Being in the zone

23 September 2021 | Health

“It’s so lovely to grow and expand and to look back to a past you and be grateful for the lessons, but also be thankful that you are stronger and wiser and more accepting of the challenges you experience.”

Henriette Lamprecht – It was three words that would change the course of her life forever. An epiphany that signalled in neon letters: “That is me”. In 1998, Zelda Lourens went backpacking through parts of Australia. It was early on in her journey when she had the privilege of witnessing a fire dance performance at the backpackers where she was staying. It’s hard to explain that first moment of observing the beautiful art form using unique movement, Zelda says.

“It was a couple that performed and I think it was while watching Danny, the girl, move rhythmically to the music, effortlessly swinging balls of fire around her, that I had an epiphany. It was 3 words: ‘That Is Me’,” Zelda explains the moment that would change her life forever. After the show, the guy asked if anyone wanted to give it a try with their practice sets, and that was it. Her journey with the flow arts had begun.

She was in Australia for “literally a week” when she discovered poi and once she started, she played every day.

“It’s a bit like riding a bike. You struggle in the beginning but pretty soon you get into the flow, and once the moves click in, you have it forever.”

A week after she first picked up the poi, Jim surprised her by saying, “Are you ready, you can try with fire tonight.” Zelda admits it came as a bit of a shock to her as she thought it was way too soon. However, he was so relaxed about it that it made her think that this is how it goes.

“I don’t think anything really prepares you for your first fire spin. You are scared for sure. It goes against what you were taught as a child: ‘Don’t play with fire!’ Now, you are doing exactly that, and you are swinging it around you.”

It was a cold night in the mountain village of Katoomba when she first “lit up”.

“And it was magical, something you could never imagine. The fire roars as you swing it around you, the sound is amazing and you feel like a warrior – invincible! I have to mention that with that first fire, I did manage to get the chain wrapped around my head and the fireball in my face. Luckily, I unwound it quickly and came off unscathed. But that was, until this day, possibly one of the potentially most dangerous positions to find yourself in with swinging flaming balls.”

Zelda says she thinks she was lucky, as traveling for a year is really about learning the art of “hanging out” and her poi became her constant travel companion for that year.

According to her, fire spinning has evolved over the last 20 years. The term more regularly used today is fire dancing as the multitude of different props available in the movement art is no longer just spinning or swinging balls around. The props include fire staffs, fire orbs, fire fans, fire hoops, and fire palm torches, to name a few.

She explains there are specific techniques involved. The flow arts consist of learning the art of prop manipulation and are transferable through a variety of different props. Each prop has different moves that you can learn, and people are coming up with new moves all the time.

There is “absolutely” a spiritual element to it, Zelda says.

“Flow or flow state is the feeling of ‘being in the zone’, it’s when you are fully absorbed and focused in the enjoyment of an activity. It's the moment in which you forget about everything else happening in the world and find yourself totally present.”

The state of flow is also defined as the ability to move freely in an unbroken stream of awareness, uniting your mind, body, and breath with your creative intelligence.

“The flow arts is the art of achieving this flow. It combines movement-based art forms like Tai Chi, martial arts, and dance with prop manipulation. Learning to move in harmony with an inanimate object so that it becomes an extension of your body. Blending play, exercise, and a new way to dance into a fun and healthful activity that moves the body, calms the mind and uplifts the spirit. A literal movement meditation practice.”

After doing it for many years, she still loves “every moment of it”.

“Being in the flow is being connected to your source, your higher self, which always brings a great sense of well-being. What is great about this art form is that it has evolved so much over the years that there are constantly new moves to learn, new techniques to apply, and new ways of integrating it all with movement and dance. When I watch what some of the artists are doing with their props today, I am amazed.”

Zelda explains poi is the Maori word for “ball on a string”. Poi spinning is swinging tethered weights through a variety of rhythmical and geometric patterns around the body.

It is something anybody can train to do.

“People from the age of 3 to those in their late 80s are known to have learned the art.”

Studies on the benefits of poi spinning revealed improved coordination, developing muscle tone, reducing stress, encouraging creativity, sharpening of analytical skills, cultivating patience and persistence, balancing bi-lateral motor skills, and increased self-esteem.

In her journey from “before the fire” to the Zelda of today, there is definitely a change, she says.

“It’s so lovely to grow and expand and to look back to a past you and be grateful for the lessons, but also be thankful that you are stronger and wiser and more accepting of the challenges you experience.”

One of her favourite memories is when she had the opportunity to give a poi class to Angelina Jolie when she and Brad Pitt came to Namibia for two and a half months in 2005.

“I had the privilege to perform for them three times over that period. After the first time, she asked if there was some place she could learn and I was just too happy to oblige!”

Another favourite is when she created her first stage production, Carnival of Flames - A Fire, Dance & Visual Extravaganza, in 2014. To date, she has hosted five, with the last one in 2019 aptly called Vintage Carousel.

“Everyone has a different theme with costumes and stage build to match the theme. I absolutely love the process of creating the show. From finding the music through the year to designing the stage and the costumes and working out the choreographies. I am joined in this endeavour by a great team of people that have made a tremendous contribution to make this show one of a kind in Namibia. I am super excited for the next one, which I have decided will be in 2022, titled Steampunk Saloon.” - [email protected];