First-time Fire Spinners – First Flow Arts Performance
One of the most challenging, yet certainly one of the most rewarding aspects of creating a fire spinning flow arts team is to train individuals for their “Virgin Burn”, or first flow arts performance. It’s kind of like teaching someone to ride a bike, or how to swim. But on an entirely new, and much less familiar level. Here are some insights as to what you can expect and look out for to make sure that your performers, can have a great time and stay safe on first fire spins.
It’s about Spirit, not age, gender, reputation, and so on..
Fire Spinning is like sky diving, it goes against your instincts. And you probably know whether you’re into it or not as there’s not a lot of room for a “maybe mindset” in this gig. You will want to work with people who have “the fire in their eyes”. Beware of people who are actually quite nervous. Some are doing it to boost their ego, or worse, doing it out of peer pressure. Through my experience, I find it’s easier to create a team from scratch with no experience. I get to know them from their basic foundation up and really get a feel for who they are and why they truly desire to fire spin.
I highly recommend going through a brief, formal or informal interview process, to ask each of your potential team members, why they fire spin, or want to fire spin. Any answer that does not resonate with you should be taken into consideration. And people who don’t know why, or say just because it looks cool, or because their friends are doing it, are not good options for long-term committees. That being said, I find there is not an age, body type, gender, race, or any particular look of a person that is not fit for flow arts performance. It’s for those who have the love of it already; those that are inspired will become inspiring.
Respect, of the teacher and student relationship, of the body, of the prop(s) and the fire itself.
If there is not a mutual respect all around, you are flirting with disaster. Simply a poor and neglectful vibration held for even a moment can result in personal and property damage and could result in great injury, fines and even your arrest. Let me be perfectly clear that this line of work is something to be taken with the utmost sincerity. Trust your students/performers, and they need to trust you. You need to trust what you do with your body on the regular, and take care of other’s bodies as well (with warm ups and cools downs with your regular practices, for instance). Have full respect of your professionally made fire equipment, and always check to make sure everything is in working order, every, single, session.
And of course you will need to respect the fire. Fire is so effortlessly a great friend, yet so quickly a brutal and merciless teacher. Respect the fire, and the fuel that it burns. From the fuel you use, to the wicks, to the space and air around. Be prepared to have it teach you that ultimately, it is the one who’s in in power here, not you. Respect all aspects of fire spinning as if they were your master, and you the student, for this is how you will become well respected, stay safe, and be perceived as the master. It’s all reflective.
Give everyone ample time and space.
There should be no rushing in this gig. Give ample time for your students/performers to be ready. Always recognize that people will want to fire spin, though what you want is for them and you all to be able to fire spin happily, and safely, for continual fire spinning sessions. I have two primary checks for my newbie poi fire spinners:
They can flow continuously for four minutes without stopping, keep balanced their energy throughout, and not hit themselves.
With four minutes being the average duration for a full wick burn, you’ll want to make sure the students/performers understand what it will feel like to keep their prop, body and breath, moving for the entire duration of the burn. Note that they can always stop when the are ready to stop, but challenge them to go all the way. Make sure they are not hitting themselves, and that they are staying calm, flowing the prop as if it were a natural extension of their own body.
This can take one to a few months to achieve. With my teaching regimen, truly dedicated flow arts students practicing with me as well as on their own 5-7 days a week, can be ready to have their first burn in 3 weeks. Not professionally in front of an audience, mind you, just with you and perhaps the other students. Though don’t expect it to be that quick if this is your first time teaching/creating a team. I have refined my own skills of teaching and managing students/accepting students who manage themselves.
The tricks that they are ready to perform can and should be be done blindfolded, before burning.
When it is dark out, our depth perception is off. Flow arts more by feel than by sight. The tricks that your new student/performer will be capable of doing for their first time will be the ones that are well set into their muscle memory. Encourage them never to do tricks that they are not 100% confident in performing. Have them prove their confidence by having them do the tricks without being able to see.
In the long run this can be a great means of entertaining an audience. They will think it’s something special to perform blindfolded, and it is, though truly, to any well seasoned fire spinner it is not a whole lot different. We do our flow arts with our feelers, more than our eyes.
Now go get some passionate people with the fire already in their eyes, grow mutual respect, and take your time before starting any burn; be it the first, or the thousandth.