Posted by: Cleric | October 21, 2014

Florida Flow Fest 2014 recap

This Florida Flow Fest was truly the best ever.  Now having wrapped four events, the smooth oilings of the machine are starting to make the gathering as flowy as the training itself.

I don’t know the exact money breakdown that is charged to Casandra for ridding the park of fire ants, but I think she deserves at least a partial refund.  Dude, bit up hard.

I am convinced that every restaurant on Lake Avenue is better than any comparable restaurant anywhere in Dade County.  The French café was expensive, but delicious and more breakfast than I could eat in a sitting.  The pizza place was as good as New York, which I have never – EVER – said of pizza anywhere in 23 years of living in Florida.  And that Mexican place we hit on Sunday for an afterparty… dark pumpkin ale and loaded nachos?  Tasty tasty tasty.  Eat on this street.  Amazing.

Casandra?  Super chill every time I saw her, even on the mic.  Apparently four times a charm, and a charm she was.

New man crush:  Gustavo.  OMG that guy’s got flow for days.

THIS guy!

Whomever stole my friend’s oil paint set:  keep running, bitch.

Got to spend time with Jessica and Sharky, taught them some basic contact staff.   Can’t wait to see what they work up as partners.

Saw the flow arts documentary.  Very nicely made, very thoughtful and insightful, I love seeing us on the big screen.  There were also some things I thought were odd about it, such as spending time going back and forth between what we call ourselves and how we feel about that.  I think that’s a fine conversation to have, but I don’t know that I’d have included it in a movie that seems, in my opinion, to be produced with the goal of sharing what we do with muggles.  I think as this film evolves and more clearly defines their target audience (spinners vs. non-spinners, adults vs. kids, etc.), the more this movie will grow.  It could even delineate into two separate films, one for the flow community and one for the non-flow community.

Casandra’s mom hit on me.  That was…unexpected.

Got to hang with Jonathan Alvarez, work up a new (to me) trick at his suggestion, and got to spin his podpoi – it’s really hard not to be starstruck around him but as much as that was its own reward, one side benefit is that I fell in LOVE with his poi handle rig, so now I’m going to have to drop $110 on that.

Dudes… we need a shade structure if we want to collect in any sizeable numbers during the day.  It’s so hot out during this time of year that the only way to not burst into flames is to take to the trees, which are mostly around the perimeter of the park.  It keeps us relatively scattered… boo.  Misting fans would also be super awesome or even a few water sprinkler toys set up to make a little hippy oasis.  Something.  To.  Cool.  Us.  Down.

A three-way commute between South Miami Beach, Lake Worth, and Islamorada SUCKS, but the magic of F3 makes it an easy choice.  After teaching my class on Saturday and taking a class or two I had to bail at 3:00 to make my gig, and even that little dose left me feeling a major spirit-high.

Every year, the shirts have sucked.  This year they were AMAZING.  Bought one and was happy to have it.  As irony would have it though, the printer fucked up the quantities and only sent two pieces of medium, the most popular size.  In unrelated news, I fit into a size small t-shirt… until it’s washed at least.

I Bought some other merch too:  Three Florida Fire Collective pins, two F3 pins, an FFC shirt, and the must-have accessory of any fire artist who has absolutely no respect for the lifespan of his own wicking, a fresh pot of sklitter from Ninja Pyrate.

I taught my class on Saturday.  HUGE turnout.  The secret?  Free Bagels.  Other secret?  Having your class be the only class in its time slot.  I actually learned some amazing things from the student-colleagues, such as using your props to teach traditional curriculum in schools (as opposed to simply introducing prop spinning lessons).  So you might use, for example, poi and staff to give a classroom math lesson that jives with their curriculum.  Or a variety of props to teach a history/social studies lesson.  Or a pair of club torches to teach angles.

The link below is to my course notes from The Business of Flow in a downloadable pdf.  If you have any questions about it, hit me up anytime.

The Business of Flow 10-2014

Classes I took:

Advanced Dragon Staff

Dude… Skiffle is a staff BEAST.  He’s also a fantastic teacher (which is not always the case among jedi)  and a super cool guy to boot.  I think I finally have a handle on dragon staff angel rolls.

Two Buugeng  classes

I’m not sure if I fucked myself on this one or not.  Took the first class, pretty cool, then I took the second class the next day and it seemed, at first, to be the exact same class in the exact same order.  So I started dipping in and out of the class to say hi to peeps around me and towards the end of the class, I saw them working on new stuff.  Note to self:  work on your patience.

Poi by numbers:

There’s no poi spinning in this, it’s a math class.  Like a pen-on-paper math class.  With Trigonometry. And Graph theory.  And are you fucking kidding me?  I’m sitting three feet from Drex – DREX! – and we’re not only NOT going to spin poi, we’re going to do my least favorite math category of all time.

Why don’t you just save me an hour and some ink and kick me in the balls right now?

I forced myself to sit through most of it but I needed to disengage at 15-minute intervals.  I did understand some of it, though, and what I did understand was really, really deep and weird and I will probably take it 2-3 more times before I truly get it.  It was, in its own way, fascinating.

Chicks dig the white beard.  Did NOT see that one coming, but seriously, the numbers don’t lie.

On the last night I got to hang at an after party with, among other great peeps, Mathias Elliot and Kory San, talking their ears off about the future of flow arts in business and launching more master workshops in South Florida.  They both very politely let me ramble.  Thanks guys!

All in all, it was every bit the flowy magic you have come to expect from a young, vibrant, and passionate flow community that just happens to be set in one of the most beautiful regions of the world.  Looking forward to seeing you all next year, and spoiler alert:  there just may be a Flow Fest coming to your town soon!


Posted by: Cleric | October 17, 2014

From Talent to Producer

[Cleric’s note – this entry was originally a guest blog for Tim Marston’s blog titled “How to Sell Your Act.”  It has since closed, so I am reposting it, slightly edited, here.  Enjoy]

Let’s say I am doing a 15-minute fire show for a corporate event.  I got the show from an agent, who got the show from an event planner, who is working for the corporate buyer, usually a human resources person in some company in another industry (carmaker, pharmaceutical rep conference, etc.).  Now it is not the norm in South Florida, but it is not completely uncommon either, that that HR person for that company was just charged $1,000 for that 15-minute fire show.

So you get $1,000 for your show, right?  That’s a nice chunk for something you really kinda geek out over anyway, right?

Dream come true, right?

Yeah…um, er, no.  There are layers of people in this show, so let’s meet them.

The HR person paid the event planner $1,000, who will probably take at least $200 and pay the entertainment company $800. That Entertainment company paid you $500, and kept $300 for THEIR commission.  So your thousand-dollar show just netted you $500.   HALF the fee was absorbed in agency and booking fees.  Now I know what you’re going to say:  “Get me $500 for 15 minutes and I’m GOOD!”  I know, I would take this deal every day were it offered and I would be equally thrilled for the fact that I helped others make themselves money.  If you find yourself in this scenario often enough, then congratulations:  you are officially “talent.”  You don’t produce it, you don’t sell it, you might not even wear your own clothes, the only thing you do is perform in it, the end.  For many reasons, this is not a bad way to roll; it’s low stress and allows you to concentrate more on your art and still puts you in the business of doing what you love.

Once I got some traction and momentum as talent – which took about three freaking years by the way – my reputation for self-management started causing some changes.  Agents, who once hired me to just spin, were starting to ask me to do things like organize multiple dancers, gather and select music, hire other safeties, do walkthroughs with the client, and more.  I realized that my role was changing to producer.  Some people did this as a force of habit, making more off of me and doing less work themselves, but others would – and this is important – increase my rate, telling me “I’m paying you more because I’m asking you to produce your own show unsupervised.  I won’t even be onsite.”  And that started to make a difference.  As this happened more and more, I became more privy to learning what entertainment agencies and event planners were doing, which was a) keeping track of vendors of talent and b) marketing and advertising what they have compiled, under their own company name.  That’s not to say that’s ALL they do, but that’s certainly a large part of it.

Well, to a guy with my marketing background, that is the easiest thing in the world to do.  It’s so entry-level organization that in my corporate heyday, I made staffers and interns do it.  And even if I wasn’t uniquely suited for it, the vehicles of marketing and advertising delivery have become so do-it-yourself-friendly that virtually anyone can set up a marketing machine to tell anyone anything and if you prime the pump enough, you will have some results.

So I reformed my brand.  It started with “Cleric”, which was just me as a performer, and then it was “Fire By The Palm”, a firedancing troupe, now it is Fire By The Palm Productions, a fire arts production company.   Some pics of my business cards below can better illustrate the progression.

PHASE #1:  Business cards.  Marketing self-identity:  Talent

biz card front #1 - talent cleric-business-card-11-2008-back

PHASE #2:  Business Cards.  Marketing self-identity:  Dance Troupe

business card 6-30-09 copy


PHASE #3:  Business Cards.  Marketing self-identity:  Entertainment Producer



I used to think these things were really just semantics, but they communicate volumes to the buyer, mainly that you are at the producer level, capable of corralling talent and delivering quality entertainment products.  As ‘cleric,’ firedancing was pretty much the only reason you would call me.  As ‘productions,’ the clients will come to you with an idea only half formed, leaving it to you to finish the pieces to their puzzle.

