Ever since Earthdance in September 2008 when I purchased my first hula hoop and began my journey into hooping, spinning, and the flow arts, I have been slowly connecting with and becoming a part of the wonderful flow arts community I call my “flowmily.” Flow arts is a relatively new art form that draws together influences from a variety of related movement art forms: martial arts, dance, juggling, circus arts, ancient cultural dance forms, and all kinds of object manipulation meld together and influence flow artists. We’re all seeking and sharing a love of the state of flow that comes from the concentration, movement, and discovery that learning the variety of forms of “movement meditation” provides.
Flow Temple beautifully describes the “flow state” that we can arrive at by many means, and which seems to come naturally with the flow and movement arts.
Flow is the state of relaxed responsive focus that you feel when you’re “in the zone” and ready for anything. Flow is the state of optimal experience that occurs when your body, mind, and spirit are in dynamic balance. It’s what’s happening when the Now is so compelling that everything else fades away. Ego and fear dissolve in the perfect moment, time slows down, and whatever you are doing becomes a meditation. Flow tows the fine line between controlling your actions and obeying your commands. You know when you’re in the flow, and flowing is half the battle. Where will and physics intersect, we hone our own flow.
My first introduction to fire spinning was seeing people spin fire at Okanogan Family Faire, a fall barter faire in northern Washington that I began going to in 2002. Seeing someone dance with fire was one of the coolest things my 19-year-old eyes had ever seen, but at that point, I never in a million years imagined that I would ever be able to do it! A few friends of mine were into hula hooping, but it was something I was never much good at until I finally bought a BIG, heavy rattan hula hoop from Holistic Hooping at Earthdance in 2008. I had always felt klutzy and uncoordinated, so hooping did not come naturally to me and I had to push through the awkwardness and keep spinning even though I didn’t feel graceful with it. I started practicing with that big hoop despite the bruised hips and failed attempts at grace, and soon was having hoop groups with my friends and exploring the world of hoopdance.
Through festivals like barter faires, FireDrums , Burning Man, and in my local community in my new home on the Mendocino Coast, I began seeing more and more hoopers and spinners. I haven’t always had the time to make regular practice a big part of my life, but the more I have gotten into it, the more amazing, inspirational, open-hearted and brilliant people I have met through the flow arts. A few of my good friends and I began hooping on the beaches and the bluffs regularly, and we all encouraged each other and shared as we learned. One of those hooper friends, Kelsie, started making hoops, and she now runs a hoop company, Sacred Shape. We launched her web site in fall 2013!
I have made and deepened so many friendships through spinning. Some of my fondest flow memories brought me full circle back to OFF barter faire, when 5 friends and I performed together as Kushi Tala and spun fire for our barter faire family in 2010. We were asked to come back again in 2011 and performed both Friday and Saturday nights to an even bigger, more enthusiastic crowd. I had only been spinning fire for a year in 2010 (my virgin burn with a fire hoop was at the same barter faire in 2009) but I was with friends who had been spinning for years and with their support, I felt ready to share my newfound love of this art form with the world. I have had the opportunity to perform at several small events since then, and though I don’t consider myself a professional performer yet by any means, it is always really rewarding seeing people’s response to the flow arts. It has even become a tradition for me to spin fire for my family when everyone is gathered for the holidays.
At FireDrums in 2011, my first fire spinning focused festival, I expanded my object manipulation universe past the hoop and began picking up fire fans and flow wand (or levitation wand). Flow wand has quickly become my favorite prop to dance with. It feels so natural to me that even though hooping will always be my first love, I feel that flow wand is my “native prop” – it is truly an extension of myself and it’s a very accessible way to reach the flow state. My first wand was just a simple practice wand from the wonderful company my friend Erik works for, FlowToys. When I got their LED flowlight wand for Christmas, it became my constant companion, and it’s still my favorite flow toy to take to shows or concerts or anywhere I may not have the space to hoop.
Flow has brought so many wonderful experiences, insights, and people into my life, and I am eternally grateful for the inspiring community I am becoming a part of. But there is one connection that stands out in my mind as the greatest gift the flow arts has ever brought me… and that is my sexy poi-spinning sweetie, James (Flicker). Around Halloween in 2012, James and I were asked by a mutual friend to spin fire at the Fuzzy Nights Halloween party at The Caspar Inn. We’d known of each other via Facebook (and it’s a very small spinning community in Mendo) but we hadn’t really spun together or hung out until that night. We had a little impromptu fire jam outside the party that night and became friends pretty much immediately. I was excited to find someone locally who was as excited about spinning as I was, and it helped that he was a DJ who happened to have very similar tastes in music as me, so our paths continued to cross and intertwine and out of our friendship blossomed the most beautiful love I’ve ever experienced.
After local hoopers spotted me LED hooping on Halloween, I began going to a hoop group at a dance studio that fall, and soon we had opened it up to other forms of spinning and flow arts and I began helping to organize weekly spin jams. Of course I invited James to come spin, and despite being the only guy and the only poi spinner for the first few months as we generated interest, he stuck it out and helped recruit people, and we now organize spin jams twice a week together. Having a partner in flow that helps me nurture and grow our local flow community has been amazing, and this is just the beginning! We make a wonderful team and I am so grateful that circus arts and playing with fire brought us together and gives us something to continue growing and learning in.
I am grateful for many many things in life, but especially for the gifts that flow arts and my beautiful flowmily have given me. One of my new life missions has become learning and absorbing everything I can about circus arts, practicing and tuning my body, mind, and spirit so that I can best express myself and share the love of flow arts with others. It has truly transformed my life and I’ll always love the world of flow.
I close this long rambling love letter to the flow arts in my life with a beautiful video FlowToys released wrapping up their 2013 festival season. There are many familiar faces in this video and fellow flow ninja Jonathan Alvarez put it together. Let it be the first of many inspiring flow videos I share here!