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Nudity ‘becomes a forum’ in the Upspace

This year’s events included nude yoga, body painting, a lecture series and a nude open mic event

Four-, five- and six-fingered hand prints snake along Production Workshop Upspace’s walls, interspersed with questions and statements like “how many people have you seen naked?” and “#freethenipple,” all in multicolored chalk. A student plays a cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Mykonos” on his guitar while audience members peel off layers of clothing.

PW’s third annual Nudity in the Upspace week of events began Monday with “Nude Arts and Crafts//Body Painting,” continuing throughout the week with nude yoga, a mini-lecture series on bodies in different contexts and a nude movie and board games night. The week culminated Friday with the centerpiece of Nudity in the Upspace — “A Piece of Devised Nudity” — and concluded Saturday with “Nude Open Mic Night.”


The naked truth

Nudity in the Upspace began with a stroke of luck in spring 2012. Part of a family that was extremely open about nudity, Becca Wolinsky ’14 said she conceived of the idea for Nudity in the Upspace during her sophomore year, after streaking in her first-year dorm and participating in the Naked Donut Run.

She then entered her idea in the PW lottery, pulling in fellow sophomore Camila Pacheco-Fores ’14 as a co-coordinator for the event, she said. The pair returned to campus to see how Nudity in the Upspace evolved in their absence and performed at the open mic.

Nudity in the Upspace aims to create a space to talk about how bodies interact in different ways, depending on different contexts, Pacheco-Fores said.

“Part of that is stripping the body of any of its additions,” she said, adding that the program ushers in discussions about body image, race and sexuality through nudity without the usual sexualized connotations.

Though campus is perpetually abuzz with vocalized thoughts about these issues, Nudity in the Upspace provides an experiential angle to the slew of academic words, Pacheco-Fores said. “The naked body becomes a forum.”

In order for Nudity in the Upspace to function with the dynamic of respect and openness that defines it today, the event upholds strict guidelines. Phones and bags are forbidden, participants must respect all bodies within the space and all experiences shared must remain confidential — testimonials are not to be taken outside the Upspace. As each event begins, coordinators Cherise Morris ’16 and Sam Keamy-Minor ’16 repeat their upbeat mantra, “What is said here stays here, but what is learned here leaves here.”

The guidelines exist to recognize the  serious and personal nature of the thoughts expressed during Nudity in the Upspace, Wolinsky said.

Anne Fosburg ’17 led her first nude yoga class Tuesday as part of Nudity in the Upspace. Yoga establishes a connection between mind and body, and being naked enhances the freedom that traditionally accompanies yoga, Fosburg said. “It reminds you of all the parts of your body.”


Un-dress rehearsal

While, in past years, the devised piece has run twice, this year it was performed three times at 6, 8 and 11 p.m. Friday.

“The devised piece is the crux of it, for all of us,” Wolinsky said.

Morris said the devised piece begins with the actors each performing monologues that they wrote. The individuals then come together after their monologues, presenting group sketches and more humorous segments.

Morris said she looked out at the audience and saw three of her best friends naked and crying. Overcome with emotion, she cried too hard to finish the piece’s last line, spoken in unison by all the actors.

“I didn’t fully understand the impact this show is capable of making for some people who really resonated with some of the pieces,” Morris said.

Though this year’s devised piece touched on many serious issues reverberating throughout campus — particularly race and gender —, the performers retained the “lighthearted, fun goofiness that has been a part of the week in the past,” Pacheco-Fores said.


Second skin

Though the basic structure of Nudity in the Upspace has remained consistent throughout the past three years, the annual event has gone through ideological shifts since its conception.

The event’s first year centered on concepts of body positivity and seeing the beauty in all human figures. And the second year moved towards self-acceptance, away from the mantra that one necessarily needs to love his or her body, Wolinsky said.

This year’s theme rebounded back to body positivity, but through no intentional thematic direction by the coordinators, Morris said.


Full exposure

Nudity in the Upspace attracts a diverse crowd every year, consistently stuffing the Upspace to its limits. Nudity in the Upspace’s yearly demographic includes some of campus’ more devoted nudists, curious first-years and students who want to “hear people share stories,” Wolinsky said.

The diversity of Nudity in the Upspace’s audience sets it apart from the rest of PW’s productions, Pacheco-Fores said, adding that the hype and publicity surrounding Nudity in the Upspace attracts a wider audience every year.

Nudity is required during participation-based events such as yoga and body painting. For audience-based events like Open Mic Night and the devised piece, clothing is optional. Some spectators de-layer throughout the night, creating an audience in various degrees of nudity — the underwear-clad join the fully sweatered and the birthday-suited, showing solidarity with and support for the nude performers, Wolinsky said.

Nudity in the Upspace fosters a new way of learning that is experiential rather than academic, and participating as a naked audience member heightens this experience, Fosburg said.

The urge to strip down as an audience member stems from the will to “shed a layer of my defense,” breaking down the “wall between spectator and performer,” Pacheco-Fores said.

“It’s really powerful that this week can create a space where complete strangers are fine to show up and be so intimate together,” Morris said.

Ria Vaidya ’16 attended nude body painting and the open mic for the past two years. Coming from a conservative background, Vaidya said though many opportunities such as naked parties exist on campus to explore naked bodies in a public context, Nudity in the Upspace is the only event that explicitly creates a comfortable safe space.

Vaidya added that the event has allowed her the chance to learn about different body shapes and sizes. Her conservative background has caused her discomfort with nakedness in other contexts, so the forum Nudity in the Upspace provides has been educational, she said.

“We have our bodies for our entire lives, so they’re worth exploring,” Fosburg said.

“Nakedness is provocative and it gets people in the room, but it gets people to talk about things that aren’t just nudity,” Wolinsky said. “The naked body makes it that much more powerful.”


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