The real money to a producer can come one of two ways:

  1. You get the full payment for your own talent if you self produce, so in the above scenario you are now the $800 level rather than the $500 level.
  2. In addition to that, you can book lots of other types of talent and get booking commissions whether or not you performed in the event at all. So if you can get them some firedancers, some aerialists, a band, and otherwise be the source of the event planner’s entertainment (or better yet, sell to the HR client directly), you can actually make thousands of dollars in a single event.

Now at first, given a choice between talent and producer, most people after reading this will say, “I’m a shiny new producer!” Well, screech those brakes again – remember that database and marketing thing I said was so easy?  Turns out, it actually is pretty simple – but simple is in no way EASY.  The challenges of being a producer don’t look like much to someone who isn’t doing it, but in a producer’s mind, there are a thousand things going on and producers are personally responsible for every single one of them.  Fire permits?  You.  Insurance?  You.  Stage space?  Fueling station?  Getting paid?  Selling the show in the first place?  Show safety?  You, you and you again.  Dancer’s late?  Your problem.  Dancer’s wasted?  Your fault.  Show sucked?  The only one damaged is you; the talent you hired? Relatively unaffected.  This is why producers make more money; they do more things and take more risk.

If you want to go from talent to producer, the first step is to start networking sideways – DJs, caterers, other event service people.  Develop a portfolio for them the same way you developed a portfolio for yourself.  A few pictures, perhaps some video, some estimates on pricing, and an understanding of the logistics and uniqueness of the company you’re repping.  Start adding these portfolio elements – minus their company information – to your own marketing and advertising efforts and expand your vocabulary to include the words “we can find” and “we produce.”

The next thing you need to do is jump headlong into the world of marketing and advertising.  Do your marketing and advertising the same way you did your portfolio – a little website tweak here (check out our new aerialists – they serve caviar while they’re hanging upside down!) a little newsletter there.  Don’t try to think about it all at once, that will overwhelm you and ultimately water down your efforts.  Build it slowly, and patiently, and with an applied dose of passion, you can rise to new levels of business success – while still in the world of performing.

And now for some shameless link promotion: – our company’s website –  My blog. – one of my business partners, Spin-ballS.  They make fantastic quality poidancing equipment at non-specialty prices. – vendor of incredibly next-level fire performance equipment. – great spinning and juggling website, use promotional code “cleric” and take 15% off of your first order.  For my Home of Poi list of faves, visit Fire By The Palm’s equipment page.

That’s about it for now.  Thanks!

Posted by: Cleric | April 16, 2014

FLAME post-game

Wow… just wow.  This was only my second festival ever, the first one was FLAME 2013.  Some thoughts:

1.  What an amazing property.  The river… the bridge…

2.  We should mow the entire lawn if feasible.  Walking through calf-high grass for a half-mile every time we gotta go back to camp is tiring.

3.  Fire walk – between last year and this year I now have 11 fire walks.  Woot!

4.  Flowcase… fucking AMAZING.

5.  My class – I thought it was going to be mostly noobs but most that showed up were veterans of gigging.  Made for a much more advanced conversation, perhaps next year I’ll suggest two business classes, beginner and advanced.  The expanded outline from the business class is available on the link below:

The Business of Flow

Somebody told me that my workshop was one of the most useful they’ve ever taken. Right in the feels!

6.  People have really strong opinions about RVs.

7.  I prefer the type of volunteering where someone drives up and says “dude, I need volunteers!” rather than signing up on paper.  I made 250 bean burritos (team bean!) and did a lot of safety work.  Interesting thing:  after being pulled away from the fire circle to do the burritos, I had no desire to return to the fire circle, or even firedance at all.

8.  Epic moment of my life:  After a full night of laughing at the top of the dome, talking to trees, closed-eye visuals, and the setting of the moon, I finally decided to do some burning.  Patrick Spidey and I were two of the only people around, he came into the circle to safety me.  Towards the end of my wicks, as the dawn light awoke, he challenged me to learn a chest spin (staff), and taught me the technique.  Nailed it 3x or so, hugged him, and held back tears of humble joy.  At the end of my life, when my entire existence is flashing before my eyes, I am certain that scene will make an appearance.  I have been dying to know that move.

9.  This conversation happened the same night, pretty epic as well:

“Dude, are you Julian Campolo?”

“Dude, you’re Johnny Alvarez”

“Dude, you’re a legend in Florida!”


Spoiler alert:  This conversation ended with talk of Florida workshops :).

10.  Food freely distributed in the middle of the night – supery dupery awesome.  This should be expanded to breakfast as well.  I like the idea of communal meals, it’s a group bonding thing.

11.   Port-a-potties:  should be emptied daily.  I’m not squeamish about it, but when the thing fills up to the height of the seat, ewwwwwwwww.

12.  Nick Garcia is the whitest Garcia I know.  Dude’s super nice.

13.  Ky will be so missed.  This east-coast-feeds-the-west-coast-all-our-jedis dynamic is getting depressing.

14.  I absolutely suck at festival life.  Everything I did was wrong, from not having a large water bottle to not having enough warm clothes to prevent hypothermia, there was some self-inflicted misery.  Definitely going to work on that for next year.

15.  Dry heat is a challenge for a Miamian – there’s no sweat warning like in a more humid location that tells you you’re getting too hot, you just go from warm to sun-baked.

16.  Got to spend a few minutes with Teddy Pedrosky – he helped me with my upper arm propellers, so I hope to have those flowy by the next time I see him.  Can’t believe that dude’s only 23 years old.

17.  I have never watched a Tim Goddard video before.  then he jumped in front of me at the fire circle and threw down a firepoi set that melted the faces of all who saw it.  Holy shit dude, Tim Fucking Goddard.

18.  Dark Monk is the kind of vendor I would wanna be if I were to a vendor.  From Trajan Pro font (my fave) to silicone-lined staves, to tea served at the booth, these guys have a style that is upscale and unique, yet still warm, friendly, and down-to-earth.  That is not an easy trick to pull off.

19.  Between the secret skull initiation and the prop-roulette-meets-fire-tag, I have never been more terrified of a fire catastrophe than I was when those two events were going down.  Particularly during the latter, I was one of only 2 or 3 safeties on point at that time.  The fact that everybody IN the exercise was laughing their asses off just scared me more.  Apparently, I must be getting old lol.

20.  That fire dome was SICK!!!  Thank you Jeremy Croxton for, upon learning I was altered, told me that I should head over there and chill out.  He called it the hippiedome, and when I got there and the flames were as trippy as life gets, I laughed for 30 straight minutes, mostly at how awesome Jeremy was for making such an on-point suggestion.

21.  Loved watching Noel Yee walk around the fire circle like a street-kid on a poor sidewalk.  Head down, free hand in pocket, hoodie up, but casually rocking two-poi in his other hand.  The contrast of “I got mad skillz” and “I’m as nonchalant as I get right now” was amazing and made me, for a moment, rethink what flowy is.

22.  I cannot WAIT until next year :).  To all of you I say have a wonderful year of peace, love, happiness, and flowy, flowy propping.


Posted by: Cleric | March 11, 2014

FLAME Course Description – The Business of Flow

Hey Flame peeps, I’m Julian from Miami Beach (stage name “Cleric”) and I have the honor of teaching a class at Flame that I’ve been on for a few years, “The Business of Flow.”  It has been developed out of my experiences as a professional firedancer, glow dancer, entertainment producer, and serial entrepreneur.

The outline link below will give you a general idea of the material we’ll cover.  Of course, we’ll be diving into  the ever-popular “how to get gigs,” but the opportunities for growth and a life fully in-flow are much more diverse and vast than most imagine and we will explore them in detail.  Not just principles, but real blueprints for financial development with flow arts.   If you need information on a particular topic or opportunity, please do not hesitate to contact me in advance of the workshop and we will work it into the class course material.

Thanks so much, I’ll see you guys next month!   SPIN ALL THE THINGS!

The Business of Flow


Posted by: Cleric | December 10, 2013

South Florida Boxing.

I love the gym.  When I was about eight or nine years old, my dad set up a mini boxing gym for himself (and us) in our basement.  There was, and probably still is, a free-weight set, a speed bag, a heavy bag, multiple jump ropes, and a few tennis balls for hop-dribbling drills (or whatever they call it).  To this day, I am convinced that there are still some people walking around Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, that would be dead by a Campolo’s hand had it not been for this place my dad set up for my brothers and me to punch things.  And punch them I did – I often broke the heavy bag with kicks too, I was an angry teenager and I loved contact sports so it was a natural fit.

