Issue 64: The Soul Fliers

Memorable ballet routines, like works of art, consist not of
a planned series of strokes, but rather strokes of inspiration.

One of the advantages of attending sport kite competitions is that in doing so you have a chance to realize things you’ve never been aware of before. Quite often it’s a new trick (remember the first time you ever saw a nose launch?) or perhaps it’s a sequence of older, known maneuvers spliced together to form an interesting new design in the sky.

In this sport, new things are being developed all the time. But then, every once in a great while, something comes along that simply blows you away. Recently I was floored by such an experience, and I doubt that many people who saw will ever forget : the Soul Fliers had arrived.

During my relatively short tenure with this sport, I’ve noticed that in many ballet performances the pilot has developed a fixed routine – a set group of moves to be performed to music. Each maneuver is carefully worked out so that the pilot knows exactly where he or she should be in the sky at any given point in time, and of course, the overall intent of the routine is to win. Another group of pilots, in a similar fashion, know approximately what they would like to do, but fairly well ad-lib much of the routine. In either of these approaches, the pilot often seems to be slogging through a piece of music that they’ve heard dozens of times before, almost oblivious to the fact that now they have to perform in front of other people.

One of the problems with either of these approaches is that the spectators and judges often don’t feel anything from the routine – no emotion. One of the original Masters once said that if you can make the people cry, you’ve flown the best routine possible. How many of us can safely say that we’ve managed to evoke such an emotional response from anyone in an audience? Precious few, I believe, although many would brag that they have. Do the people watching truly understand what a pilot is trying to say?

The Soul Fliers have taken a new approach to flying a ballet routine such that the performance comes across to us as true art. These people search through their unwritten inventory of emotions, examining what is personally important to them. Something seems to be inside of them that desperately wants to get out. Seemingly all that is needed is a valve, a creative outlet of some sort. As has been the case for so many people over so long a time, that outlet is often found in music.

You, as a Soul Flier, with a heart full of emotion, try to find a passage of music that says something, reflecting the feelings you have inside. You have always related to this music somehow. Maybe it’s just a nice instrumental piece, or perhaps a musical selection that has lyrics you can believe in or understand. Whatever music that you select, this is music that reaches down to your soul and evokes emotions that might not otherwise be revealed. The conduit for expression is not complete, however, since there is no real medium for letting these emotions out… yet.

Whether you are on the competition field or standing alone, the circuit completes when you pick up the lines to the kite. You should stand there for a minute to allow whatever inspires you, affects you, moves you, and motivates you to come back for this moment. The true Soul Flier thinks about what brought him or her to this point in time, reliving the emotions that so desperately want to be translated from a mere feeling to a physical manifestation.

Standing there quietly, you let that feeling grow on the inside, passing from your core until it spreads through your shoulders, down your arms, into your hands. In your mind, you picture your inspiration… you see a color… maybe you hear someone’s voice. You let your body become, at that point, the emotion that has been taking over for so long inside as it passes from your soul.

And the translation begins.

As the music plays, you’re transformed and transfixed. You don’t really see, although you won’t crash. You don’t actually steer, you don’t think … you just feel. What happens for the Soul Flier is that the music and the kite have served as catalysts for translating an intangible, abstract human emotion into a unique signature of movement. There are never two turns alike, for this translated emotion is too mercurial. There is no set pattern, there is no right or wrong place to be in the sky. And when you’re done, you don’t really remember. Like a lover, you feel drained but satiated, as though a longsought need has finally been fulfilled, the yearning slaked by the outlet.

While watching the Soul Flier, some people might think that they see brilliant pilots performing beautiful routines. Others may see technical flying like they’ve never seen before. But I see something completely different. I see a soul, inspired by an emotion, burst down the lines like a fireball, transforming itself into a visible, understandable, almost living thing. Under the right circumstances, music – itself an aural art form – and the visual beauty of kites can combine to form a completely new art form for expressing one’s most closely-held emotions.

We all like to be creative. We can see this in the types of kites we design and make, or in the set routines that we like to fly. Some of us are musicians, some are into the arts, others apply their creativity to electronics, and yet others write – sometimes none too lucidly. But each of us, I believe, has an emotion that affects us deeply. A thought, perhaps, of something that has happened in the past. Maybe it’s just a feeling or belief that you’ve always had that you never before knew how to express. Or maybe it’s the story of your life.

Go out and find your catalyst, find the music that affects you the most and reflects something that you’ve been feeling. Take that moment of reflection or introspection, then show us those feelings translated through your kite. Don’t worry so much about rehearsed routines, or set points and locations, don’t necessarily show us how good you are with a bunch of technical tricks. And please, don’t worry so much about your score. That’s all trivia, really, within the context of soul flying.

Those who know soul flying will listen, watch, understand and feel. Only then will we know what you’ve been trying to tell us.

Bob Hanson

Republished with permission from:
SKQ – Spring 1992, Volume 3 Issue 4