While preparing for a 17 hour road trip across the states to a rural area outside of Richmond, Ohio, a feeling of excitement begins to set in. The excitement continues to grow with each fleeting moment and every passing mile. Kinetic Fire is unlike any other music festival. Hell, it’s not even considered a “music festival”. Its a gathering of learning and note-matching from some of the most talented fire, prop and juggler performers from around the world. In short, it’s called a “flow festival”. Flow festivals have a variety of workshops constantly happening throughout the festival, if weather permits or not, and believe me – Mother Nature couldn’t decide if she wanted to behave that weekend or not.
Instead of DJ’s and live music performances, flow festivals focus on having artists to provide the main course of entertainment. As true innovators in their field, I had the pleasure of sitting down with a few of the instructors, organizers and participants to find out what exactly Kinetic Fire is and how it fits into the community of the flow-culture.
We arrive at the gates on a late, cold Thursday night. My whole crew was over flowing with excitement at the chance to finally converse with like-minded artists, whose skills would certainly range all across the board, from newbie to master from all corners of the globe. I step out of the car and straight into a massive puddle of icy cold water. I thought to myself “Oh god, here we go.” The ground was like a frozen swamp! Feeling as though my body temperature dropped just a few degrees below freezing, we decide to go ahead and get the unloading and camp set up over and done with. As we prepare our camp between the four of us, after the 20 hr drive (with an extra 3 hours because of pit stops and traffic) and through what seemed to be the coldest night of my life, we all have this uncontrollable urge to smile, laugh and feel alive. We knew at this point we were only mere hours away from a fantastic and unforgettable weekend of flowing.
Opposed to commercial music festivals, flow festivals promote a learning atmosphere in an outside setting where you feel more open and free. Great music added to the equation, and you are creating a top notch and unique learning environment.
“Flow festivals are more focused on the learnings and practices of expressive visual art” – Chris Kelly
“Despite Kinetic’s size and prestige, it holds a relaxed and homey atmosphere” – Chex
Everyone seems to be humble, and are all undoubtedly here for the same reasons – to learn from gifted and talented instructors, contribute some of their own findings of their art, compare notes or to simply lay down some flames with the best of them. Kinetic Fire, although a flow and fire arts festival, even in its own category, stands alone. “As the years pass by, Kinetic is the 2nd biggest, or maybe even the biggest flow festival in the country,” explains Marvin Ong, a true icon in this culture, and who himself attends about 20 flow festivals a year.
Chris Kelly, an innovator in 3-poi spinning, goes on to say “Like Fire Drums draws its crowd from the West coast, and Flame Festival draws its attendance from the East coast, Kinetic Fire reaches out to the broader community of flow artists, almost becoming the mecca of flow artists in the States.” This year saw visitors from the UK, Ireland, Australia and more. As an attendee I couldn’t feel more comfortable, even being surrounded by such a variety of talented spinners from around the world. It was a completely ego and judgment free atmosphere. Every question, remark or individual idea were all met with an open mind and a smile.
“The idea of Kinetic Fire is to inspire the uninspired. Never an odd man out, we gather through our passions and talents. We’re here to share in each other’s growth and welcome one another as family. Music festivals are for everyone, flow festivals are for you.”
– Mike “Doodle”
Kinetic Fire provides a much wider range of workshops than I had initially known when first deciding to come here. Ranging from workshops on specified prop building blocks, daily fire safety classes, as well as yoga activities, parkour classes, body maintenance workshops and martial-arts body-stance and prop use workshops. Keeping all attendees active and in top physical form to prevent them from “burning out”, all with plenty of space to play. Throw in the massive and growing selection of props that are available, accompanied with informative teachers in each class and you have what seems like the makings of an endless, steadily learning experience all weekend long. There is no doubt that not only will you come to Kinetic Fire and learn something new, but that you will probably learn various new things and maybe even start working on a new prop to add to your arsenal.
“You come here and learn in a playful environment, as supposed to a structured schooling one. There’s proper segregation of each skill toy so one can attend a class, focus and expand their individual ability to express.”
