The Flowjo 2011-2021
Conceived February 14, 2010
Birth March 2011
Death July 2021
Wake & Funeral ~ July 23 - 25, 2021
After fifteen months in a COVID-coma, The Flowjo is dying. The Flowjo has provided a sanctuary for movers, artists and healers for a decade. Spun into being by hoop devotion, Julia Hartsell was inspired to design a space worthy of connecting with the divine through movement. Dissatisfied with all the options for practice spaces in Carrboro, she took a passionate leap of faith to fashion and sustain a supreme dance space--a place to access her version of heaven: a spacious but intimate space with a buttery sprung floor, high ceilings, enrapturing sound and beautiful lighting.
In their decade of service, The Flowjo provided a home for a variety of circus arts, aerial dance, contact improvisation and catalyzed a devout community of Ecstatic dancers who lovingly call their practice Dance Church. The name Ecstatic Dance inadequately describes the magic and unique version of a community practice that has evolved in this space.
The youth programs have ushered countless youth, especially femmes, into adolescence and young adulthood through empowering movement modalities, body positivity and ethics of cooperation and collaboration.
World class hoopers and circus artists have practiced, taught and performed awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping feats of strength, coordination and grace within the dance sanctuary on Brewer Lane.
Many people have healed deep wounds through embodied practices and community participation there. As testimonials go, The Flowjo has provided a safe space to explore, grieve, find joy and has even saved many lives.
We give thanks to Scott Crews for his part in the conception and design of this gorgeous space. We give thanks to all who have made this place the magical, transformative, healing space that it’s been.
The Flowjo is survived by Julia, Flowjo Mama and a fabulous community of dancers.
It is with great sadness that I, Julia, aka Flowjo Mama close The Flowjo's doors permanently. The muses and soul forces that led me to create and steward The Flowjo are now calling for upgraded visions and the design a more permanent temple space in Silk Hope, NC.
Thanks to our Dance Sustainers, our kind and also pragmatic landlord and my own efforts, we have kept The Flowjo on a trickle of life support throughout this pandemic. In this time of tremendous uncertainty, I’ve simultaneously worked to imagine a new life in case that The Flowjo never reopens while working to imagine new, sustainable systems and programming in case The Flowjo could reopen. This has been an immense weight for my body and mind to carry. While courting both paths, neither path has come into full clarity.
After a head spinning month of planning a return to indoor dancing in our new circumstances (vaccinated and unvaccinated community members, new economy, differing levels of safety, more time consuming protocols) I left my house for our first, experimental gathering. As fate would have it, I hit a hickory tree, in my driveway, on the way to The Flowjo. In spite of the slow pace, I totaled my car. After months of praying for clarity about the road ahead, a clear sign was received.
Cars are symbolic of our identity, the clothing we wear, the identities that shift and change through cycles of our life. My car has been struggling. I’ve been as resistant to getting a new car as I have been to fully shed the identity of the past: Flowjo mama, aka Shamama (a term given to me by dance regulars.) Of all the changes and roles I’ve had in my life, this has been one of my favorite identities so far. Letting go isn’t easy. It hurts. Deeply.
And it's time.
Despite spending a few months calling out to every studio owner and facilitator I know who lost their home venue and pursuing a range of potential strategies to keep the practice space alive, no options made mathematical sense. I finally felt the truth. It’s time to cross the threshold into the unknown.
As an aspiring soul doula, one who tends cycles of life, death and transformation, this is a profound and painful opportunity to shed, to sacrifice something that I love in order to grow into something new. Trusting the whispers of my guides and muses who have called me to Silk Hope for a new project that includes, but is not limited to dance.
Death is not an aberration. Death is a sacred passage and the ultimate destination of every life. For many, death is a return--to the earth, to the ancestors, home. For some, it's liberation, an escape from the troubles of the world.
Death can also be tragic and traumatic. Death can be unexpected, painful, untimely. As we've witnessed this year, when dealt by the hands of injustice, brutality, hate, disparity, disease or accident, death can also be cruel.
Yet, however the final bell is tolled, a sacredness remains. The truth of the beauty and agony can simultaneously exist.
Palliative care is our most common mode of providing comfort at the end of life. Palliative, from the latin palliare, to cloak. While this often gets translated as comfort, it's more literally obscuring and masking the reality and pain of death. Avoiding and treating death as an aberration rather than natural and sacred.
Our culture tends to see endings as failures. Whether it’s the end of a relationship or a life or a business or a stage of life. But, in the wheel of life, everything has a season.
This place, this project has been one of the greatest successes of my life. This transition is partially due to my evolution and soul process, part pandemic upheaval and part challenging math problem. I’m unable and unwilling to invest the life force required for this project or to return to the pressure and economic weight of holding an urban venue, especially in what remains to be a precarious, uncertain time. The ultimate cause of death may be COVID. And there's also a natural cycle at hand. The Flowjo has had many beautiful seasons. And now, after a decade of exploration, growth, creativity, beauty, bliss, connection and community building, we are at the end of an era.
The Flowjo has transformed many people in small and profound ways. People have fallen and love and birthed children because of this community center.
The Flowjo helped to make me who I’m becoming. I've learned a decade of invaluable lessons about the body, movement, acrobatics, grief, ritual, trauma, interpersonal dynamics, youth, holding space and community. The Flowjo has helped me grow beyond the identity cultivated there. And now the skin of that identity and the story that comes with it is too small. It's time to invest in something that can be left for future generations. The seeds have been planted and we have been generously transplanted to new land with space for deep healing work, ritual dances, elemental rituals, grief ceremonies, ancestral healing and natural burial. I have visions for research, writing and service projects that align with my soul’s calling and utilize the skills I’ve learned over the past decade and beyond. Visions that incorporate dance, writing and a different form of community service.
If you've been close to The Flowjo, there may be some aspect of you that dies with them. Respect and compassion to the fullness of grief moving through our extended community.
Relationships rarely die. Not even in death. Community will change, but not die.
I am grateful to know the most of the amazing people in my life because of The Flowjo and will treasure the endless memories cultivated there. Through COVID we’ve learned that the community isn’t dependent on that room. We can adapt. We have adapted. We will continue.
The Flowjo will now become an ancestor of Heartward Sanctuary and any of future dance venues and evolutions in the triangle. The Flowjo has influenced Ecstatic Dances, hooping and circus arts locally and globally. The blessings have rippled out. The Flowjo can become one of the many places and glorious phases of dance venues and practices in the lineage of dance among the realm of the dancestors.
If you have an image, testimonial, gratitude or memory to share, please send to info@TheFlowjo.com. Funeral rites will be held at The Flowjo the weekend of July 23-25.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Heartward Sanctuary. Donations will go towards a new dance floor in the imminent barn turned temple space in Silk Hope. We aspire to build a Sanctuary for sacred practice that spills out into exquisite land for meaningful, healing work. A space that will survive us in the death of our own bodies.
With heartfelt gratitude ~
Dancer, mystic, ritualist, midwife of metamorphosis
Priest of the dance, earth's cycles, fresh waters and the mysteries of the ancestors