Kinetic Fire 2014 Review

editIMG_0369The 2014 Kinetic Fire Festival took place May 15th-18th, 2014 at Hannon’s Camp in College Corner, Ohio. This has been the venue for Kinetic Fire for the past few years, and it lends itself well to the event, with plenty of open space and beautiful outdoor scenery. An interesting factoid about Kinetic Fire this year: one of the organizers of Kinetic Fire, Cody “Pyrus” Fiereck, is also the Festival Director for this year’s upcoming IJA festival in West Lafayette, Indiana.

The festivities kicked off on Thursday, with fireworks being set off at the opening ceremony. Most people seemed to arrive Thursday to set up camp. Attendees settled into their respective areas and a variety of skill shares took place, as well as people roaming around to meet one another. Once night fell, plenty of glow props were present.

The focus of Kinetic fire is learning, specifically within the realm of flow arts. Friday and Saturday were completely packed with workshops at thirteen different locations all over the campgrounds. Most of the locations were outside, and included areas such as: the Playground, Field of Flow, Aerial Playground, and several spots in the Middle Earth main play area.

editIMG_0415The workshops themselves had a variety of topics ranging from the usual poi, staff, hooping, fan, and juggling arts. Some of the more atypical workshops included parkour, fire eating, and laughter yoga. Standout guests included poi superstar Jonathan Alvarez teaching workshops on three poi manipulations, Becca Becker instructing on fans, and Drex breaking down the finer points of spinning using mathematics.

Much like the previous year, the weather was unfortunately not conducive to an outdoor event. It rained throughout the days Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, which cause several impromptu workshop location changes, and the nights were bitter cold, making for a somewhat uncomfortable environment. Nonetheless, the positive energy of the event kept everything going on track.

The nightly fire circle jams (held Friday and Saturday), were one of the main attractions and a true sight to behold. A large illuminated circle within the center of the Middle Earth play area contained those manipulating fire, while hundreds of other festival goers sat around watching the action, with many of them eventually entering the circle, burning fire props in hand, to also engage in this communal festivity before settling back into the crowd. In the background, music from a nearby stage kept the energy going, as DJs and live musicians, such as fiddler Dixon’s Violin, provided the soundtrack to this nightly activity.

editIMG_0366For the fire circles, incredible manipulations were on display from a lot of the staple fire props, such as fire poi, staff, clubs, and fans. However, the manipulations were not restricted to traditional objects, as there were several other interesting creations. Several people entered the circle with flaming hats, for instance. At one point, a giant flaming jump rope appeared, and people ran in for their turn to jump over the burning rope. Another time, a flaming bicycle entered the fire circle, and proceeded to jump over festival goers who were brave enough to lay down in the circle.

The activities within the fire circle were a powerful thing, causing interesting behavior. Free body culture prevailed for several enthusiastic (though no doubt chilly) Kinetic Fire goers. Fire breathers also gathered within the circle for group fire breathing, which saw multiple people blasting fire at the same time, and even breathing fire while executing spins and somersaults. Yet, no matter how creative or seemingly extreme the festivities got, a mutual respect and level of caution among the artists coupled with the presence of an alert safety staff that kept everything running smoothly.

editIMG_0340A very well received new addition to the event this year was the Flow Show, which allowed some of the special guests to put on an organized performance for an audience in a more formal show environment. Originally scheduled to be held on the Court, the Flow Show was moved into the Barn due to the rain. This led to a somewhat tight space for both the audience and performers, but nonetheless it provided a solid alternative to the wet outdoors.

The Flow Show contained performances by hoopers, poi spinners, jugglers, and other manipulators. Performers included Ken Hill, who executed a high-energy nunchaku and staff performance, and Mavin Ong who performed a silent routine of contact club manipulation and juggling. The show was MCed by two thirds of Mountain Motion, Kevin Axtell and Jeremiah Johnson. The duo provided humor between acts, and performed some diabolo tricks, as well as a few danger juggling gags involving knives, a fire ball, and a flaming spin plate.

Much like the previous year, there was a solid turnout of vendors selling a variety of props and clothing along both sides around the “Vendor Villa” area. Ninja Pyrate, Dark Monk, and Forged Creations sold custom-made fire props, and 3rd Earth Fireproof sold unique clothing for fire artists. There were also a couple food vendors selling meals throughout the event.

editIMG_0474On Saturday night, a large fire walk took place hosted by Kevin Axtell. Axtell provided a motivational speech beforehand, and encouraged those in attendance to tell those nearby about their hopes and dreams. After effectively building enthusiasm within the crowd, the coals were spread, and the walk began. Live music played from people playing percussion and strings while people took turns walking over the coals. Some in attendance even chose to walk several times over the coals before darkness fell and the coals were extinguished.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck Kinetic Fire early Sunday morning when police and paramedic vehicles abruptly entered the campgrounds in response to a call. During the early morning hours, festival goer Ben Rastello passed away in his sleep while in his tent. Compounding the devastation of this lose, Kinetic Fire organizer Ryan “Whistles” Allen was later killed in an automobile accident while returning home from the event. The memories of these two men will no doubt live on in those who knew them and had the joy to spin with them.

On Sunday, the closing ceremony of the event contained a moment of silence for the recent passing, as well as a raffle ticket drawing. Most of the attendees were packing up and saying their goodbyes by the early afternoon, as the event dwindled down.

Kinetic Fire proved once again that, rain or shine, their fires continue to burn brightly.

Nathan Wakefield

Nathan is a juggler from Southeast Michigan. He first learned to juggle in college, and has written for the website Streetjuggling.com. Currently, he is The Chairman of the International Jugglers' Association. When he is not frantically trying to learn new manipulation skills, he enjoys producing music, acting, and watching horror films.

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