People tell stories and share a piece of themselves through many different mediums, including performance art. Performance art offers a way for creators to actually embody art themselves. In other words, it utilizes the human body and its ability to create through movement. Other types of art such as paintings and sculptures are considered static, whereas visual arts are dynamic.
One couple decided to take up performance art together, and they have mastered many different styles and techniques. Jessie Kat and her partner do fire dancing, juggling, unicycling and more! Here is their inspiring story of how they create art through movement.
Jessie has been performing since she was a young girl, and she’s continually evolved her art ever since.
“I found the hula hoop about 6 or 7 years ago. I got the chance to take some classes with a wonderful friend of mine named Katelyn Carano,” Jessie said. “Then, I met someone who led me into the world of fire dancing, and that really expanded my art.”
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She says fire dancing includes so many different props and things you can do with them. Fire dancing actually began thousands of years ago in ancient Polynesia. Historians believe the Maori people of New Zealand created Poi, a Maori word for “ball on a string.” Maori warriors originally used poi as a tool to train for battles or hunting.
How this ancient art form eventually transformed into modern fire dancing
Swinging the balls around helped them gain wrist strength and flexibility for using different hunting tools or weapons. Eventually, the Maori used the balls for various types of performance art. The poi was made of flax fibers called muka and the middle of the raupo stem. Modern poi is made of synthetic fibers of various bright colors.
However, the art of lighting the poi balls on fire didn’t occur until the mid 20th century. The Samoans used the poi in a traditional knife dance called ailao. This showed the Samoan warrior’s strength and capabilities in battle and was performed primarily at ceremonial processions of daughters and chiefs. Then, the Samoan people began using machetes instead of knives in the fire dances.
In 1946, a Samoan-American named Uluao Letuli started lighting knives on fire after going to San Francisco’s Shriner Convention. There, he watched a baton twirler and fire-eater perform, and decided to light his own knife on fire. From there, this became a common ritual for the Samoans, and the Polynesian people started lighting all their ceremonial props on fire. In the 1950s, the first fire poi performances, known as luaus, began in Hawaii.
Fire poi are made of chain and kevlar wicks on each end and are stuffed with cotton, which easily absorbs fuel. Most performers use kerosene because of its low burning temperature. The fire poi and knife have evolved into other types of instruments like fire fans, umbrellas, balls, and whips.
In America, fire dancing didn’t become popular until the early 1990s at places that naturally drew in crowds for performance art. Typically, raves, beach parties, concerts, and festivals have been popular events for fire artists. A huge attraction for artists of all types is the famous Burning Man festival. There are many other types of events like these throughout the year that draw in artists from around the world.
The couple showcases their performance art all over the country for large crowds
Jessie and Kyle perform at many of these festivals and gatherings, showing off their unique skills together. Kyle aka “Flowstyle Kyle” is a multi-prop juggling performer and instructor. He first got into performance arts in 2015, and his knowledge and experience have continued to grow. He started teaching people to juggle and fire dance in 2016, and started traveling to festivals in 2018.
Kyle and his partner have their own unique style which makes them stand out from the crowd. They use different types of props in their performances such as electric unicycles, LED lights, hoops, and fire. They’ve put hundreds of hours and dedication into perfecting their craft for people to enjoy. They both want to spread their love for performance art wherever they go, and help others learn this beautiful art form.
“I want to continue to move and to grow and love,” Jessie says. “I want to continue to make people smile, to make children laugh, to inspire others.”
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“It is pretty hard to stay motivated during these hard times, and I feel so lucky that I have a partner (whose name is Flowstyle Kyle) who has really pushed me to be better and better every single day and teaches me something new all the time. Our goal for the future is to continue to juggle and do electric unicycle riding. We are currently creating an act together that we cannot wait to share with the world.”
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We can’t wait to see what types of performance art they come up with!
If you’d like to check out more of their performance art, you can follow Jessie on Instagram here. Kyle also has an Instagram page, and the couple shares a page called Electric Jugglers for their unicycle art.
Final thoughts: Performance art like Jessie and Kyle’s help people connect through movement
There are so many different types of art in the world, from music to painting to performing. Art helps people put feelings and thoughts into a type of expression that people can relate to. For instance, music helps people relate to certain emotions or experiences an artist portrays with their lyrics. In the same way, performance art allows people to connect by watching others express themselves with fluid movements and props.
Art is all about expression – making our inner worlds visible somehow so others can understand. Jessie and Kyle have perfected their skills over the years, teaching them to thousands of others. They travel frequently to festivals to share their talents, and they have plenty more tricks up their sleeves. They truly love performance art, and if you go to festivals, you may get lucky enough to see them perform.