I’m a flow artist and professional fire performer based in Bangalore, going by the stage name of Yacobeh. Flow Arts are a relatively new prop-based movement discipline that incorporates aspects of dance, juggling and martial arts. It’s a fun, challenging and meditative practice that has multiple benefits for both your physical and mental health.
I first encountered the Flow Arts in 2014. Back then, there was literally no awareness of poi and Flow Arts in Bangalore. At a music festival in Goa, I vividly remember watching in awe as a contact juggler seamlessly manipulated his contact ball all across his body, in perfect sync to the music. Watching that juggler flow effortlessly through the crowd triggered a sudden understanding in my mind. His easy grace was appreciated and even admired by the crowd. He was dancing for himself - but the crowd was dancing with him! At the time, I was going through quite a bad phase in life; nothing seemed to be working out. I had also never danced in public before - I had always felt far too self-conscious to do so. This time though, I couldn't resist the lure. I dragged myself to my feet, fighting the inner voice of panic, and made my way to the centre of the concert. Closing my eyes, I danced - really danced - for the first time in my life.
Hours passed, and the day faded into night, bringing out the fire performers. More than anything else that night, I remembered their vibe. They were using their skill to give back to the world, to the audience, to me. We all had a role to play - the audience, the artists, and the fire performers - and none could exist without the other. With this new understanding, I could no longer watch passively - I knew that I too had to give back, somehow. I didn't know it at the time, but that experience was the trigger that pushed me into Flow Arts.
I consider myself to primarily be a poi spinner. Poi is a Flow Art that involves the manipulation of a tethered weight on a string to create rhythmic and geometric patterns. As there was no one in Bangalore that I could get some poi from, I started with a pair of self-made poi, and spent weeks drilling basic movements (much to the amusement of my friends and family!). The thing about practising Flow Arts, is that it’s incredibly rewarding! Flow is a concept we are all familiar with, akin to being 'in the zone' - a feeling of being present in the moment, focused on the current task. I quickly found myself spending hours a day just spinning poi, losing myself in that flow state.
A little more than a year in, I had saved up enough to buy my first LED poi - and that's where things really took off! Over the next couple of years, I began developing my skill and personal style, as well as making and distributing practice poi to people who were interested. During this time period, I also began dabbling with fire spinning, eventually buying my own set of fire poi, and beginning my journey as a fire flow artist.
Fire Arts is something that has always lured in the crowds - be it at a beach, a festival, or even on the streets! Through the past few years, I've introduced many people to poi and Flow Arts in general. I’d carry my props with me and spin in public everywhere, to the point that it was almost a sort of running joke amongst my friends. Many people have been interested though, and I’d call them over to my house for informal jam sessions. I’d regularly organize fire jams with the intent of growing the community and getting more people to pick up the flow arts. So many have been inspired to pick up the poi, staff and other props - we now have a thriving Flow Arts community in Bangalore! To further grow the community, my fire teammate/partner and I have recently co-founded IndieFlow – but more on that later.
I've since diversified into using multiple props, of which the Leviwand is my secondary prop. This is an old magician's prop called the 'dancing cane', which has been repurposed into a Flow Arts prop (as most other props have been!). I also use and experiment with other props such as the Puppy Hammer, the Staff, Palm Torches, Dapostar and many more!
Recently, I've co-founded two related projects. The first is Pyromantix, a fire performance troupe and collective that has performed at various festivals and events, showcasing fire arts to the public at large. My current focus is on the other project – IndieFlow, a Movement Arts initiative aimed at promoting movement-based disciplines and art forms. IndieFlow organises flow jams, workshops, and events, while developing a community of like-minded people with similar interests.
It's been around 5 years since I've started, and I've continued to spin poi and experiment with various other Flow Arts and movement styles. So much has changed since then! I've gone from awkwardly goofing around with my poi to teaching others, building the local Flow Arts community, and performing as a professional fire artist for festivals and events in various cities. I still spin whenever I can - If even one person is inspired by my art, then nothing has been in vain.
After all, flow is love, flow is life!