Hi there, I'm Spiral, the wand witch in the Long String Wand Flow .gif that y'all seemed to like. AMA!
I'm a performer of circus and flow arts who recently had a .gif made from one of my videos that went viral on Reddit. It got almost 5 million views in a day (March 9) and hit #1 on the home page. There was a lot of curiosity expressed in the comments about how the wand works, along with lots of erroneous (and hilarious) assumptions about both the physics of the wand and who I am, so I'd love a chance to answer some of those questions directly.
I'm a pioneer of the emerging world of flow arts and I've been hustling to make a living as a performer and teacher for well over a decade. I'm primarily self-taught (save for a year in circus school to learn acrobatics and aerial) and have traveled the world doing what I love.
I shot and edited the source video and practiced for years to develop to movement vocabulary that it captures. The video: Long String Wand in the Stromboli Sun (link below) was shot on the rooftop of a dear friend's home on the island of Stromboli, Italy. I was brought there to perform in a fire arts festival that they hold there annually.
EDIT: Thanks so much for all the wonderful questions y'all. Signing off now!
The original video: https://youtu.be/MScHgmv_U0E
The .gif: http://www.reddit.com/r/gifs/comments/2yfxgi/long_string_wand_flow/
If you want to learn how to wand: http://www.longstringwand.com
My Facebook fan page, with proof ;) http://www.facebook.com/spiralcircusarts
My website: http://www.spiralcircusarts.com
Blog post with more proof: http://www.spiralcircusarts.com/#!vivian-spiral-blog/c1qoj
Instagram proof: http://www.instagram.com/vivian_spiral
I was not aware that some thought this is a hoax! That is both hilarious and flattering. So far, my max levitation has been a french bulldog. My powers started to emerge in 2006...
As for the hoax suspicions...I illuminated all when I decided to teach folks how to levitate for themselves...see link above ;)
I enjoy your tutorials and instructional DVDs (the DVD "Hoop Technique - Space and Energy" is a particular favorite); they are always very professional, with easy to understand instructions and informative. Any new tutorials "in the works"?
Thank you so much! There are no new tutorials currently in the works, as I've invested a TON of time into making the ones I have released as 'professional' as they appear. My most recent tutorial, though, is a 30 minute free download from my website, teaching folks how to handstand- both strength-building exercises and balance tips.
Check it out at: http://www.spiralcircusarts.com
I've watched your handstand tutorial, and it was excellent!
Ah, thank you! I must admit, creating the tutorials that I have took a lot out of me. Future offerings will likely be shorter Youtube tutorials. I've got more wand vocabulary that I'd love to share!
I haven't tried the wand yet, but when I do, I'm definitely going to purchase your tutorial. BTW, great handstand at the falls in Jamaica!
Thank you kindly ;)
Ok, how does this wand thing work? I assumed there were strings attached to it and you would keep it flying around using centrifugal force. But then, it changes direction mid-flight and it looks like you can stop spinning without getting entangled?!
There is a string attached, but it's one big loop (about 6 feet in diameter) and it passes through a hole in the center of the wand. You are right about the centrifugal force being the primary source of movement. To reverse it, I contact the string with my hand, or sometimes waist or neck, and send it in the other direction.
Also, if you're curious, I made a very thorough tutorial teaching folks how to dance with a wand at: http://www.longstringwand.com ;)
How long did it take you to master that move? It doesn't seem too easy.
I'm guessing you might be referring to the movement in general? I've been practicing the wand in earnest since 2011 ;)
Hi Spiral! I'm a massive fan of your hooping. I have the DVD you did with Rich Porter! But your wand work is incredible too. Did you transfer anything you learned from hoopdance to your wand work, or are they very different for you?
Thank you! Asbolutely, there was transfer between the art forms. The most pronounced being the sustained spinning. A lot of the movement with the wand- for me at least- is momentum play: using centrifugal force to keep the wand upright and moving. Being able to sustain a spin lends to the illusion that it's floating.
