Have you ever wondered how your favorite FAI event comes together and who exactly makes it all happen? This series aims to answer that and more, 10 questions at a time.
We sat down with Caitlin Matanle, one of the Directors of FLAME, and asked her our burning questions.
1 – What brought you into the flow arts?
Over a decade ago I was backpacking through Guatemala and spent a few days with some folks in the jungle. They hosted a big party on Saturday nights. A few of the residents put on a spontaneous fire show: a (delicious, Argentinian male) fire hooper, and two completely mesmerizing fire poi dancers. The one female performer looked so powerful and full of bliss–I knew I had to learn! This was pre-YouTube (at least how it is now), so I spent the next two years piecing together bits of poi moves during my travels.
2 – What props do you manipulate?
Poi, fans, hoops, and a bit of staff
3 – Why did you decide to become an organizer?
I was spinning as part of the Burning Man community but didn’t learn about the flow arts scene until later. When I did, I jumped right into teaching at various festivals. My then-acquaintance (later to become a friend and creative collaborator) Ben Drexler encouraged me to apply to be an organizer my second year at F.L.A.M.E., and the year after that I stepped into a director role.
4 – Take us behind the scenes. What is a typical day like in the life of an organizer during the festival?
Much of my job is getting people what they need on site: the vendors, the greeter and volunteer teams, the Flowcase, and general logistics. To do this, I must be on a radio, looking important, as much as possible, and occasionally provide much-needed comedic relief for the other directors and organizers. Of course, we also handle all of the myriad problems and challenges that come up during a live event. But those are secrets, and I would have to kill you if I told you.
5 – What is your favorite class you have ever taken at a festival and who taught it?
My first-ever fans class was at my first F.L.A.M.E. with Jex Ime. Fans weren’t cool yet, but I had been playing with mini hoops and had a few friends suggest I try fans. That class blew my mind and I never looked back. I bought my first set of Forged Creations fans the following year and it was all over.
6 – If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Mashed potatoes. I live in Mexico City, where mashed potatoes aren’t really a thing. But I made a ton of them for a Friendsgiving I hosted last week. I just finished them this morning. I wasn’t mad.
7 – What book, film, or TV show has influenced your life the most?
Probably RuPaul’s Drag Race…or Glamazon, the classic and timeless RuPaul pop album.
8 – What other talents do you have outside of flow arts and organizing?
I’m a painter, interior decorator, Tarot reader, dancer, freelance copywriter and amateur astrologer. I’m also able to listen to reggaeton and Latin trap every day, starting as soon as I wake up and never grow even remotely tired of it, much to the dismay of most of my visiting houseguests.
9 – What is your favorite item to bring to a festival, besides props and basic necessities?
I’m always prepared, but really I prefer to lounge in the FAI and Flowtoys booths when off duty, fluttering my eyelashes, asking people to bring me things, and being delighted when they actually do.
10 – What is some advice you could give to someone attending F.L.A.M.E. for the first time?
You may feel intimidated, and that’s ok. But don’t take yourself too seriously! My first year I knew three people–two of whichI had met on my drive down. But I introduced myself (even though I was scared shitless), made a lot of friends, and learned a LOT. Also, those internet-famous folks whom you idolize? They are just people. Introduce yourself! Talk about something besides YouTube! You might just make a real friend.