Going with the flow

Flow artists have found a welcoming performance venue in Ocala.

Sarah Stoner demonstrates a form of flow art at the Muddy Lotus Kava Bar in Ocala. [Photo by Jamie Berube]

Home » Arts & Entertainment
Posted April 3, 2024 | By Jamie Berube, Special to the Gazette

Flow artist Stevie Granger thinks the community of flow artists in Ocala can enhance the city’s art scene.

“When we are out here on Thursdays, people stop in their cars and watch. Or they slow down and watch. I don’t think that a lot of people in Ocala are ready to embrace this kind of artistic expression. But it’s growing,” Granger said, speaking of weekly performances at the Muddy Lotus Kava Bar near downtown Ocala.

According to the Flow Arts Institute website, flow arts is a general term used to describe the intersection of movement-based disciplines such as dance, juggling, fire-spinning, and object manipulation. Flow arts includes a variety of pursuits that harmonize skill-based techniques with creative expression to achieve a state of present-moment awareness known as flow.

Common forms of flow arts include poi and staff spinning, hula hoop (or “hooping”), juggling, sphere manipulation (or “contact juggling”), and fan dance. New props and expressions emerge as flow artists cross pollinate with martial arts, yoga, circus, belly dance, and beyond.

Granger discovered flow art at a music festival.

“I discovered flow through music festivals when I started hanging out with a bunch of raver kids. It went from gloving with gloves with LED lights on the end, to poi,” Granger said.

Poi is a form of performance art and also the name of the prop used in the performance.

Granger said poi, which originated in New Zealand, was once used as an off-season warrior training.

“Then it turned into the fire dance stuff you see in Polynesian places. From there, the flow art and raver community picked up poi,” Granger explained.

The poi prop consists of fabric or fire-resistant materials and tethered weights that are typically sack-like in form. This prop can be swung around in geometric patterns to create a rhythmic and artistic show.

“My first set was literally a pair of socks and tennis balls,” Granger said.

Flow artist Lizzie Steger, with the hoop, performs at the Muddy Lotus Kava Bar. [Photo by Jamie Berube]

Every Thursday from 9 p.m. until 11 p.m. at the Muddy Lotus Tea Kava Bar, flow artists meet for spin jam sessions that involve fire spinning, poi-ball dancing and hula-hooping. The sessions began when the bar opened on Nov. 4, 2018, according to owner Kibbie Fulton

The folks at Muddy Lotus Tea sought the expertise of local flow artist Alivia McKamry Miley in their quest to incorporate flow into the business. Fulton inspired Miley to begin hosting the Muddy Lotus Tea “Flow Arts Night.”

Flow artist Lizzie Steger described flow art as movement meditation.

“Flow art is a combination of prop manipulation, meditation and dance. If those three things had a baby, it would be flow art. I call it flow art or movement meditation,” Steger said.

Steger discovered flow art before she moved to Florida.

“I saw some girls doing flow at the beach one day at Virginia Beach, and I thought it looked cool. I went on the internet and started googling stuff and discovered that there is a whole world out there of flow artists,” Steger said.

“When I first picked up flow art, I was severely depressed. I was an alcoholic, and it helped me focus on something better for me than alcohol. It gave me a new addiction, a healthy addiction,” Steger added.

Of the props used in flow art, Steger loves hula-hoops the most.

“I dabble in just about all of them. I also do poi, staff and fire-eating,” she said.

Steger is one of many flow artists who look forward to gathering every Thursday to perform at Muddy Lotus.

Chris Knight, a 48-year-old account manager, discovered the scene at Muddy Lotus in October 2023.

“I came and sat and watched for months. Someone I met at Muddy Lotus was doing poi, and I asked to try it out. I came up another night, and the same person came and sat by me and put their poi near me, and I started playing with them like a toy,” Knight said.

Flow artist Chris Willet. [Photo by Jamie Berube]

Knight has been dabbling with poi and spinning fire for five months and said he has found the art and the community to be an outlet for creative expression.

“Even though I’m 48 and have a beer belly, it makes me feel like it’s OK to go out there and self-express,” Knight said. “It’s also an escape from my job, a way to relax.”

For flow artist Andrea Blau, the art helped her de-stress from her job at the health department during COVID-19.

“I moved to Ocala six weeks before COVID, and flow became a way for me to de-stress from the craziness. I was working at the health department, standing outside testing people in 100-degree weather, testing people in their cars for COVID,” Blau said.

Flow artist Chris Willet said the Ocala flow community has been invited to perform at various venues outside of Muddy Lotus.

“People in the Ocala flow community get invited to perform frequently. Some of us have performed at the World Equestrian Center and also the Tiki Drink Festival in May of 2023 put on by Tipsy Skipper, a bar downtown,” Willet said.

“It’s not that widespread that Ocala residents will pay money for a flow performance. They may balk at the amount of money it costs to have us. It’s $300 an hour to perform; that’s what I would charge,” he stated.

Willet said he discovered flow art in college.

“I made my own staff after that. I bought a Kevlar wick online and made a staff, and the rest is history.”

Willet said Kevlar is used for making bulletproof vests and fireproof race-car suits.

“That’s why you can set it on fire, and it doesn’t just burn away,” Willet stated. “The emerging technology is LED technology. You can do more things with the new technology, and you can enhance performance with it.”

Flow artist Richard Marquette said LED technology has helped the flow art gain traction.

“Now we have LED technology, but in the ‘90s they used glow sticks on strings. Rave culture has been doing this for a while,” Marquette said.

According to Marquette, the city of Ocala reached out to his friends within the flow community to arrange a performance at a carnival.

“In 2018, the city of Ocala reached out to us to spin fire for the fall carnival. They were apologetic because they don’t have the budget to pay us, but we’re looking to establish contact with the city to possibly perform at parades,” Marquette said.

“We get invited to festivals a lot. We get invited to almost a dozen events per year,” he stated.

Marquette is described as the grandfather of flow art by those who meet at Muddy Lotus. He has been a part of the scene for three decades.

“I’ve been in both generations of flow. The first rise of flow arts and fire spinning was in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. That’s where it started, and it’s only increased from there,” Marquette said.

“In the ‘90s, we had to make our own props, this current generation mostly buys their props. In the first generation, we were working with lower quality aluminum, copper, and steel, so our prop weight was much heavier,” Marquette explained.

According to Marquette, city regulations and fire safety laws make it hard to branch out into other spaces in Ocala.

“Because of open flame, you have to have a permit to do it on public property. It helps having places like kava bars where they can perform. Without that, they’d be relegated to their own backyards,” said Muddy Lotus employee Dillon St. John, adding that he believes flow art brings a special value to Ocala.

“Flow brings a new age and a new flavor to it. It gives people a way to express themselves outside of the norm of traditional art,” St. John stated.

St. John said he has loved having the group of flow artists at Muddy Lotus every Thursday.

“One of my favorite things is that you get so many people from so many different walks of life. It’s really awesome to see people from all walks of life get together over a shared interest. The artists are very welcoming people,” he said.

To learn more, go to flowartsinstitute.com or visit the Muddy Lotus website at muddylotustea.com






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