Spiral, about a year and a half ago some friends and I started getting into making hoops because I was too cheap to buy an expensive one. We made a few and improved our craft, but now I have a pretty large box of unused hoop tape, and some tubing that I don't want to use because it doesn't make hoops that are sturdy enough. Do you have any suggestions for what to do with the flimsy tubing and extra hoop tape?
Ah, a common problem among my hoop friends! If you had the time, I'd suggest making hoops with the extra tubing (as long as the flimsy-ness might hold up for other folks with less criteria than you ;) and donating them to an after school program or daycare. You could even try and donate just the supplies themselves, as kids love to try and make/decorate their own. Good luck!
Do you go to any burns/festivals?
Absolutely! I've been to Burning Man 9 times. And numerous festivals. I used to perform at more festivals, but- despite often being quite fun- they don't pay very well and are pretty demanding energetically.
Which was your favourite comment on the viral gif of you being awesome...?
Oh wow, that's tough, there were so many good ones! I got a kick out of being called a witch, and the whole Monty Python tangent. I'd have to revisit some of my screen shots to find specifics ;)
You are well known and adored by many hoopers and other flow artists. When did you first realize you are kinda "famous"?
Aw shucks...well, that first started to hit me when once one of my videos hit 100,000 views. And also, once I went to my first EJC (European Juggling Convention) in 2011, and a lot of folks across the pond had already heard of me
Hey Spiral! Huge huge fan! Thank you so much for doing an AMA :) I would love to know about your conditioning/practice routine! Is there anything specific you do or is it just a take it one day at a time sort of thing?
Thank you! There are definitely specifics to my routine. These days, I do about an hour of yoga in the morning, to wake up the body and get moving, then a couple+ more hours in the afternoon, of which one hour is usually flow practice among my different props (hoops, wand, contact juggling), and the other hour+ is conditioning (handstands, pushups, pullups, aerial when I have a rig, leg lifts, abs, etc) or contortion practice.
It's a given that any physical endeavor requires utmost discipline. How do you unwind?
Well, thankfully, the practice itself is often a way to unwind from the intensity of hustle it takes to make a living as an independent artist. My flow practice in particular (improvisation with my various props) puts me in a very elevated, meditative, often blissed-out state. That, and laying on tennis balls after drinking a glass of wine (or two ;)
Hey Spiral! So happy to see this AMA! We all hit blocks in our training and creativity, and I think one of the biggest indicators of a successful creative life is how we work with those moments. What is your process when you hit a bit of a lull? Do you deal with each one uniquely, or do you have more of a structured ritual to get you going again?
Great question! The creative plateau used to really torment me. Reading George Leonard's 'Mastery' really helped, as he talks about those lulls/plateaus as a gift during which you're actually making a lot of progress and increasing your muscle memory, etc, but it's not immediately obvious. For me, those plateaus can be influenced heavily by outside events (stress from not enough bookings being a prime example), and sometimes I just have to step back and away for a couple/few days. It helps, too, that I practice a lot of different things- hoops, contact juggling, handstands, yoga, wand, aerial dance, etc...so if one thing is feeling stale, I'm okay with setting it aside for a while and focusing on what feels good.
Spiral! You are magical! I am so proud of your work, and will always hold the greatest memories with you in Baha... What would you say has been the biggest risk you have taken on your path as an artist?
Thank you so much! Ah...Baha...sublime! My goodness, I'd say the biggest risk has been continuing to persevere. Perseverance in the face of consistently living on the edge financially and despite sometimes crippling doubt. It can be so difficult to continue believing in oneself and your work when things get hard- and they've often been hard!
Vivian, the world is wide with many places to visit. Do you have a summer schedule set so we can know where you might be performing? I am thinking primarily of workshops or festivals.
I am from Edmonton, Canada, and we have a wide ranging and vibrant flow community here. Frankly I'm wondering if you have any plans to attend or perform at any of the Western Canada music festivals this year.
I am also curious if you are familiar with any of the home grown talent we have here in Edmonton, such as Nina Infinity, or Daniel, The FloWarrior?
