I have a confession to make. As a kid, I never liked the circus much. My parents took me a couple of times, but I always found it pretty boring. Maybe because I come from a generation when magic and exoticism had long become the domain of movies. I preferred the cinema to performing bears and elephants, and I never became a circus fan.
Not until much later, that is, when I discovered SM-Circus and their lovely menagerie of pets.
I first saw them doing shows at BoundCon V and was impressed by their originality and sense of fun. So when the opportunity presented itself to attend a proper movie shoot, as a translator for two English-speaking visitors, I was all for it. Especially because the visitors happened to be Niki Flynn and Amelia-Jane Rutherford aka Ariel Anderssen.
I had always been a huge admirer of Amelia-Jane (like every other spanko out there, I suppose), but had never met her. She is as radiant in person as in her work (more so, actually) and very interesting to talk to. I'll call her Ariel here, because she used her bondage name for the shoot. Even though it involved lots of spanking and little bondage. No, I don't understand it, either.
Then there was director Dirk Sands, Germany's leading pet girl tamer. It's a kind of play I, as a full-time spanking and CP obsessive, know little about. So it was all the more enlightening to talk to one of the renowned experts in the field. I asked, what exactly is it that fascinates you about pet play? Can you pin it down to one particular element, the essence of it all? The answer came quickly: it's the ambiguity. Who is in control, the tamer or the animal? Arguably, one of the big questions of kinky play - who is really in charge? - manifests itself in its purest form here, in this kind of relationship.
Of course, the aim is for the tamer to be in control, but it is a constant struggle. A good tamer will succeed in bending the animal to his will. For an unskilled one, things can get quite dangerous. Director Sands told me of a colleague who was driving his carriage, drawn by a pet girl. And when he lost control of her, they were going off the path, down a slope and into the trees... See, that's what happens when you underestimate your beasts of burden. Never take your eyes off!
No such calamities were expected during the upcoming indoor shoot. However, it turned out that the guy originally scheduled to play Ariel's boyfriend wasn't available. Needless to say, I volunteered immediately. That was before I learned that the boyfriend was supposed to lose her to the circus director in a game of dice. Oh well! I could already hear the public teasing, but figured that it wouldn't be any worse than my recent spell in the village stocks. Time to take one for the team and heroically save the production. As Nietzsche said: that which does not kill us...
A few minutes and rolls of the dice later, I was in breach of various international laws banning human trade, and a loudly protesting Ariel ("Ludwiiig! Luuudwiiiig!") was locked in close combat with the director's loyal watchdog, Niki. Having been well-trained during her first visit to SM-Circus, Niki overpowered my hapless ex-girlfriend, who was then shackled and lead into the circus tent. Thus Ariel Anderssen became a pet girl. Exit one bankrupt gambling addict, and the interesting part of the story began.
Still in a fighting mood, Niki decided to give the new arrival a hard time. After a friendly exchange of greetings ("Look what we have here...!", "Go away, you're mental!"), she started torturing poor caged Ariel with hot candle wax. The circus director, alarmed by all the screaming and writhing, caught Niki red-handed, and one embarassed bully found herself bending over the cage for the first spanking of the day. Ariel was purring with obvious glee while she counted the swats.
Her contentment was short-lived, though, for it was now time to start the new pet's training. It only took a few minutes (and the occasional stroke with the riding crop) for Ariel to get acquainted with the basic commands like "Sitz!" ("Sit!") or "Platz!" ("Down!"). Next up, the director instructed her and Niki to assemble some obstacles - without using their "paws", of course.
The ponygirl scene, with the two of them high-stepping over the bars forward, backward and blindfolded, was my favourite segment. As simple a scenario as you can imagine, I just found it incredibly exciting to watch. Would they clear the next hurdle? Would they knock it over and get punished? Somewhat to my own amusement, I was totally and undeniably transfixed by this, the equivalent of a perfect three chord pop song. The tension was palpable, and when you listened carefully, you could almost hear Niki and Ariel thinking aloud, trying to coordinate their movement.
They made a remarkably good job of the ponyplay, too. Director Sands jokingly remarked to me that there weren't enough mistakes. Things got messier with the next exercise, which involved a duck walk race and a bowl of water. Before long, the water was everywhere but in the bowl. After that came feeding time, and with it more spilled liquids. It's bound to happen when you have two hungry pets fighting over a single dish of yummy cold rice pudding. Half of it was dutifully lapped up by the girls, the other half ended up on the floor. I lost count of the spankings by that point.
By the way, it was most interesting to compare Ariel and Niki during their meal. The Fair One licked up the rice pudding with a very long tongue and impeccable elegance. Save perhaps for my own pet cat, I've never seen anyone with a better, haughtier "Eeew! Am I supposed to eat that?" expression. By contrast, The Dark One would bury her face in the bowl with merry abandon, like a starving puppy dog overjoyed at not having been forgotten. Quite a tag team, those two.
By the end of the shoot, I was well on the way to becoming a pet play convert. There is a conceptual purity and sense of innocence to it that is really quite appealing. In less pretentious words, it was a fun day, watching a group of genuine enthusiasts. SM-Circus are passionate about their kink and the details, right down to the tamer's outfit, the tent and the travelling schedule of a real circus. It's great to see that kind of drive, and we need more of it, in pet play and elsewhere.
Two final notes for us spankophiles: one, Dirk Sands dishes out most of his punishments with a leather glove. Not worn, mind you, but empty. It's an unusual instrument and one I haven't seen in action before. Makes a nice sound, too. Have to try it sometime.
Furthermore, the director is highly fond of ancient units of measurement. The numbers of strokes he uses are 6, 12, 24, 48, 60 and 120. The first few are obviously derived from the dozen, "Dutzend" in German. But what I didn't know is that 120 is called Grosshundert ("great hundred") or that 60 is called a Schock ("shock"). A Schock can be divided into 2 Bund (30 strokes each), 3 Stiegen (20 strokes), 4 Mandel (15 strokes) or 5 Dutzend (12 strokes). I have to do some research on these old numbers, they beat my conventional 6, 12, 30, 50 progression all to hell.