Between my gym in my concrete basement, my weight room at high school tucked in the boiler room, and all the rocky movies I’ve memorized, I learned a cultural truth to fight training:  The more raw and underground the facility and the training methods, the stronger the warrior.  By contrast, you can get in great shape at fancy gyms like David Barton Gym (complete with saunas, lime-infused water and showers with scented body scrub), but if you want to become a strong and TOUGH person, ya gotta go low-tech.  Ask one of your crossfit cult members buddies.

So when my wife came to me with a Groupon for a month’s worth of boxing classes for Troy at South Beach Boxing, it was a pretty easy sell.  I was a bit apprehensive about teaching my 9-year old to really box and throw deadly punches, but someday, someway, somebody is going to try to beat the shit out of him, so I would like to have him prepared if I can.  It’s a challenge to remind him that the more he trains, the less he can use his training in real life, but he is starting to understand that these weapons he is using are dangerous, and he needs to use them for defense only.

The first thing I remember was the commercial on the TV playing over the front door to the sidewalk on Washington Avenue, set to the music of Pirates of the Caribbean.  Seemed a bit dramatic, but I do like the song.

There are motivational writings everywhere.  On the steps approaching the gym.  On the overhead I-beams.  Even Yoda is paraphrased in his legendary, “Do, or do not.  There is no try” advice to a young Skywalker.

South Beach Boxing Stairs        South Beach Boxing - stairs 2

South Beach Boxing - heavy bags

also doubles as a 3D poi obstacle course :).

South Beach Boxing - weightlifting station

Light on the nautilus, heavy on the actual iron plates – my kind of place.

There are pictures of Jolie everywhere.  She’s the owner and is in almost all of the dozens of pictures that line the staircase posing with boxing legends and influential Miamians.  She’s also a winner of “Top 40 under 40,” an award given to a mover and shaker under 40 by the South Florida Business  Journal, it’s on the wall next to pictures of her with Mohammed Ali.  You’ll know her by equal parts beauty and grit – below the sexy blonde surface is a woman of pure iron.

Jolie Glassman, owner of South Beach Boxing

Don’t let the smile fool you – she will kick. your. ass.

Other celebrity photos include Hector Macho Camacho, Evander Holyfield, Sugar Ray Leonard and a ton more.

The overall size of the gym is not that huge by other gym’s standards, but it’s all there…

  • There’s a basketball net.
  • There are DOZENS of heavy bags in various sizes and shapes.  Most are much taller and much stronger than the one I grew up with, no kick of mine is going to derail these beasts.
  • A full weight gym, with all the machines and stations together so you don’t have to walk from place to place between muscle group changes.
  • A full-size (I think, it looks full-size) boxing ring.
  • A class schedule that includes boxing, thai kickboxing, Jiu Jitsu, cross-training, and more.
  • Boxes for plyometrics and a kettelbell station.

So we walk in, and as usual, I bring my poi when I have an hour to kill.  Troy hooked up with his boxing teacher, Romeo, and they went to the other end of the gym to train.  There were about 3 kids in the first class.  When we met up at the water cooler on mutual training breaks, Troy was beet red, sweating like a fountain, and breathing so hard he could barely speak.  I smiled and said with self-amusement, “How do you feel?”

His eyes grew wide with excitement – he stopped panting, took one look at me and said only one word:


He was hooked… and I was hooked on his behalf.  Romeo is always impressed with Troy’s training prowess and I always enjoy seeing my son come back exhausted and confident.

Troy is now a monthly member and I get to train poi in their mirrors twice a week.  Membership runs about $120 a month, which includes all access and all classes with instructors.  Equipment rental/purchase is on-site for convenience, we got Troy’s handwraps, gloves, and mouthpiece there.

To learn more, visit them on the web at  For a full schedule of classes, click here:

Tell ’em Cleric sent you.

Posted by: Cleric | November 26, 2013

Keeping perspective

Some industries are worse than others when it comes to dishonesty, insincerity, and general shittiness towards others.  In the entertainment business, one of the suckier offenders, the sleaze gravitates towards things like backstabbing, undercutting, greed, producer-scooping and spread-raping.  All of these things have happened to me, and they can be infuriating, but I seem to be able to get past it faster than I used to.  I credit it mainly to the good things that are happening and non-biz things like family – they serve as a distraction and a mechanism for keeping perspective.

Put another way, as I told some colleagues at a meeting once, “I’d LIKE to spend the day getting pissed off about [insert evil act done to the fire folk], but my kid just spilled his food and peed his diaper so I’m a little too busy to dwell.”

I’m not going to go into great detail about all of these things.  What I am going to do is relate to you very real, very true stories of things that have happened to me in the business of firedancing and try to explain how I coped.  These aren’t “success” stories and there is no magic formula for getting past the things that really, REALLY piss you off or degrade your passion, but I tell you that to tell you this:  I am still standing, still performing, and at the time of this publishing, my career is stronger than ever.

  • One of my best friends and neighbors is a henna artist and party vendor for things like glitter tattoos and other body art pieces.  With years in the event entertainment industry under her belt before I even started, she spent many of the first two years of my struggle to get traction trying to mentor me.  Advice like “You need to offer more, you can’t get it done with just firedancing, nobody wants firedancing men, lower your rates, you need a second job, your competitors are doing better than you…”  It was like having my own personal naysayer right outside my front door.  For the record:  she didn’t do it because she was being a bitch, she was doing it because she saw how hard I was crashing and burning and she wanted to help me, but what I really needed was a cheerleader rooting for me without any rational reason for doing so.

COPE:  I had to constantly remind myself that firedancing is fucking AWESOME.  I’m not awesome, IT is.  And it’s awesome to watch, and people will get into it if they just see it done in its modern forms.  Also, her insistence that I diversify my product offerings helped me develop my glow show so I had something to offer if the party got moved indoors.

  • A circus performer came to town and started a circus.  In the middle of that, I got this call from him:  “Hi Julian, I want to get all the numbers for your dancers so I can put together a fire show.  You know, like yours, but with costumes and choreography and stuff.”  I got so mad at this that I had to put the phone down while he was still on it.

COPE:  I actually heard my mom’s voice in my head on this one.  “HE’S GOING TO DO IT ANYWAY!”  So I swallowed my pride and did the show.  It became a great show, one of my favorite performance memories, I learned a ton and the next year, after his circus relocated to Canada, Fire By The Palm was called to do the show… and we KILLED IT!

  • Another circus producer has said the following things to me over the last few years.  As I disprove a statement, a new one surfaces:
1.  Nobody wants firedancers…. 2010
2.  Nobody wants male firedancers…..2011
3.  I don’t work with firedancers, they don’t know what they’re doing…..2013.

I wonder what he’ll say in 2014?  Firedancers are great as long as they’re not Italian?

COPE: Using a long-term strategy, just prove him wrong.  I am proof that people want firedancers and that dudes can get gigs, with or without beautiful women dancing with them.  I’ve also proven that it’s worth a lot more than he tells me it’s worth.

  • One entertainment producer, perhaps the only true enemy I have, tried to tell me that firedancing talent was only worth and only ever will be worth $200.  A paltry sum but it wasn’t overall cheapness:  she charged high dollar amounts to the client and kept the difference (aka “spread-raping”).  I may do another blog entry someday just about my run-ins with this evil, evil woman.

COPE:  Avoid at all costs, we still have to work together sometimes but I otherwise stay far, far away from her.  Also, I make it my mission to get the talent I hire as much money as I can just so I can show her how wrong she is.  She’s a sociopath, so she’ll never feel any shame for her badness, but at least I can make sure that when she gets her hooks in my friends that they have proof that she’s full of shit (i.e. “Fire By The Palm pays more than that, this woman is screwing me, and not in a good way”).

  • Once I was offered a 3-hour firedancing job – no breaks (this is epically long – a typical show is 15 minutes, and even ambient shows don’t last more than 60-90 minutes, tops).  The producer said, “I charged $600, I’ll split it with you 50-50.”  I didn’t take the job.  I actually like this guy personally, but like many, many people in the world, when it comes to money, he just gets a little fucked up about it.  Bro, you want half?

COPE:  I stepped aside while one of my friends took the gig.  They both have yet to shake off the fear that money can instill in a person, so in connecting them to each other, I no longer have to talk shop with either, and I get to remain friends with both.  Gentle reader, in business as in love, there’s somebody for everybody.

  • ALL my community friends that take the occasional gig undercut the market value of what I do.  They will do free shows, which is fine, but when they do $50 shows, it’s irritating as fuck.  Next time, my friends, just gift the fucking thing, okay?

COPE:  I remind myself that my friends aren’t surviving on firedancing money – they’re still 99% in it for the art.  I also remind myself that I like to perform at places without commercializing it so why should I get on them about it?  Dudes, I love you all, dance as you will, for what you will.  My phone is still ringing.

