Bellingham Spin Jam, a weekly gathering where people can practice flow arts, hopes to create a sense of community in its attendees.
The event occurs every Tuesday at the Blue Room and is coordinated by Cassidy Bristol.
Bristol has been hooping for over 12 years and picked it up from attending music festivals.
Flowing is a movement art that incorporates object manipulation and dance, said co-founder of the Seattle Flow Arts Collective Arlene Smith.
“Movement is something that’s just really appealing to me,” Smith said. “It's a way that I can say things without having to be able to communicate them with language, which is sometimes clunky when you're processing emotions or trying to think through things.”
A sense of community and a space for people to feel comfortable expressing themselves are important values of the Bellingham Spin Jam, Bristol said.
No matter your skill level, Spin Jam strives to create a safe space where anyone can come comfortably play around with flow toys.
At the Spin Jam, hoops are provided for people who may not have a flow toy to practice with.
“For me, flowing is really important because it allows me to trust myself more,” Bristol said. “Your body knows where you are by having that spatial awareness, like catching a hoop after you throw it, those types of things. They allow you to trust yourself in a way that we're not really taught to naturally.”
Nolan Christensen, who has been attending the Spin Jam for almost two years, began using a dragon staff after getting exposed to it by people he met while backpacking across the eastern coast of Australia. He has been flowing for six years.
He recalls one experience when his neighbors discovered him fire dancing with the dragon staff, and they wanted him to put on a show. In his driveway, he performed some tricks while more neighbors gathered around to watch.
“Flowing is important because it is a niche interest that I have gained enough mastery in to be able to make other people smile,” he said.
Participating in flow arts creates many opportunities to make new friends and connections with like-minded people. Smith said that flowing breeds connection among people through the shared experience of facing challenges.
“I think everyone can kind of see that everyone has the experience of picking up a prop for the first time and feeling super awkward and not knowing what to do with it,” Smith said. “You know, a lot of people don't feel very comfortable dancing or moving their bodies expressively, but there's something about the prop that can be like a bit of a shield.”
Flowing is something anyone can pick up, no matter how hard it may look at first.
“It's not that they're a magician; it’s that there's a trick to things, a strategy for learning. There are foundational concepts of movement,” Smith said.
One of the most important values at the Seattle Flow Arts Collective is failure, Smith said, because you must first be bad at something before you can be good.
Another event participant, Ian Brewer, has been attending the Bellingham Spin Jam since 2020 and mainly uses poi.
“I've had so many fun interactions with people that I never would have met before,” he said. “A decent part of my Bellingham friend group and people that I have good relationships with started [at Spin Jam].”
For him, flowing is also something that helps ground him and focus his state of mind.
“It's also an amazing thing for me because I have mentioned ADHD about 10 times already in this interview. So clearly, it's something that affects my life a lot, and it's nice because in my experience, it’s the time when my mind feels the most calm,” he said.
The Bellingham Spin Jam is open to people of all ages and all skill levels. Currently, it is being hosted at the Blue Room every Tuesday at 7 p.m., but once it starts to get warm, it will resume being held outside.
More photos of Feb. 28's Spin Jam can be found here.
Tristyn (she/they) is a city life reporter for The Front. They are planning on majoring in visual journalism. This is her second-year at Western. In Tristyn’s free time, they enjoy thrift shopping, being outside, going to music festivals and hanging out with her roommate’s cats.
You can reach them at Tristyn.firstname.lastname@example.org