The ancient art of fire dancing began hundreds of years ago in Polynesia. The Maori people of New Zealand are thought to be the pioneers of the poi balls, which are now a common prop amongst fire spinners. Fire dancing and flow arts are increasing in popularity, and becoming an international phenomena. I started fire dancing 16 years ago and learned from some experienced fire dancers in Canada. When I first came to Kauai 15 years ago there were only a handful of flow artists and people that spun fire. Today I know hundreds of fire dancers and flow artists. Fire dancing is now a popular form of entertainment and seems to be spreading like wildfire. I recently read a great article by Wesley Thoricatha about flow arts- which he calls ‘a creative revolution’.
Flow Arts: A Creative Revolution
Whether you’ve seen them at Burning Man, at parties, on the dance floor, or in the park, flow toys such as poi, hoop, and staff are taking the world by storm. They may be glowing with LED lights, lit aflame for a fire performance, or brightly colored for practice, but one thing you will always find is a huge smile and a look of passionate concentration on the person who is playing with them.
Many of the props that flow artists (sometimes called “spinners”) use have been around for a long time, such as hoops and juggling clubs in circuses, staff in martial arts, and fire knife and poi in Polynesian ritual dance, but what brings them together into one emerging movement is the adoration and pursuit of the flow state. Being “in the flow” is a liberating peak experience, where the mind becomes silent and mental noise gives way to pure engagement in the moment. At its most intense, the world disappears and one merges with their prop into pure dynamic expression. Previous boundaries are shattered by spontaneous improvisation, coupled with unparalleled inner focus and body awareness. Flow arts are not just about dexterity and object manipulation – they are a transformative journey for the body, mind, and soul.
A New Paradigm Activity
I played sports for years, and always enjoyed the pursuit of physical mastery and the cultivation of skill, yet the essence of competition always left me with a sour taste in my mouth. It was a huge revelation that I had finally found a new paradigm “sport,” one where the love of play and pursuit of self-expression takes the place of the winner-loser, zero sum mentality. And this essence of everybody-wins joy is found pretty much everywhere the flow arts are practiced.
While competitiveness is not completely absent from all spinners, the spirit of the vast majority of flow artists is to express their passion fully and share their journey in a way that benefits others. Cutting edge moves and newly discovered tricks are not hidden or safeguarded as they would be in a competitive environment; they are shared in person at spin jams or online for free in YouTube videos. Skilled spinners also teach at workshops and annual flow festivals such as FireDrums, Flowstorm, and Hoop Convergence, where flow artists congregate to learn new skills and build community. The effect of this paradigm of cooperation is a powerful vortex of mutual uplifting and open-source group acuity, motivated by love rather than fear.
Wherever flow artists gather, magic is sure to be in the air. Some like to clown around, some take the sacred aspect of their craft very seriously and twirl around like whirling dervishes, and others like to push the realms of technical spinning to the next level with mind-bending, body-contorting, jaw dropping maneuvers – but everyone is there to have a good time.
Many flow artists will talk about how finding their prop (be it poi, hoop, or anything else) changed their lives permanently for the better. Lots of spinners find dancing with their prop an incredible way to relieve stress, let go of negative energy and emotions, and enter into a magical moment of release and grounding. Some discover their love of dance for the first time, or connect with a positive community at a pivotal time in their lives, or find a healthy and empowering hobby to put energy into while releasing addictions or old habits. It may sound exaggerated and is not the case for everyone, but you would be amazed at how many spinners have stories of hugely significant life changes alongside their introduction to flow arts.
Take the plunge and find your flow – a spiral into a new reality awaits.
“Hoop dance inspires new depths of internal discovery and self-acceptance on a daily basis. It provides me with patience, hand-eye coordination, body awareness, internal exploration through external movement, meditation, and courageous adventure through the infinite possibilities of dance… I believe we are all fountains of energetic divinity, expressing and communicating our experience through art in all its forms.” – Ciara Blossom