  • One friend started an entertainment company so I mentored her quite a bit.  Once the company launched, she offered me a gig and asked for my rates.  I gave her my lowest rate.  She still didn’t like the answer, so she called my best friend to offer him much less.  And he accepted the gig (facepalm!).  Without me saying a thing to anyone, she is now known as “the undercutter,” which in this business is tantamount to a scarlet letter hanging from your neck.

COPE:  I stopped mentoring her, but maintained the friendship.  If I’m right, she’ll either implode or evolve.

  • Once I had a Halloween gig at some fat mansion.  It paid well, there were lots of other kinds of entertainment, the shows and the party were all great.  The next year, my agent was told, “Do everything you did last year for this year’s party, but no men this time.”   I was, um, the only dude in the roster.

COPE:  This one stung a bit, mostly because it reinforced the stereotype that men can’t be successful as “dancers.”  I went home, looked at my schedule, and saw what other gigs I had in the next two weeks, and the forward momentum helped put this embarrassing moment in my more distant past.

  • Recently I was on a weekly TV show as a background firedancer.  Twice.  Yesterday, I was contacted by the show.   They wanted to know if they could borrow or rent my gear to another, less expensive firedancer so that they could save money on talent.

COPE:  I reminded myself that to place oneself in a premium pricing channel is to alienate yourself to the 99%.  As a result, most high-end entertainers will be unable to perform for most callers, which is why agents exist to help filter out the can’t-buys.  Cheap people will always try to end-around the middleman when they want something they can’t or don’t want to pay for.  I should accept that as a mere variation on the same determination that drives me to get my goals.

Sometimes I play out these scenes in my head even though they already happened.  After giving it careful thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason I got/get mad at these situations is because I wanted these people to see things my way and follow the path that I have followed to success.  So, basically, it’s about ego.  I built up this sense of self-worth and clung to it so fiercely that anyone who comes along and questions it or challenges it has attacked my very essence.  And what does one do when attacked?  Get pissed off and counter-attack, that’s what.

Put that way, it seems kind of ridiculous, doesn’t it?  Like I’m so fucking special that I can make the entire world and everyone in it do my bidding if they all just act and speak like me?  You can go for that if you like, but trust me – having tried to manifest that, it never, ever works.

So how do you deal with it?  How do you cope with this bullshit and demoralizing progress, assuming you don’t have something else to keep you from dwelling on it?

1.  Practice saying “no.”  No, really.  Practice it in a mirror; confidence through preparation makes dealing with annoyances much less painful (and, if you’re a bit of a sadist, much more interesting).  “I’m sorry, I charge way more for that kind of gig.  I’m sorry, I’m not feeling it.  I’m sorry, they’re not paying enough.  I’m sorry, I’m booked that night.  I’m sorry, like most people you call, I don’t work for free.  Would you ask a plumber to do that, or would you walk into a restaurant and ask for a menu with lower prices on it?”

2.  Remind yourself that your career is more than what is going on right now.  My 2012 was the most successful year I ever had, but my 2013 is limping along like it sustained a gunshot wound to the thigh.  But I’m still in it and I just did a halftime show in Sun Life Stadium in front of 71,124 people.  Life evens out.

3.  Remember that you don’t need the offer in front of you.  If you’re early in your career, you really WANT the gig, but don’t confuse want with need.  If you’re in the game, and this offer is missed or refused, another WILL come.

4.  Remind yourself that karma takes care of everything, in time.  If someone is being super-douchy, they’ll get theirs.

5.  Remind yourself why you charge what you do in the first place – whether you’re expensive or cheap, reinforce your self-identity.

6.  Instead of focusing on who won’t work with you (or won’t get their head out of their ass), take a measure of who does, would, and will work with you.  This one is my own personal lifesaver;  it’s hard to focus on what I don’t have when I have mentors like Mambo Nita ( and business colleagues like Kevin Daniels (

7.  Get your head out of work – go exercise or hang out with your friends or family.  Tell them about your angry situation, or don’t, but simply letting time pass helps too and when combined with the company of friends, can erase a bad day.

8.  Practice anger management – because this industry can make you very, very angry.  Breathing techniques, communication techniques, whatever.  In life, like business, the ability to project a cool head is tantamount to being respected, which leads to better career opportunities.

9.  Do free shows and do some shows that don’t pay a lot.  Just don’t do the ones people ask you to do; YOU pick them out of your events calendar and make first contact.  Help a charity or crash a party.  In the wealthy circles, crashing the party is called “sponsorship” which means I’m “sponsoring” your fundraiser by bringing firedancers to your $150-a-ticket fundraiser without charging you a thing.  In return, you plaster my logo everywhere and feed my team.

All in all, stay calm, pity the person trying to cheapen you, and keep busy.  Don’t try to not get angry at all, that’s a path to failure, and it’s unhealthy.  Instead, try embracing your anger like a familiar cloak for a few minutes.  Once you let it sweep through you and wash over you like some really bad acid, it moves on much more quickly.  As a bonus:  as your career grows and your reputation becomes more solidified, people who would try to take advantage of you will learn – before they call – that you’re much too above the fray to be scammed or cheapened.

Good luck :).

Posted by: Cleric | November 11, 2013

Florida Flow Fest show notes 2013

Hey all, Florida just enjoyed its only signature  flow arts festival, Florida Flow Fest.  Now in its 3rd year, I spent more time there I did last year (Fire By The Palm was a sponsor in year one, now I just go to train), and am quite happy I did.  Some notes below, if you were there or are a spinner who trains a lot you’ll get a lot of this, if you’re one of my muggle friends you can likely skip this one.

  • Being the least proficient poi spinner in a group is a lot less painful when the group is Dave Statik, Mike Moore, Kory San, Nicky Evers, and Marvin Ong… all at the same time.  I may never poi like they do, but that still leaves a LOT of room for awesome.
  • Cassandra is getting better at keeping her shit together.  I credit both experience and the presence of her boyfriend.
  • Cassandra has a boyfriend.
  • OUT:  3D handpath obsession.  IN:  body-tracing obsession.
  • Zero drama.  Most of the known haters didn’t show up and the very few that did had the decency to shhhhhhhhhush.
  • Heather Phoi put on about 30-40 pounds… of solid muscle.  It’s epically hot, according to me and more than one lesbian.
  • Steve Scope and his lady, Sonja, throw one HELL of an afterparty.
  • Spinners aren’t very good at chess.
  • F3 gets no love from fire gear makers (n2b was great).  Forged creations, TC, Mecca, Bearclaw, let’s see some of your awesomeness down here please.
  • Cyr wheels are both difficult and intimidating.  Related to that, Mathias needed to be less nervous on our behalf, it made us all too hesitant and that made learning this beast all the more difficult.  We know what we’re getting into; if our necks are to be broken on this day, then please just let us get on with our destiny.  It was his first class though, so I’m sure he’ll be fine with some practice.
  • Almost no attendance at Marvin Ong’s biz  workshop I helped promote.  Reason cited?  Nobody wanted to spend the extra money.  Serving dinner had zero impact.
  • The teachers were great this year, very little of the preachy, soapbox bullshit and a lot more trick teaching.
  • Even inside of 10 paces, cops really cannot tell if you have BHO wax in your vape.  Apparently, neither can anyone else.
  • The F3 t-shirts came out sucky.  Bought one anyway.
  • Number of people who privately asked me for gig/business advice: 23.  Most common piece of advice given to them:  “You’re focusing on all the wrong things.”
  • That Irish hooper took my breath away.  I alllllllllmost picked up a hoop.
  •  Havana Hideaway, down the street, makes amazing tacos.
  • We need a nighttime fire circle.  A big one.  I’m thinking by the waterfront north of the stage.
  • Every year that F3 lives, I am more and more happy I chose Florida.
Posted by: Cleric | October 11, 2013

Phoenix – the Prequel

** Warning – the following post contains a graphic photograph of a severe flesh burn.  Oh, and there’s some language too. **

They say good judgment comes from experience, which comes from bad judgment.   If that’s true, Alex Hernandez is officially among the most experienced firedancers… ever.

So here we go.

It’s early June 2011.  The place is Sushi Samba, a local sushi restaurant and bar on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, Florida.    I’ve burned a few times there before; it’s fun, the place is packed with customers late at night on Tuesdays for a sexy cosplay party so other peeps like Jay the Traveler, MegMo and Prodigy OnFire also go and occasionally burn.

So my friend, Alex, gets there and…

  • Has some drinks, smokes some weed
  • Is wearing ripped fringy jeans
  • Grabs the giant fire ropes I loaned him
  • Soaks them to capacity
  • Lights them
  • Tries to lay ground trails
  • Hits his pants for a solid fuel transfer to his jeans and his sock
  • BOOM.  Leg is on fire for almost a full minute.
  • BOOM TWICE:  burns his hands trying to deal with the leg.

Now that’s just stage 1 of this.  In stage 2, Alex…

  • Finishes his set
  • Ices his burn (note:  never ice a flesh burn)
  • Continues drinking and smoking
  • Stays up late
  • Doesn’t air out his burn, he leaves his sock and shoe on.
  • Has no silvedene.

