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September 2012 - Next Magazine
Pleasure For The Powerful
Gays head upstate to find their spiritual center through yoga — and sensual massage.
(Easton Mountain; (inset, top to bottom) Kevin Kortan and Kai Ehrhardt)
Let’s get real for a minute: nightlife is one of the major factors that makes life in New York so amazing (glitter party, hello!), but going out every night of the week to shout over Carly Rae Jepsen at that cute boy you had your eye on can be draining. “Maybe one day they’ll have bars where they say, ‘Let’s do some breathing exercises so that we can really connect to ourselves,’” jokes Kevin Kortan. Though on second thought, “Maybe it’d be a niche bar.”
This weekend Kortan and his Berlin-based co-producer Kai Ehrhardt have planned an embodied spirituality retreat for men called Power Pleasure Play at Easton Mountain, a center for gay spirituality located a half-hour northeast of Albany. The retreat, which is based in yoga practices but will also explore sensual touch in randomly partnered scenarios, seeks to explore what exactly power is and how our ideas of what is central to that concept relate to how we experience pleasure.
“When you and I use the word ‘power,’ we likely associate very different meaning to [it],” says Ehrhardt. “The individual relationship I have to ‘power,’ ‘pleasure’ and ‘play’ majorly impacts dynamics in my life. Bringing some attention to that really can’t hurt.”
The weekend will be a relatively intimate affair, with somewhere between 20 and 30 guys in attendance. “There are three main chunks to each day,” explains Kortan. The first evening guys will settle into Easton Mountain, eat dinner and get to know each other. “The next morning we dive in,” Kortan says. There will be a 3-hour, post-breakfast session, “you know, breathing, posture, relaxation, kind of getting into the power and pleasure of our bodies, leading into some partnered exercises.” After lunch and some free time they’ll explore massage and touch in guided groups. “We make space for lots of physical engagement,” says Ehrhardt. “This can include full-body touch or contact in clothes or in the nude conducted within certain group guidelines that ensure the safety and respect the boundaries of everybody involved.” Through that touch, they’ll continue to work on the themes of the weekend, “like power; what is power?” Kortan asks. “A lot of people [incorrectly] think power is violence.”
In addition to exploration with different personas, Kortan says, “I’m having people… bring an article of clothing, some sort of hat or a skirt or a blouse or a harness, something that maybe you bought when you were feeling really open…and you haven’t worn it since.” Another hot-button issue that many, if not all of the retreat participants, likely have personal experience with that they’ll tackle is bullying. “How can we reframe this? How have we dealt with it? How might we find ways to empower ourselves?” Kortan asks. “It could be very rich.”
Another part of Power Pleasure Play’s draw is the retreat’s safe space. “I mean, that’s part of why I moved to New York City, that kind of environment,” explains Kortan. “[Living in New York is] very empowering—but it’s still not quite the same,” he says, noting that there are still plenty of rules to conform to, even in our gay town.
Ultimately, the weekend is about exploring oneself and finding a healthy balance to the many forces pulling at us. “For me gay people have often been leaders and pioneers in many areas and I think that now there’s a growing desire in the culture in general, but in the LGBT community [especially], to really support ourselves with practices that nourish us,” Kortan asserts. A group of like-minded guys headed to the middle of nowhere to explore notions of power through yoga and sensual touch? Sounds pretty damn nourishing to us. —Alex Erikson
Power Pleasure Play at Easton Mountain Retreat Center for Gay Spirituality, 391 Herrington Hill Road (btwn Waters/Freeman Rds), Greenwich, NY, Sep 13–16; $375–$595. Visit eastonmountain.com for more info.