posted by ranger 2008
While the understandings of the human need for play was being discovered and spread through the world by academics like the Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and the Stuart Brown (and the many psychologists who understand it’s necessity), civilians like us were finding out on their own how incredible the feeling of connecting to your body through flow. They found this through dancing at parties and at Burning Man in the 90’s, and then later, these ideas transferred into Flow Arts and circus cultures during the early 2000’s. Despite juggling already being a well-formed community, the then called the fire-spinning scene was separate and distinct from juggling.
“There is something about the childlike grin on the face of a first time spinner, illuminated by the flames mesmerized by the sound as the flame passes around their body. Luxotica is about sharing the joy and empowerment and belief in yourself as we tackle those things that fall into life’s paths along the way. “
Luxotica Website from 2003
This idea that play and flow could be the answer to spreading creativity, connecting communities and bringing us in line with our true selves was spreading throughout the world. Besides that, back then, fire-spinning was seen as not-skilled to the jugglers, and often rejected as such. It didn’t really matter, the fire-spinning crews had their own thing going on, and began to teach classes. In that, people began using the term flow to describe what they were doing. The first link found in the question Where Does the Term Flow Arts comes from is in 2003 where Isa Glittergirl uses the term Flow to describe her poi classes at Temple of Poi.
The main concept that was new at the time was that normal people could pick up and learn these skills. The feeling was exciting, and on top of these skills, we’d found a community of people to share it with.
“The first time I saw anybody spin fire, I was transfixed and inspired, but it was so far removed from my vision of myself that it didn’t occur to me that I could do it. Subconciously (sic), I thought that Other Kinds of People do crazy circus things like that. Six months later, I went to Burning Man for the first time. I found myself in a supportive, encouraging, inspiring community that helped me break through that myth. I realized that there are no Other Kinds of People. Anybody can do anything.”
Burning Dan on his Yes We Can video
Our Tribe began to take form. Many people began in a cavalcade of ways to create more possibilities for these communities to take hold. In 2003, Nick Woolsey released an epic fire spinning video to his website. He became internet famous and decided to create Play Poi Studios to teach poi to a wider audience. The same year flowtoys was founded further south building props to sell so more people could join in the fun. In 2005, The Play Festival in the UK started running it’s first festival (although I can only find the archive for 2006). It was clear that this play, flow, fun with props idea was taking off, the community was primed and everyone wanted to share their knowledge and skills to spread the joy.
Photo : Play Poi Studios of Nick Woolsey 2005
2005 is where the history gets a bit tricky to nail down. If you ask around the community, nobody is willing to say for sure what happened, or how the conversations went. Yet, there is an agreement. There was a search for a name the suited the intentions behind the idea of dancing with props. This term needed to be easily conveyed to the public. The terms already used weren’t suitable. Spinning was already used for stationary bicycling. The juggling community wasn’t encouraging and their focus on technique didn’t seem to fit. The term manipulation felt too cold hearted and to the general public it had a deceitful connotation (who wants to be known as a manipulator?). The people who were traveling and teaching at the time were having a difficult time with capturing the essence of this playful, flowy, dance with props. There were many discussions about this in 2005 on various back porches in the USA, Beloved Festival, some beaches in Thailand and of course, Burning Man. These conversations were between between specific members of the community at that time, most importantly: Burning Dan, The TeaFaerie, Nick Woolsey, Isa GlitterGirl, Sean von Stade and Prisna Nuengsigkapian of flowtoys, and Alien Jon. The idea of flow was already solidified in the culture before these conversations, but the addition of the word arts, was in part how these movements felt meditative, in relation to Martial Arts. The other part, was needing to encompass the broad form of artistic expression. Prisna says it well:
“The word “arts” has broad appeal and the ability to serve as an umbrella term encompassing lots of different props, styles, types of manipulation