Casandra Tanenbaum on Florida Flow Fest

Florida Flow Fest returns to Ft Lauderdale’s Esplanade Park Sunday, January 15 from 10 am to 9 pm. The annual event features workshops in flow arts, circus arts, dance, and yoga. The event promises spontaneous dance parties, unique and magical vendors (including The Jitney) and mind blowing performances. Florida Flow Fest is completely free to attend but workshops require passes available to purchase here. Event organizer Casandra Tanenbaum hopped on to the Jitney to tell people what to expect from Florida Flow Fest.

How did Florida Flow Fest first start?

Casandra Tanenbaum: Well, I had been traveling for 2-3 years to study hoopdance techniques with accomplished instructors from all over the world at major events in North Carolina, Colorado & California, and I really wanted to give my own community the opportunity to experience a gathering of like minded folks and a high caliber of instruction in the Flow Arts.  That was the whole idea.  While I was building it, I thought it would be wonderful if we could hold the event in a big public park and invite people who weren’t yet involved in the culture of circus or object manipulation/flow arts to come and see and hopefully be inspired to play more often in their own lives.

How do you personally go about organizing such a festival?

I am so grateful to have been on a variety of festival teams in the past: from serving in Central Inventory for SunFest  4-5 years, to coordinating volunteers for National Poetry Slams, Individual World Poetry Slams and Women of the World Poetry Slams for 3 years… both of those experiences taught me a lot about management and planning.

My whole life I’ve been equal parts educator and artist, so, I consider the festival to be one big work of art, like an extra long DJ set: I’m commanding the turntables.  One deck is the resources, the tangible elements that allow the fest to happen: tents, tables, marketing, signage, schedules, the flights and accommodations for my instructors, the wristbands.  The other deck is the intangibles, the vibe: feelings, goals, intentions, concerns, relationships, theme, etc.  From day one, usually 6-8 months before the fest actually happens, I’m playing ‘cosmic DJ’ and switching back and forth between the decks.  It may seem silly, but I really do think of it that way!  And it makes the entire experience a lot more enjoyable for me.

I started Florida Flow Fest in 2011, and I made a lot of choices that cost me a lot of money.  Since then, I expanded to produce Flow Fests in other cities, sometimes in cities I had never visited before (like Seattle and San Diego).  I had to learn the hard way to trust my intuition, and always work to do the best job I possibly can, for myself and for my community.

What have been some of your favorite memories from previous Florida Flow Fests?

Oh goodness, it’s always the people. People are amazing! Sometimes, they’ll fly into town just to surprise me at the event. I’ve seen some really amazing, mindblowing performances over the years, and the group picture every year is also really fun.  One of my favorite memories actually just happened earlier this year: every year since 2019 we’ve had a performance by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School LED Dance club, and 2022 was the 4th performance by these kids.  So there was a group of soon-to-be-graduating high school seniors who had performed at Florida Flow Fest (or an online Flow Fests virtual event) every year of their high school experience.  How special is that?

Another year, 2014, the theme was Synergy, and my housemates decided to orchestrate a flash mob performance at the festival involving all the workshop attendees!  I was able to corral a group of bystanders to become an audience for this spontaneous performance, and one of my vendors just happened to have an abundance of parasols to loan this audience for shade in the hot sun.  Honestly, so much of the beauty of this fest is the magic that results from having a big group of people gather in play.  No booze, no age restrictions, just play and sillyness. It’s pretty great.

What can someone who has never been to a Flow Fest expect at this January event?

Well, we aren’t going to be blasting music during the day- so it might look like there’s just a bunch of people scattered in a park doing weird juggling things, and doing them badly.  But if you peer a bit closer, you’ll see these smallish clumps of people are workshops, you’ll see people practicing tricks again and again until they nail it, and then keep practicing it to clean it up and polish it off.  And you’ll see a lot of people smiling, hugging and laughing together.  It’s a welcoming space, and newcomers can expect to leave the event inspired, with a few new friends and a few new hobbies.

What are some of the can’t miss activities?

We have a lot of dance workshops this year, too, all of which are free to attend.  I’m particularly excited about that!  Our workshops start at 10am, and there are free introductory workshops in hoopdance, staff spinning, poi spinning and juggling at 5pm.  There’s an LED jam at 6pm with a DJ- everyone will turn on their glow props and dance with them- that’s always a wild thing to see.  And of course the instructor showcase performance at 7pm. DO NOT MISS THIS!  But you might want to bring 2 blankets, one for the ground and one for your shoulders. Temperatures will be in the sixties by the end of the show.

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David Rolland

David Rolland edits the Jitney blog. He is the author of the novels Yo-Yo & The End of the Century.