March Instructors of the Month | Tara McManus & Ben Drexler
Tara McManus & Ben Drexler
Tara McManus and Ben Drexler are our featured instructors for March 2016. They both represent what it means to be great instructors in the flow community. This article will give you a closer look at their journey thus while helping you figure out where you can connect with them in person later this year. But first, let’s take a look at some of their best photos doing what they love.
Tara McManus is the Co-founder of The Floasis, a community fire and flow arts center where she and other instructors and performers teach and rehearse. She is also the owner and designer at 3rd Earth Fireproof, a line of high quality flame resistant clothing and accessories for fire performers.
She attends about a dozen fire festivals every summer to sell her clothing, teach fabric science for pyros, and attend other safety classes and conferences. By connecting with many other safety leaders around the country, she has accrued a substantial amount of knowledge and credentials on fire safety in the community. She is a board member of NAFAA and The Flow Arts Institute Safety Project, and a lead teacher and columnist for the organization as well.
She has brought all this safety education and community building experience from her summer travels to Bushwick Brooklyn and applied what she has learned at The Floasis for the past 4 years. In a city that is tough on public fire spinning, and where permitting is expensive even on private property, NYC had no legal place for recreational fire spinning up until now.
The Floasis has just received a permit for open flame for an entire year, the first of its kind in Fire Department of New York history. In addition to working with the FDNY to officially declare her space as a legal fire practice venue, she is also helping them create a licensing program for fire performers and venues.
Alongside Flambeaux, she has met with the FDNY to set up fire performing standards and shape the future of the NYC certification for flame operators. The test and study materials will be shared by the FDNY to Tara and Flambeux the first week in December, and shortly after that a system of licensing fire performers will start a whole wave of legalized, safe fire performances and permitted shows around the city.
Tara McManus has been spinning things for over 8 years. She started with hoops before moving on to poi, and then she discovered fans and noticed how all the moves transition from one prop to another. She has trained and performed across the country. Her performances include two consecutive years in the flow show in NYC and the Fire Dancing Expo in San Francisco. She also runs The Floasis in Brooklyn, which is a training, rehearsal, film, and jam space for fire spinners and flow artists.
Tara is an awesome instructor, and she offers classes
for fans or “Approaching Your Fire Marshall” on Skype!
To get in touch with Tara about Skype classes, you can email her at Thirdearthdesigns@gmail.com
She’s Also Had Quite The Impressive Spinning Career!
Fire Fans Fans: Main/favorite prop for 6 years
Folding Fans: Her new favorite! Going on 2 years
Fire Eating: A favorite to perform and teach. It’s a great way to reach people. Playing for over 5 years
Drex originally found flow arts while attending Burning Man 2006. He told us about his experiences and how he wound up starting his poi journey after he got home.
I first encountered flow arts at Burning Man 2006. First at Hookahdome’s Wednesday night fire jam and then it really hooked me at Conclave that year. I came home and asked around to friends if we knew anybody that knew how to spin with fire–I didn’t even know the words for what I was asking about. One friend asked if I meant poi and said that we had a friend who knew how to do it. Bear in mind, they could have said any word at all in the world and I would have followed up on it–my getting into poi was that random. I went to our friend and he agreed to teach me. We had one lesson in which he spent 2 hours trying to teach me how to do basic reel turns and I absolutely failed to get them. Weeks later, a friend came home from a trip to Thailand with a set of poi he’d bought in a street market as a gift for me. Not wanting to disappoint him, I started practicing with them on my own and the rest is history.
I grew up in Boulder, Colorado and have worked as everything from a writer to a programmer and political activist. Four years ago, I left gainful employment to pursue the Flow Arts full time and have gotten to travel the world sharing my love of spinning with hundreds of students face-to-face and untold tens of thousands via my YouTube channel. In the coming year, I hope to tour with The Foreways Project, a dance/prop spinning hybrid show choreographed with Noel Yee, Kate McCoy, and Gina McGrath and inspire people to explore the storytelling and expressive possibilities of the art.
– Ben Drexler
Drex is one of the best instructors around, and he offers Skype / Google+ lessons!
On 10/16/2015 he hosted an event called DrexFactor Workshops in Peoria, IL.
Where Can You Catch Drex This Year?
Schedules are still being decided, but he will likely appear at the following events:
FLAME Festival to help run the event and teach workshops
Kinetic Fire Festival to teach workshops
Firedrums XIV to teach workshops
May Wildfire to teach workshops
During His Spinning Career, Drex Has Achieved Quite A Lot!
By mid-December, his YouTube channel will have accumulated over 2 million views, making me the single most watched American poi spinner.
Poi spinning is his third creative career. His first was as a comic book artist and portrait artist, and the second was as a musician and sound engineer (some of his old band’s recordings are on soundcloud).
With over 2.1 million views on YouTube and an astounding 970+ videos, Drex is easily the leader in online poi and flow art education. Here is one of his many tutorials where he covers the useful (and sometimes complicated) Vulcan Tech Gospel theory.