“Clean Socks” is a feature-length documentary about Mongolian contortion and tells the story of one of the best Mongolian contortionists in the world, Serchmaa Byamba, and her student Lance. The story takes place both in Mongolia and the United States of America. We started this documentary project when two of Serchmaa’s students, Lance and Kristina, followed her to Mongolia to experience the culture and learn where Serchmaa Byamba’s teacher first started training in contortion art.
After graduating from the University of Film Art in Mongolia, Tsogtbayar Namsrai moved to the United States to further his education. He worked as an interpreter until he finished school in San Francisco, CA. He translated numerous stage plays from both Mongolian to English and vice versa. One of the plays he translated from Mongolian to English was selected to be staged at the “Hoorah” Chicago-based stage play event.
We are going to introduce a Mongolian boy, who is also training to be a Contortionist in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. In most circus areas and genres it is widely believed that in order to become a successful and professional circus performer, one has to start from very early age. Which has a truth in it, especially in Contortion, because with children as young as 4 or 5 years old, their bones and joints are still soft and teachers and instructors can push their body to it’s maximum flexibility, but with adults with their already formed bone structure, if it is pushed without a limit, it often times just breaks. Serchmaa Byamba believed this theory until she moved to America.
Her teaching career started when some business man decided to take a chance with up and coming Contortionists to choreograph a Contortion act with 21 people. Serchmaa accepted the offer and searched young children to train for the 21 Tara act. After moving to San Francisco, CA, Serchmaa performed in many different circus shows and events, but after settling in San Francisco, she decided to stay and only perform in local events where it close to her family and pursue her teaching.
Circus Center grabbed this opportunity of having a traditional Mongolian Contortion instructor in San Francisco, and with Serchmaa accepting the job, the circus school added Mongolian style contortion classes on the schedule. To Serchmaa’s surprise, many adults signed up for her class and after a few days trial, Serchmaa new that it was different when working with adults and based on her experience working with children, she modified her teaching methods and designed a brand new program for adults and their flexibility.
Serchmaa Byamba maintains the classic training technique passed from her teacher but encourages her students to ‘own the movements’ themselves and create their own style. As a world renowned performer and trained by the founder of contemporary contortion- Serchmaa brings not just technique but a perspective on living that she passes on. She feels the greatest thing she can give students is not just flexibility but a positive change in their life and attitude towards living it. She also believes contortion is something that can physically benefit anyone, that is can be practiced safely and easily, she wants to open contortion up to everyone who is inspired and interested by it. The techniques passed from her teacher are beneficial to all kinds of people with all kinds of goals.
Many of her students started performing and seeing the results have completely changed Serchmaa’s opinion about training with adults. She was very impressed with her students’ determination and will to learn to be a performer. One these students is Lance.
The art of contortion has long history in Mongolia. When people imitated animal’s movements and placed them into performance acts, contortion was born in Mongolia. After becoming a socialist country Mongolian Contortion became part of the Circus genre and the very first traveling circus assembled the official Contortion training.
Contortion is called Uran Nugaralt in Mongolian, meaning Artistic bending. Our Clean Socks logo has the ancient Mongolian script saying those exact words.
Faern is creating the still photography for the Clean Socks documentary. She is well-qualified for this, as she has many years of photographing the body to her credit, as well as extensive studies in cultural anthropology. The documentary investigates Mongolian contortion and its development in the West by looking into teacher and student development. It also examines the cultural importance of a traditional Mongolian art form that is handed down through the children, and is now being taught to foreigners of all ages. From a proud lineage of artists this unique style is now taking a new shape in America. Faern is creating in-class and training images which shows a different side of the performer than might have been glimpsed before. These photographs capture a more raw, real person, the private side, and directly contrast with the more timeless and familiar images from the performances, where the character that they are portraying is a smooth drape over personal human emotion. All of the facets of the photographic portion of this project have been created in order to support the film documentary, but also represent a progression of images that stand on their own, and are both artistic and photo-journalistic in nature.
Many people ask why such interesting name for a documentary about such beautiful art, and you will find the answer in our film once it’s completed.
We will update the blog once a week with updates and post some outtake or some interesting short videos from Lance’s trip to Mongolia three years ago.
Please feel free to send questions too: firstname.lastname@example.org
How do I keep track of what you guys are up to?
We do have a website Clean Socks Project Website where we will be posting interesting film snippets, photographs and student experiences. But also, come on over to our Facebook page: CleanSocksProject and share the love. We tweet, well, Faern does- All Clean Socks Project tweets will come from there~ go to twitter and find @faernworks
How can I be a part of the project?
For starters, you can make a donation- any little bit helps. In the upper right hand corner there is a button that says “back this project”, just click that. If you have any problems, please let us know via the email above. Also sharing the project online and with your friends in person is helpful.
What happens if the money isn’t raised in time?
If the money isn’t raised on time, as with any Kickstarter project, we will not be able to properly proceed. But we will take each day as it comes
Why should you help us make this Documentary project?
Because like every cultural art form it is important that the Art of Mongolian Contortion is documented. We want to see a beautiful film about this subject just as much as you do and in order to accomplish this, we must get to Mongolia to make this movie. We must get back to the root and we all have the passion for the art as well as the access to the information to make this happen.