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Charlotte's 'Fire Flow Jam' Avoids Getting Burned By Red Tape

Vincent Brady Photography
Time lapse of Nat Spinz with an LED hoop at Fire Flow Jam (with onlooker)

Fire is one of mankind’s earliest tools. Not just for warmth, light, and cooking, however. This weekend in downtown Charlotte at the famed Windwalker Underground Gallery, it’s being used for a more creative endeavor: Fire spinning.

Despite the fact that they’ve known each other for some time now, Kalli Dempsey reintroduces herself to Nat Spinz.

"'Fire Safetys have to introduce themselves to the performer each time." says Dempsey. "That way, if there was an emergency, the Fire Safety can let the performer know right away. So, whether you know each other or not, we were instructed that we should be introducing ourselves. Making sure, before we light."

The contraption Nat Spinz is showing off is essentially a specially-made hula hoop with five metal clasps, each with a campfire fueled wick at the end of. It’s something they pair will be using during the Windwalker’s new monthly event called Fire Flow Jam, an extension of a similar form of kinetic expression involving hula hoops, ribbons and similar props called Flow Jam. Naturally, the regular Flow Jam items, however, are not on fire.

"Actually the key word in 'Fire Flow Jam' is actually 'Flow' which is a state of mind." says Nat Spinz. "And movement, you know, musicians find flow when they're sitting there with their guitar, or when rap artists when they're flowing. My type of flow is with a hula hoop and I just kinda dance and do tricks that look very beautiful to music, or like, to drum music."

But as Windwalker’s Kalli Dempsey explains, getting the city of Charlotte to agree to a fire event held downtown and open to the public, took several steps.

"So, what we had to do... Nat brought me this idea. [I] thought she was crazy, you know? Like, 'You wanna do what in the back parking lot?' And I do all of our contracts here at Windwalker and our event rentals and so I thought we would be a good team to figure this out and we approached the city manager and the community developer; Gregg Guetschow and Bryan Myrkle and we assured them that we would pay to bring in a fire safety expert from the Detroit Fire Collective to help guide us through the fire safety in order for Nat and I to be able to host these for Windwalker for future events. Nat also had to contact the fire department and also ask for a burn permit."

Saturday’s Fire Flow Jam behind Charlotte’s Windwalker Gallery starts just as dusk begins to settle on Mid-Michigan, around 8:30 and as an open air event, Fire Flow Jam is free, but, as Dempsey points out, "We do recommend a donation on that. We are a local 501-c3 non-profit and the donation helps us cover the cost of the supplies for the event, so that $5 donation covers your fuel oil for your props. It covers your personal Fire Safety and the tools that they need, and we have water here for the performers."

And with this demonstration over, it’s time for Nat to quench these fires until Saturday night's event. But still, safety first.

"I'm folding a damp towel three times over each wick to make sure that the fire is out completely, just to kill the fire. Killing any kind of oxygen that might be coming through. And just like that, the five wicks are out."

Visit windwalkerunderground.wordpress.com for more information about both the regular and fire version of their Flow Jam events, but you can find more about this Saturday night’s Fire Flow Jam behind the Windwalker on their facebook event page.

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