– Matthew & Nina, Fire Fox Productions
MUSIC, FIRE AND SAFETY
Now, it should go without saying that just because Kinetic Fire doesn’t pride itself on being a music festival does not mean there isn’t plenty of musical performances to flow to. For instance, we had the ultimate pleasure of having world renowned digital violinist Dixon’s Violin play and co-create with us on Saturday night of the festival. Like all of those who had gathered for Kinetic Fire, Dixon also takes a unique approach to his impassioned craft. His soothing, rhythmic violin patterns and loops created some of the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard. Hearing bar after bar of his unique and masterful style whilst people fire danced for their friends and loved ones was truly captivating, and a sight to behold. I found myself not being able to move from my position, taking in everything the weekend had to offer me thus far, wishing I could freeze that moment in time.
“Kinetic Fire is great for sharing energy with other people performing, it’s wonderful to see so many people freely expressing themselves at the same time.” – Dixon, of Dixon’s Violin
As the day stretched on and just as the sun began to set, our training and practice for the day came to an end as well. Almost as if everyone had been waiting in anticipation for the sun to leave the party the wicks came out. It was that beautiful thirty minute twilight window that fire performers know and love when it began. There were 8-12 burns happening simultaneously at any given moment for the rest of the night till dawn. With all the raging fires ablaze and roaring flames lighting up the area, it were as if the sun had never set. There was an undeniable sense of security and relaxation amongst the audience. Not surprising though, as most every attendee is in some shape or form “fire-safety aware”, promoting the ease and general feeling of safety. Combined with someone like Mike “Prometheus” Guyman, Kinetic Fire’s Safety Director, who goes above and beyond the necessary requirements to ensure the safety of a multitude of artists creating all at once.
Upholding fire safety regulations for an event of this size is no easy task, but Mike meets them with expertise, and goes the extra mile in some cases just to be that much more on top of his work. With the medical camp only a few yards away from the designated fire circle, this also allowed performers to fully express themselves and continue their practice knowing there were trained and helpful staff watching their backs. Here, you’re not performing for an unknowing audience; you’re spinning with those heavy in practice, the time and effort spent learning, some even mastering specific patterns. All are understood and appreciated for the time and effort it takes to accomplish some of the difficult new moves and transitions. Watching different fire performers step up and carve these symbolic, blazing patterns into existence is a beautiful work of art in its own right. No matter how easy some may make it look, it’s essential to know, you must first learn your practice before becoming comfortable enough to add a whole other element to the equation. Advancing in flow arts takes skill that can only be earned with practice and devotion. This is the real energy placed behind fire performing and what it truly is. It’s not a party trick, we’re not dancing monkeys just to be aesthetically pleasing and Kings for the moment. We are artists, and this is our craft in which we create alongside fire.
MERCH AND OTHER FUN STUFF
What can be said for the merchandise other than it was made by those that practice these arts and understand the physics and dynamics of how that specific skill toy should feel, pull and otherwise flow with its owner. It is not just something you buy like a take-home trophy. It’s something you can use right then and there and grow with. Props ranging anywhere from old school poi to newer concepts like H-staffs and their pyro counterparts. Don’t worry, there is also official Kinetic Fire swag to be had. This is the gear the community treats as their team colors and are worn and displayed proudly. This is Kinetic Fire, where we come to connect with your fire.
“Kinetic has really nailed the culture aspects of this culture and is inspiring.” – Drex
“Innovative ideas in furthering not only in artistic energy but its safety as well.” – Markita Daniels
“As opposed to many commercial music festivals, flow festivals promote aspects in communal growth and flow learning.” – Tina Todd, 3 year Kinetic Fire veteran
“Very organized, more educational aspects than music festivals. Beautiful location, very friendly, helpful and attentive staff.” – Greg “Cosmic Greg”
“Volunteer response was fantastic without having to dangle a carrot. Real volunteers taking initiative.” – Joe Spanierd, Fire Safety Lead