But wait, there’s still more.  I don’t know what he did Wednesday (the next day), but Wednesday night, Alex…

  • Went with me to Stango’s
  • put a sock and his shoe over his burn (again, no-no)
  • continued firedancing
  • is now openly limping
  • is ignoring all my pleas to mind his injury

Alex decided to get a later ride home (than me) so I went home.  The next morning at 7AM I wake up to the following text:

“Dude, my leg is in soooo much pain, I can’t sleep because it hurts too much and I’m getting hot and cold.”

Now you damn well know he didn’t get HOME until 7AM, but all I got from the text that sunk in was “hot and cold,” which means the burn is infected and the infection is putting him at risk of actually dying.

So I texted him back.  Briefly and brutally:

“You’ve begun the process of dying.  If you wish to live, go to a hospital right now.”

“Hospitals are for Pussies”

“You’re right… graveyards are much more macho.”

I was so pissed at this point that I was honestly ready to fall back asleep and let him die.  A few minutes pass and then,

“I’m going to the hospital”

Jay and I went to the hospital later that day.  Alex was pretttttty dopey on pain meds, but had already charmed the nurses into things like wheelchair-escorted escapes to smoke cigs and extra blankets and food and treatment.

alex wheelchair1

His leg had also swollen up so big that there was no more ankle.  It was more like his lower leg just took a frontward turn instead of becoming a foot.

alex ankle ouchies

The official word was that Alex was going to be in surgery and recovery for weeks, including a very painful skin graft that was to be sourced from his upper leg.  A big one.  So now he’s laid up, can’t work, and three generations of his family don’t even have the shitty money he WAS making taking odd jobs here and there.  Oh, did I mention that Alex didn’t have firedancing insurance?  I’ve personally handed him money for insurance, he always managed to use it for other things.  Money’s tight when you’re an artist.  Firedancing insurance would’ve taken care of just about EVERYTHING.  Did I also mention that Alex has no health insurance either?  Double whammy.

So now I’m freaked.  Word got out that Alex was fucked, everybody wanted to do something to help him out but none of us – including me – knew what to do.  And the surgery and rehab is going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $12,000 – $20,000, so now begins the harassing debt-collector calls as well.

Now that was on a Friday.  Here comes Monday:

Kevin from Spin-ballS:  “Hey Julian, we were thinking that we should call a firejam and pass a hat around and see if we can take a collection for Alex.”

A collection? I thought to myself.  Ooo ooo ooo I have an idea, how about we dress Alex up like a piñata, hang him from a tree branch, and take a few baseball bats to him?  Maybe some candy will pop out.

Guess I was still a little angry about it.

I started thinking about Alex’s grandmother, his mother, and his aunts that all live in the same building.  THEY certainly didn’t deserve the Sicilian treatment, so I passed on the piñata party.  I sighed audibly.  “Spinners are broke,” I said.  “We wouldn’t gather up a dime.  Maybe there’s something else we can do.”

“Like what?”

The biggest and best ideas I’ve ever had have come flying out of my mouth without warning – I was conceptualizing it even as it was being said.  When I finished the following sentence, it was as new a piece of information to me as it was to Kevin.

“Like have a giant firejam and invite the public.  Get 200 people in the audience, pass tip jars around, invite all the firedancers to participate, and see if we can’t make a grand or so.”

“You mean like a fundraiser?”

Um… I guess that’s exactly what I meant?  A fundraiser.  A real one.  A real fire meetup in a real public venue.  No cops storming our pitch, no hiding on the beaches, it would be public, live, and legal.  Now you, gentle reader, do not know this, but public fire meetups and audience gathering is my MAIN job as a market-maker for fire arts.  I think firedancing is awesome and the fastest way to sell something awesome is to sample it as much as you can stand to do so.

I fast-forwarded from little spinjam to megafire event in about an hour.  We only had a week, but we had just organized “Thy Mighty Staff” a few months back, so we had a handful of sponsors we could pitch in the flow community.

The division of Labor was simple:  Jimi and Kevin from Spin-ballS would take care of making sure Young Circle would host us, I would promote it to the firedancers and shake down any sponsors and partners that would help.

After a few “please help me help Alex” phone calls, virtually all the peeps I do business with or network with  came on board.  Here’s the first flyer we put out.


The event was coming along very well… but like all things attempted for a first time out of the comfort zone, it had some hiccups.

  • First, 50 firedancers showed up!  I didn’t even fucking KNOW 50 firedancers!   They came from Orlando, West Palm Beach, Tampa and Daytona (wait, Tampa?  Yes, Tampa) to join the locals.  I did not anticipate how many fuel bowls 50 firedancers would use.   Everybody wanted to use their own setup – which I actually kinda relate to – so now we’ve got a freaking RIVER of open fuel bowls in a tight space with people tripping over the bowls, the gear bags, props, you name it.  Knocking the bowls meant knocking the fuel around, which was splashing on peoples’ feet and shoes and pants.  Can you say irony? It was a giant fire catastrophe just WAITING to happen and in the follow-up, boy did I hear about it from my friends.

In retrospect, I should’ve spent less time firedancing and more time overseeing.   I actually had planned on not burning anything or just burning at the end of the night, but in the start of the night I learned from a sweep of the crowd that most – nay, damn near all – of the audience of Phoenix were personal friends of mine that don’t firedance.  Friends from the fetish party community, friends from my days in suit and tie, almost everybody I’ve come to know and love in the last 10 years, but outside my world of fire arts.  And they all had one question for me:  “You going to spin?  You going to burn?  When are you going to firedance?  My kids and my friends’ kids were among the more relentless, so I spent a decent part of the very beginning of the night just burning some shit up prop after prop so I could get out of the way and get back to watching everything else.

  • I got in a two arguments with two different firedancers.  One of them, against the whole idea of raising money for Alex, set his own pants on fire in protest – on stage – in front of everybody.  Nice, right?  BUT, I let it get under my skin and you can’t be that guy if you also have assumed a leadership role so that’s on me.

man on fire

never a good way to make a point

  • I didn’t have any volunteers.  This was Fire By The Palm’s and Spin-ballS’s first event together, the idea of volunteers didn’t even come up.  Also, we pulled this together in a week so even if we had volunteers, I don’t know what we’d have done with them.

At the end of it I collected the money, took it home, and counted it.  We collected about $660 in cash from donations and raffle tickets for sets of Spin-ballS and $600 in checks from friends and supporters.  The guy from Sushi Samba donated some money.  Kevin and Jimi threw in some money.  One of my peeps threw in $100 bill but demanded that for it, I dance at his house at one of his parties.  While I was prepared to complain, I did remember in the back of my head that his parties are well-attended and topless, so I smiled at my own fringe benefit of doing this thing (He still hasn’t collected though 😦 ).  I had dropped about $200 on fuel and was told to recoup the costs out of the funds, but I opted not to.  Everybody else was putting in so I left it in.  Now gentle reader, you’ve heard me talk a million times about all the coin I lost in the recession, let me just remind you of that to tell you now that at the time of the three Phoenix events, I was at my financial LOWEST.  Bank was foreclosing, WIC checks were shaming me 2x a week, and leaving $200 on the table on this thing broke me for two weeks and sent my wife damn near packing with rage.   But I didn’t recoup it.  I still don’t entirely understand why, I just didn’t.   Sometimes I wonder if I either just fucking hate money, or, despite spending a lot of energy and brainwaves wishing a had a ton of it, secretly know on my deepest level that having a lot of it is worse than having none of it.  Whatever the case, I just can’t seem to accumulate any reservoir since the recession hit.  But that’s a blog for another day.

All told, the event was a huge community success, and based on the two more Phoenix events we did after that, it only grew stronger and more popular.  Firedancer attendance topped 80 dancers at one of them, we solidified some media coverage, and helped two charities with very worthy missions:  The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida and Autism Speaks.  Audience attendance never returned to inaugural levels, but as I type this up in 2013, we are preparing to relaunch Phoenix with significantly more promotional support, so we’ll fix that too.   We greatly improved the fueling system for the 2nd and 3rd parties but it can still be better so we want a new one of those too. Something really technologically advanced, with monster safety features built in like a CO2 blaster and Siri (hey, dream big!).

Thanks for reading.   Down the road expect more entries on the next evolution of Phoenix and a full master workshop summary of Statik Elektricity – A Poi Immersive.

Posted by: Cleric | March 14, 2012

Thy Mighty Staff – the post-class synopsis.

CLERIC’S NOTE:  This was originally a 3-part series I published for  Firepedia was hacked, and the article was lost, so I’m reposting the whole thing here just for security measures.

