presented by Authentic Eros (where you can find many longer programs) and is hosted at Village Berlin. The next event is called Stretch Imagine, and is scheduled for November 3rd and 4th. To find out more visit their website or follow their Instagram.
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