Pollyanna’s Putting Out Fires

Hey, Anna-Liza here again. Yet more on the Really Fun Memorial Day Weekend. Sunday late afternoon, we went to Denver to check out the Chalk Art Festival with South African Knitting Buddy and her family, then head over to Confluence Park for the Sunday night firespinning jam.

Unfortunately, we had the dates wrong for the Chalk Art Festival, which is actually this weekend, June 5th and 6th. (Go if you get the chance! It looks pretty cool.)

We did find a nice little pocket park with a playground near Confluence and had our picnic there, so the kidlets could all play. SAKB’s kids are a bit younger than my two, but they play really well together. There was a shade shelter with tables, so we had a pretty comfortable picnic. Then off to Confluence.

The spin jam at Confluence had deteriorated some over the years – the original spirit of community had dissipated. When it all started about 10 years ago, it was a friendly place to come practice, try out new stuff, and learn new stuff from other spinners, with a group of drummers who came along for a couple hours’ drum jamming. It wasn’t well known, so there were mostly participants and very few spectators.

The last time I was at Confluence, some months ago, it wasn’t as bad as some of the rumors I’d heard, but there was really no communication between groups or even between individuals within the groups, and there was this sort of macho competitive atmosphere that I didn’t care for much. No one was really safety spotting and people didn’t pay much attention to proximity to flame or fuel. The audience had grown to kind of scary proportions, too.

Recently, Darlin’ K recruited a few other spinners to try to save the Confluence weekly jam from itself. They went down for several weeks in a row, initiating a “meet ‘n’ greet” so the spinners could get to know each other, suggesting some safety measures (like keeping the spectators back from the spinning area and keeping the smoking specatators away from the fuel) and generally trying to improve the level of community feeling and involvement among the spinners, drummers, and spectators. Know what? Darlin’ K is freakin’ brilliant at this kind of thing. He somehow leads without ever being overbearing or disrespectful, so people are willing to listen to him.

This was the first time I’d been down there since then. This time, the spinners actually looked each other in the face and smiled, clearly at least acquainted and now feeling like comrades instead of competitors. Some of them were willing to spend some of their time and energy coordinating things. The spectators were willing to abide by the safety requests of staying out of the fuel dump area and the spinning area (on the brick terraces next to the river). People in the front row were actually acting as safety spotters. (I was, of course, but I mean other than myself). One of the main guys among the drummers had brought a bunch of trash bags along and taped them up by the park trash cans, because there is always more trash than capacity. After the show, I saw at least four people carrying the bags around and asking people to put their trash in, and picking up trash that had been left. They weren’t even spinners or drummers – they were spectators that liked coming to hang out there and wanted to contribute.

It was beautiful, and there were so many spinners of so many different experience levels – I even spotted for one girl who was lighting up for the first time ever, and she was so excited! I think a few weeks ago she would have been intimidated by the vibe. And really, there are not very many places to practice firespinning! I’ve always thought of the Confluence spin jam as a place for newbies to get some experience and advice, and now it seems to be that again.

That said, I do think some of the newer spinners need some experience working with trained safeties. Most of the time, if a spinner catches his clothes on fire, he can put it out himself. It’s excess fuel that’s burning, and white gas burns at a relatively low temperature. It takes a while for the actual fabric to catch. Most commonly, they need a spotter for when it’s on their backs or their fire toys tangle up and they can’t get them undone.

I had a little more activity as a spotter that night than usual. Darlin’ K caught his back with the staff once, and one other guy did the same with poi … and one guy was doing leg wraps with poi and caught his crotch on fire. Young guy, I’d say early 20s, right in front of me. The general rule for spotting is you spot for the people closest to you and … well.

He was a little panicky, trying to put it out himself, but it happened early in his set and there was a lot of fuel. He also didn’t drop his poi, so I didn’t have a clear shot (so to speak) to use the wet towel. I ended up throwing the towel at him (sort of like a snap, but not so hard) so he could grab it and use it himself, and it was all fine.

Honestly, the thought of grabbing a strange guy’s crotch with a wet towel didn’t particularly appeal to me, so it’s just as well. (“Hi there!”) But my point is, if he’d been more used to working with a spotter he might have remembered to get his poi out of the way. So I could grab his crotch. With a wet towel.

Either way, the fire got put out and he kept spinning. That’s the real point.



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