In January 2011, Alex Hernandez (stage name: Artista) gave me a call on the phone.  Artista is Fire By The Palm’s talent recruiter and community development go-to guy, and he had an idea…

Artista, Fire By The Palm Firedancer

Alex Hernandez, aka "Artista." But his friends call him Scuba Steve

But before we get to that, you need some backstory.  You see, I can’t really travel to train.  I went broke in the recession and am still struggling, now with two young kids as well, so I’ve never gotten a chance to see global flow legends up close because none of them ever come to Miami.  So no Firedrums, no Burning Man, no $3000 Costa Rica or Bali master workshops with modern-day poi godfather Nick Woolsley, I can’t even realistically hope to get to Afterburn or Preheat, and they’re in my home state.  I’ve got youtube and tons of DVDs from Circles of light and others, but there’s nothing like training in person.

Alien Jon is one of my all-time hero instructors, I still train with Encyclopoidia volumes #1 and #2, and he’s just freakin’ awesome – a rich trilogy of flow, tech, and self-amusement and I consider myself far short on at least two of those qualities.  Between him, Zan Moore, and Nick Woolsley, I was taught via DVD virtually all the moves I knew through the first formative years of honing my flow.  Through Nick (Hi Nick!), I was put in touch with Alien Jon.  DUDE!  Maybe he’s coming to town?  Can we train with him?  This would be a friggin’ DREAM.  We started direct talks – what an awesome guy – and worked out a few details on classes, class prices, couch-crashing, dates, etc.  We also drafted up contracts and revenue splits, etc (more on that later).  I knew the workshop wouldn’t make a lot of money to the organizer, but I get to meet a hero and train and not leave town, so woot woot, right?

Alien Jon Everett

Our unassuming hero

The crown jewel of this workshop was the venue we scored.  We hooked up with the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, and it was with that awesomeness, along with the celebrity of AJ, upon which we would build the coolest and most successful flow arts workshop EVAR.

But it was not meant to be in 2010.  You see, AJ was going to do this Orlando gig, then he was going to come to Miami from there.  BUT, AJ was going to Orlando with Burning Dan – and then Burning Dan died – so the gig evaporated, the workshop evaporated, and to add insult to injury, we had lost one of the biggest and most positive names in the history of flow, so now we’re all grief-struck to boot.  I recap the events above with a certain amount of flip, but when we were dealing with it at the time, it was an emotionally crippling period for all involved.  Burning Dan was young for a dead guy, and WAY to good a person to be both young and dead, and that always hurts more.

AJ went to do some soul-searching, so I left him be.  I broke the news to Artista and the rest of the sponsors, with whom I had gotten verbal interest.  I then decided to let workshops go for a while and concentrate on getting more shows.

So now that you’re all caught up, we’re back to the phone with Artista:

Artista:  “Yo, man, I wanna bring in this killer instructor, Aileen Lawlor.  She teaches contact staff”

Cleric:  “Meh… Never heard of her.”

Artista:  “Check out her video, I’ve been talking with her, she’s interested if we can get her a workshop set up”

Cleric:  “Fine.  If she’s in town, and if we’re not busy, I’ll host a workshop.”

Artista:  “We need to fly her in”

Cleric:  “Good luck with that.  Bring her in yourself, Fire by The Palm isn’t flying in anyone yet, the market is too small and this is too experimental.  Aileen’s full revenue, even assuming success, would only pay for her weekend’s expenses in Miami, if we have to pay to bring her in, there is no chance she OR Fire By The Palm can make a successful business workshop.  So I will do it as an art project, but no plane ticket and no hotel.”

Artista:  “No, man, we really NEED to fly her in.”

Cleric:  “Then you buy her a plane ticket, I’m out.”

Artista let it go for a while, I knew his pride and determination was either going to find a way or that he was going to buy her a ticket with ill-gotten money.  You see, Artista has two strong qualities about him:  he’s extremely determined when he sticks to something, and he’s a pure natural at persuading people, so I knew even after the first conversation that if he stuck to this, he was going to make it happen with or without me.

A month later…

Artista:  “Aileen is going to use her frequent flyer miles and stay with a friend, so she’ll be here already and for free.  Did you watch the video?”

Cleric:  “No, I was busy trying to figure out how to pay for food.”

Artista:  “DUDE!  Come on, bro!”

Cleric:  “Sigh…Alright, I’ll watch the video.”

Now, I had a little experience watching contact staff going in… Shane Morris, aka Prodigy OnFire, is the best local contact staffer, self-trained and an original founding member of Fire By The Palm.  Having watched him work up some impressive contact staff moves from scratch when we were first training, I had decided long ago from watching him that it was too hard and too much training to bother to do one set of tricks, so I never got into it.

But Artista, as I said, was very persuasive and he got me to watch the video.

I also suspected that he and Aileen conspired to buy a plane ticket with cash and not tell me about it, but even if that is what happened, my conditions were met so I decided not to pry.

Oh, and the video? SIC-K-K-K-K.  Aileen is a staff virtuoso and a contact staff pioneer.  Even though I didn’t know her at all, I thought a) hosting someone I don’t personally geek out over will help me keep my head on straight and be a better organizer, and b) I seriously wanna learn how to do THAT.  Did you see that rolling around on the ground shit?  Crazy/sexy/cool/WANT.

So finally, once all the arrangements for Miami travel were complete, I got involved.  I called Aileen, introduced myself, and told her Fire By The Palm would be hosting the workshop, and taking care of all the logistics including marketing, promotion, payment, accounting, everything.  All she had to do was be here at xyz time, teach, burn with us that night, teach again the next day, and bail.

Artista had already done all the heavy lifting, so all we had left to do was everything else.  We worked up two 3-hour classes on 3/5 and 3/6, and we traded the Botanical Gardens a $500 credit with Fire By The Palm for use of the space for both days.  I never looked at the prices for renting the gardens straight out, I may have saved some money, but trade is cash-free and cash was the one thing we did NOT have going in to this project.

So now we’ve got the artist, the dates, and the venue.  The framework is built, but we have no contract in place yet – and no sponsors – so unless we bring in some partners, this is not going to get the buzz it needs to be successful.

So now on to the contract, aka the booking form for Aileen.  Like most negotiations, many of the clauses that went into the contract were already discussed verbally, the only thing we didn’t discuss on the phone was the cost of the workshops and how we’d split it.  The split was easy, 75% – 25% Aileen/FBTP after top-line expenses, so that works out.  I assumed that the market would generate about $600 on this workshop gross revenue, so we’d walk with $150 before expenses, and Aileen would make about $450.  We also set a goal of getting 10-15 students in the door and paid, and a $500 gross revenue goal. We then broke off tickets for would-be sponsors.  It started to get a little less agreeable when we got to the cost of the workshop.  I had done a few workshops where I was the instructor, and I learned that like me, most flow artists are super-broke.  So I said, “let’s charge $25 per workshop and $40 for the pair.”

Aileen balked; she wanted to charge more.  I stopped short of telling her she was wrong, after all she does these workshops all the time and she likely knows better than I what people will pay.  Also, when you’re working with a global name, producers and organizers try not to forget that a happy celebrity is a productive and effective celebrity, so even if I thought Aileen was off her rocker and dooming us to fail, I wasn’t in a position to force her hand or correct her.  So I held my breath and went with it, charging $30 for either workshop or $48 for the pair, saving 20%.  And in the end, she was right, I did a lot more research and found out that most other dance workshops cost in my market are at least $30-50 for 2 hours, so even going with Aileen’s higher rates, the workshop was still priced to sell.

Here’s a copy of the final signed contract.  Much thanks to Aileen for agreeing to publish this with me, most people would never show such a thing lest people learn our secrets.  I say to those people, it’s a workshop, not a nuclear bomb recipe.  If someone else uses this in its exact form, changing only the names, then good for them.  That’s kind of the point. I want others around town and around the world to be able to do this kind of gathering if the idea calls to them.  Maybe I’ll get to just go to someone else’s workshop.  Remember, in this particular segment of Fire By The Palm’s business interests, we need training and don’t focus much on the money, and that makes me worry very little about getting “scooped” I don’t really care who “scores” Alien Jon’s arrival, just tell me where he’ll be and that’s good for South Florida and I still get to meet a hero, train with a living legend.


At first, I was going to go after cash sponsors.  They bleed money, and if you can speak their language, they’ll bleed all over you.  Cash sponsors would give advertising and promotion money, and if done right, can be its own revenue source outright.  But cash sponsorships would prove elusive; a first time event with a relatively unknown organizer, organizing an obscure (so far) dance form would not go well, and even with all that, it didn’t put students in the class, which was what we were going for before any of us aimed for profit.

So I decided to take a gamble… a big one, and one that would virtually shut off any hopes of securing a whale sponsor.

I decided to get other fire troupes to co-sponsor.  Now they’re just as poor as I am, so none of us are going to shell any money, but it gets all the highest profile flow-arts names on the same page and focuses the entire south Florida professional spinning community – and all their non-professional spinjam friends – to one single project.  It would also prove, by the end, to be the fastest way to reach the fringe elements of other cities’ dancers, people I do not usually reach on my own.