The world is indeed wide. I've always wanted to make it to Shambhala or Bass Coast. I don't have a summer schedule this year, as I am currently in the midst of a performance contract on a cruise ship that has me booked until at least the end of May, perhaps longer. I'm also negotiating an offer to perform in a theater show in Guam for 6 months, starting in August, which may further hinder any festival plans. It's hard to give up seeing those places and people, but being able to finally get steady work doing my art and put some money away trumps my festival schedule this year. I'm not familiar with those folks...will have to look them up!
Hi Vivian. I'm a big fan of your work, and thrilled for the opportunity to participate in this forum. Would you please share the technique, for what I consider one of your signature hoop moves, of twirling two hoops...one inside the other...(like a globe) on a single axis? I try to practice this move with no success :(
Thanks for the kind words ;) Ah yes, the helix...on a practical level, it helps if you have gaffers or a similar grip tape inside both hoops. A common misconception is that the two hoops are different sizes- this is not true. It really comes down to constantly keeping them spinning, either between your two hands- with one hand on each 'pole', or to keep your body spinning while you hold the hoop static. It helps if you have the horizontal hoop on the outside, as well. I hope that helps!
It is inspiring to see someone pursue a niche art form. Do you have an end goal or is it more about the journey for you?
I'm always delighted to inspire. As this journey has unfolded, that has remained a guiding light; inspiring others to follow their dreams, regardless of whether they include the movement arts I do. There is no particular 'end goal' for me, though there are certain troupes I'd love to perform with (Cirque Eloize being one). It has all unfolded quite organically for me, and the journey has been both incredibly challenging and totally wonderful.
Could you do this with stuffed animals?
Only consenting stuffed animals.
I've seen some vids of you at Burning Man; I've never been, but it looks like it would be quite an experience. What was your favorite part of your Burning Man trip(s)?
The synchronicity at Burning Man can be pretty profound and special...as in, wanting to do something or meet someone and having it unfold. I, personally, am a huge fan of the environment itself- the harsh, white desert and beautiful purple mountains off in the distance, but it's definitely not for everyone. Also, the last time I went I got to be a guest of the Front Porch art car and that was incredibly cool and special, as we rode around the playa with a mobile experience of sorts, and it brought all sorts of magic right to where we were...
You have an engaging stage presence and always seem to be enjoying your performance. What hoop move brings you the most joy to perform?
Thank you! And it would be hard to pinpoint any particular move. What brings me the most joy is being in the midst of a powerful flow and catching people's eyes while I'm executing any sufficiently complex or impressive move. The 'helix' rotating globe is always a crowd pleaser ;)
What was it like for you as an artist to be on the front page of Reddit? I've always been curious how that affects fan page likes, new gigs, etc.
Unfortunately, in this case, being an artist on the front page of Reddit was frustrating. I'm guessing it would have been a huge boost to my fan page and gateway to new gigs and opportunities if I had been credited in the .gif that went viral. As it is, the .gif of me made it to the front page, with 5 million+ views, without my name or contact info connected to it. Someone was kind enough to recognize and cite me, but that didn't happen (and get subsequently upvoted) until more than 9 hours after the .gif was posted. Getting that kind of viewership is something I've been working toward for years with my creation of videos. To have it happen this way has been pretty heartbreaking and frustrating. I got about 50 new FB fans. I've seen folks get 10,000 in a day for a video that got many less views, as their name/info was attached to it.
A flow state can be reached doing practically anything. How do you feel about the term "flow arts" being used to label most props these days?
You're right that a flow state can be achieved in numerous ways...thank goodness! I feel it's generally accurate for most props to which that label is applied, but not always applicable. Hoops, for example, have been around a long time. The classic circus style/act is not so much about flow, but about performing a highly rehearsed routine. Of course, the person practicing this likely reaches a kind of flow during rehearsal or the repetition of moves, but they may well be very hard pressed to improvise to music, even given a broad vocabulary of movement.
Can you post a picture with a shoe on your head.?
;) At the moment, that would be tricky, but there is a segment where I'm balancing a ball on my head in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5WGk-DTe88
Are you aware there are some out there who think this is a hoax? They claim you used see-through strings to make it look like it was really levitating. I think they're nuts but I'm wondering, how big of an object can you actually levitate? When did you learn you had these powers?
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