So I came up with four names:


  • BlazeNaples:  Marie Barnett and Christar Damiano, fire arts producers and firedancers from the southwest coast of Florida.
  • Pyrofusion:  Palm Beach fire tribe and as big a name (if not bigger) as FBTP.
  • Groovolution: Pyrofusion’s studio
  •  A newly forming fire gear supplier that shows great promise in improving the quality of fire props across the board.

Now using these names – assuming they wanted to participate in the first place – was going to be tricky.  Pyrofusion has always viewed FBTP with apprehension; we’re business competitors by most traditional definitions, so even though I don’t view it that way doesn’t mean they don’t.  Groovolution has never been for or against Fire By The Palm, so I had no idea which way Heather (owner) was going to go.  BlazeNaples and are friends and love to train, so I figured they’d be more amenable.  One hurdle to overcome at this point was a schedule conflict – Marie had an flow workshop scheduled and rescheduled already, and now it was when we wanted to do ours.  So now to bring her in, we needed to move her event.  A big ask (it felt audacious even thinking about it), but we told her we would do whatever she wanted in return, and she knows us long enough to know that we meant it, so she said yes.  As a result, she moved the date and Artista and I went to promote and support her workshop and meetup in Naples on the rescheduled date.  Thanks again, Marie.

I did my best to make this super easy for the sponsors to say yes:  help FBTP promote, the sponsorship is a cash-free commitment, every organizing sponsor will get a free ticket to the workshop (one per organization).  Fire Toys will work up staves for newbies who want to take the class, BlazeNaples will simply commit to driving to the workshop, presumably with locals from her market who will pay for the class.  Groovolution would vend and promote, and Pyrofusion would promote.  I also worked up a Facebook ad, so I communicated that there was a lot of buzz and juice behind this one.  All the organizing names will be on all sponsorship and promotional materials, including bios.

Also, there would be some fun involvement and some shameless benefit of the self.  Fire Toys would wick up my moon staff for exhibition as well as provide practice staves for students in need.  Fire Toys balked; they wanted to vend.  I had already given vending to Groovolution because I did not anticipate having inventory for sale by the time the workshop started, I figured they’d have a few prototypes to show off, some practice staves, and little else.  But they did, and now they couldn’t sell it, so they threatened to pull out.  To soothe this, I pointed out that if folks trained up with Fire-Toys staves, they’d be bonded to that staff for life, (which is exactly what wound up happening to me and at least a few other people).   Fire Toys relented, but not before backing out of wicking up my moon staff, which I wanted for myself personally and wanted to burn/birth at Dreamfire.  And they didn’t even say they wouldn’t wick it up, they just stopped agreeing to pay for the Kevlar, valued now at about $100, but thought at the time to be $200.  So the involvement of the moonstaff for this weekend was to die a sacrificial death on the altar of keeping a sponsor from pulling out completely.   I could live with it.  Truth be told, no sponsors were necessary in the first place, but this was for me to be part of a training exercise, and one rule I knew going in was “do not offend thy sponsor.”  Progress, people, isn’t always pretty, and the lesson is that if you’re going to try to slip in a bonus for yourself here and there, sponsors aren’t always the best place to seek delivery of said bonuses, no matter how well-suited for the task they are.

moonstaff pic

No kevlar for you!

This is the balance of power that occurs when dealing with sponsors.  Paid sponsors, when present, are footing the bill for the whole job, and they know it, so they tend to be quite dominant and demanding, with no consideration of what other interests need to be served to make a project successful.  These workshop sponsors were coming in for free, which made it a little easier to hold to the original vision, but I still needed to acknowledge the dynamic because paid sponsors will be coming sooner or later and I need to remember how to deal with them.  Or, as Zan Moore once said, “Practice the way you perform, perform the way you practice.”  Good stuff, Zan – I was practicing my sponsor management and it served all of us to treat it like it was high-stakes.

All said and done, all four sponsors got on board.  I worked up the flyer myself, also needing permissions from Flowtoys and Vulcan Crew to put their logos on the flyer.  Aileen’s a Flowtoys employee, founding member of VC, and half of a fire duet called “Fire Smoothie,” so I didn’t need their permissions as sponsors, just let me put it up there with the bio so the flyer looks better.  Logos are the property of their owners, you can’t go posting up other people’s logos on a commercial project without their permission, so it needed to be done.  Aileen secured these permissions, so the flyer was a go.

It was, as flyers go, one of my better projects.  Have a look for yourself.

Thy Mighty Staff Flyer

Go for something different.

We also arranged a Dreamfire meetup, an evening of open firedancing on Miami Beach and what I hope is to become the predecessor of a much larger fire workshop/fire camp production, also called Dreamfire.  So two workshops, one big fire meetup, and lots and lots of community bonding.   It is, with any luck, going to be a hell of a weekend.

And it was.  I learned much, trained hard, and students, sponsors, and celebrity were absolutely blown away.  The weather was great, the gardens are among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, and there’s a little architectural art piece on the training lawn made up of staves J.

The secret ingredient is love :).

As we had hoped, the sponsors held up their promotional end (as much as I enforced it, which is to say I kinda kept loose on that) and came through with at least half of the paying students between them all.  Our reach carried all the way to Orlando, which I did not anticipate, so people even traveled for it.  We had 23 paying students over 2 days, and for a first-time project, I was absolutely floored.

Heather Phoi, 1/3 of Pyrofusion and the owner of Groovolution (a double-sponsor individual, and as such, the second most powerful person in the garden after Aileen) said when the workshop wrapped, and I quote:

“This is the best workshop I’ve ever been to in my life.”

My jaw fell to the floor.  I asked for that in writing.  That is a validation for Fire By The Palm that money can’t buy.  Heather is a studio owner and a major badass fire artist – her JOB is to do workshops like this.  AND she’s been to Burning Man… AND Firedrums.  AND Afterburn.  AND Preheat, and many other burning/training festivals that I’ve only ever seen on youtube.   If I can satisfy her artist AND her businesswoman, the formula we’ve worked up for these projects might just have legs.

Now this isn’t to say everything went perfectly, it didn’t.

  • We got one workshop rescheduled forward three hours on us by the Gardens, and despite efforts to communicate this to everybody, one person slipped through the cracks and didn’t show up until the workshop was over.  We refunded his money, apologized profusely, and we were all pissed, mostly at me.  The guy came from Vero Beach, a long drive indeed.
  • Some sponsor peeps had conflicts, so people I really wanted there couldn’t make it, like Lisa Shehan and Debby Carrigan, two of my local favorite firedancing women.  I had a gig pop up in the middle of it all, which distracted from preparing for Dreamfire.
  • The Dreamfire meetup was a near rain-out and windy to boot, two things you never want to see at a fire jam.  Between the gig and the weather, by the time I caught up with my own fire jam half the peeps had bailed.
  • Poor planning on my part almost caused Aileen to miss her plane back, a prospect that seemed to make her extremely uncomfortable.  My bad!
  • There were also naysayers – outright haters – who talked against the workshop and tried to psych out anyone and everyone involved in its organization.  The name was too big to handle, the organizers too small, there are too many unknowns, you’re all doomed, blah blah blah.  If you want a business or a project that puts you out front, you had better get used to haters – specifically, ignoring them or only listening to them strategically.
  • We budgeted a facebook ad for $50, but it only got 6 clicks.  I tried increasing the bid, but to no avail.  Only about $6 of the $50 was spent.  You may think that’s a cost-savings and one to be happy about, but it’s not.  Advertising is critical when reaching out to a wide area, networking alone will not get it done.  FB ads can be targeted like a laser beam, any click we got would’ve been from a staff-spinner so we wanted clicks, dammit!

I changed the name of the classes going forward.  I learned that what we were going for wasn’t really a workshop, it was more a “master class,” using traditional definitions.  So, master class it is.  I also have tons of new ideas for the next set of workshops, including:

  • Scholarship and intern programs (somebody ELSE pick up the celebrity from the airport please… 5AM?  Really?!)
  • Hotel group rates for out-of-towners
  • A follow-up workshop instructional/inspirational DVD; lots of other good stuff like gear+ticket packages and goody bags;
  • Prepay discounts, and much more.
  • Taking Dreamfire public, rather than on a dark secluded beach.  We need to show the world what we can do.

All told, the workshop generated about $800 or so in revenue, and after expenses, Aileen walked with about $529 and Fire By The Palm got about $150 in cash.  So I lost money, but I made sure that where I lost money, I got something else in return.  The flyer took three days; I’m a decent designer but I design slowly.  Outsourced, that would’ve cost $250 alone.   I gave away a $500 fire show, but locked myself in with a killer venue that throws high-end events daily.  I threw in for a round of drinks and food on Lincoln Road for a little wrap party ($60 I think?), but I got to listen to uninterrupted feedback my target audience – my tribe – for over an hour.   I gave all the glory and marketing value to the sponsors, but in return I got to train with a legend in my own backyard, and the sponsors did all the driving.  And I shouldn’t say that FBTP got no brand value, we listed ourselves as an organizing sponsor, even if I did ultimately wind up paying for my own ticket (remember, only one ticket per organization was allocated, and Artista was clearly the force to be rewarded on this one).

Who knows?  Maybe this actually could make money in the future.  But either way, when all is said and done, South Florida spinners are going to be some of the best-trained dancers in the world, and thanks to many blessings, that includes me :-).

Posted by: Cleric | February 21, 2012

Fire By The Palm’s Talent Application.

The other day I called a fire peep to check his availability for a show.  Lately, Fire By The Palm has been getting more and more momentum in the booking agency side of things, and while that’s a passionate thing to be excited about, it brings about some very interesting challenges and growing pains. 

In short, I’m running out of dancers. 

We also spoke of him and his prop list, his other work, and we got on the subject of what I think of him as a performer (he asked).  I told him what I loved and where I think he needs to improve his own show, and then he said this to me:

“I will trade other services I can do for you [from his other jobs] if you improve my placement on the roster.”

That was odd… I mentally keep track of who my first few choices are for shows, but the shows are often so different from event to event that the dancer I wouldn’t put on stage A is PERFECT for Stage B.  But roster ups and downs?  Jockeying other interests for improved positions?  I can do that too?

So great, right?  Now I’ve got a whole new criteria to think about, but the only way it works is if I also ignore the whole quality of their talent overall.  Maybe I can get Jay the Traveler to make all my crazy custom firedancing props for free.  Maybe Tommy Danger will design me a fire-themed restaurant and maybe I can get Blaze Farringer to costume me in a new getup every week.  All I gotta do is dangle “more work” in front of them and poof!  Instant indentured slavery.

I morally chewed on that for a while.  Tempting in the extreme.  There’s a ton of stuff that Fire By The Palm needs, and I can, if need be, source it in the community on favors and trade.   But finding the top talent – the most interesting, fascinating, and most importantly – the most watchable performers – is one of the cornerstones of Fire By The Palm’s unique point of difference.  We strive to break new ground, to show something truly never-before-seen, to push the craft forward (thank you Tommy Brown for that awesome phrase).  Whether or not we actually hit our mark on any given day is for the audience to decide, but we have to make that the MOST important priority in the development of whatever else is in store for us or else we just become another soulless bottom-line-driven corporation, feeding on power and the weak.

So I think I will not accept his offer as given.  Rather, I will give to him and to the rest of you an opportunity – using only your firedancing performance ambitions to whatever level satisfies you – to gain a place on the Fire By The Palm roster as well as give you criteria for how a Fire By The Palm show gets its talent.  With that, you will have a road map of things to do and what you can do to impress me and gain priority on the FBTP roster.

So first, here’s the application:  If you want a job, fill it out completely and honestly and email it to me at

FBTP Talent Application

You also need to send a completed W-9 form.

Now let’s get into the next part:  How does Fire By The Palm Productions select its talent for any given show?  And how can you use that criteria to be selected more often?

1.   The first thing you can do is send me some awesome pictures and videos.  Firedancing shows, like many other things, are sold by proposal.  So I create proposals and give them to the client, which include all the details of the show, how long it will run, where it is, costs, and – more relevantly to this conversation – who the performers will be.  BUT… I will sometimes be asked to send over 5 or 6 dancer pics to give the client the option of selecting their own talent, and your pictures are your ONLY opportunity to get them to want you.

2.   One of the things I want most in a fire artist is a good list of props.  You really need at least two to three firedancing forms to be a repeat Fire By The Palm performer, but if you’ve got 5 or 6, that is WAY better.  With your six forms and my 6 forms, we can throw down a killer 30-minute duet (that is on the long end of the spectrum) without repeating ourselves that often, and a 15-minute show (much more common) is a breeze.  You can also help me get more props into the hands of people who can spin them but do not own them, expanding our bigger shows’ capabilities.

3.  Safety-minded:  you spin off right, you keep your fire to a size that fits your dancing space.  You don’t blow lamp oil all over the audience, you check your o-rings, you don’t drop your props a lot or try stuff that isn’t stage-ready.  Also, have some safety equipment.  I probably won’t need you to bring it, but knowing that you have it makes me think more of you.  Fire is dangerous, I’ve had accidents, others have as well, preparation is your only weapon against catastrophe.

4.  Ya gotta have at least one good costume.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, but a costume is something that makes or breaks you.  Sometimes when we go to the beach and burn I get videographers out there shooting us but then they usually focus mostly on me.  This isn’t because I’m good or fit or whatever, as some have claimed, it is because I am in costume out there and that will always be more interesting to watch than a superior dancer in street clothes.

6.  BE REACHABLE and respond QUICKLY:  I get calls and it goes from we don’t know each other to show booked in under an hour.  In that time, I’m doing the proposals and checking your availability.  If I can’t find you, the sales cycle falls out of step and then the job fades away.  Keep your phone working and prioritize your cell phone bill.  If I can’t reach you, I won’t look twice.

7.  Quiet on the set:  One thing I have learned – through great difficulty and many mistakes – is that when you are a vendor for an event, keep your mouth shut, your head down, and do your job.  Talk as little as possible, nobody is interested in detailed stories about fire arts, your new poi trick, or any other small talk.  Ask for as little as possible on site, try to be self contained and self-producing.

8.  Book me!  I produce and all that stuff, but I’m still a firedancer who enjoys work doing firedancing.  If you’re out there selling shows and you get a call for more than you, don’t think I’m too proud to put Fire By The Palm on a shelf and be your talent handing out YOUR business cards at a party.  People who are bringing me work make me want to bring them work.  It’s called synergy, and it reallllllllllllllly works.

9.  Portable music.  You need an amp or a boom box to get bookings, I have an amp but you and I won’t often be dancing in the same place at the same time so you’ll need your own music.

 There’s a flip side to this, and that is the list of things that will make me not want to work with you.

1.  Negativity.  If you show up and your attitude sucks, that makes my alreayd-high-pressure job all the harder.  Stay positive, get rid of the words “impossible” and “can’t.”

2.  Tardiness.  Early is on-time and on-time is late.

3.  Non responsiveness.   We live in the electronic information age.  If I am trying to reach you and you won’t be reached, I will conclude that you are being quiet on purpose and that will tell me all I need to know.

4.  Asking me for directions to a show when I already sent you the call sheet.  Self-manage, self-organize, keep track of your emails and paperwork.

5.  Being hung up on price – Fire By The Palm is working to keep firedancing rates – both talent and retail – at a premium.  Often I feel like Fire By The Palm and Pyrofusion are the only two South Florida fire organizations who give a damn about such things, but we’ll both tell you that negotiations and pricing are custom and situational and trading items of unequal value may also be in play.  So just because I got you a $400 show last week doesn’t mean you get to complain that next week’s show only pays $250.  I know you’ll feel the difference, because I am in the jobs too, but price varies so manage your expectations accordingly.  If you think you’ll only cherry pick the top paying shows, think again.

6.  This one is both advice for all and a confidential to a guy who will recognize it:  if you ask me what you can do to get work from me, and I tell you, and you don’t do it, you don’t get to come back to me and ask me why I haven’t booked you yet.  If you don’t jump through the most basic hoops of developing your product so that it can be presented to others, then what you say you want is NOT in fact what you actually want.  Which is fine, I learned that about other fire peeps when we all first started getting together and everybody wanted to troupe up and do big shows and then the choreography and costuming became necessary and suddenly nobody wanted to do what needed to be done.

7.  Intoxication:  Be sober, or be blacklisted.  If we have a hell of a show, we’ll go get a beer AFTER.


And finally, some things that have no impact on talent selection:

1.  Whether or not you attend spinjams or Phoenix.  I love hanging with my peeps, but if you don’t go to those and you are still a good performer I’ll still hire you.

2.  Your age.  I’m 39 and in real entertainment terms, I have no business trying to be talent at all.  BUT, age, lack of fitness, poor grooming, can all be cleaned up and concealed if necessary for a show.  This is tied to costumes but can also be assisted by face and body painting.

3.  Whether or not you bottom feed for your own company.  It’s bad for you, but your poor marketing choices do not affect your talent selection.

4.  How good your poi is.  Doesn’t matter if you poi like Maiki Nope or like a beginner, talent is a pass-fail when it comes to being on stage so stop bragging about how you should work because you’re an ‘awesome spinner.’  Awesome spinning is only ONE component of being a fire entertainer, there are many other components and you need to work on all of them.

5.  Whether or not you are a producer of your own shows and your own brand.  Some entertainment producers will only work with talent because they fear competition and they think producers are more expensive (which sometimes we are), but to me the performance is the thing, if you are doing a good show for Fire By The Palm then what you do when you are not working for Fire By The Palm is not my concern.  Need to Burn, Fire A la Mode, Dangerfun Sideshow, and other teams down here all have their own brands, I work with them and if that’s your thing you should do it too.

That’s it for now peeps – I hope you’re all having a great 2012 that is full of fire and fun, and to those that look forward to taking the next steps that are meaningful to them, I look forward to working with you.

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