The Origin of the Sponsor a Staff Project
In the wide world of flow artists there are many folks with dreams, but few have the selfless courage to chase them quite like the contemporary stick aficionado, Enrico Vinholi. Perhaps known better by his stage persona “SolRiso”, Enrico has dedicated his flow and his time over the last five years to bringing the joy and excitement that comes with flow arts to communities that need it most. Where a lot of people today would settle to stretch for that dream from the comfort of their own backyard, that wasn’t enough for him. Not by a longshot.
In this exclusive interview, we caught up with SolRiso to learn more about his origin story, his experience of finding his own flow and he even took a little time to tell us about the Sponsor a Staff Project. A groundbreaking springboard created to launch his art and the community that it generates into the areas of the world where it’s needed most.
Sponsor a Staff Project
After garnering a name for himself as a flowmie favorite in fire circles around the country, Enrico set out on a long road in the pursuit of his dream to share his craft on a bigger scale. Soon Enrico and formally trained friend, Yamil “Yamxtli” Maldonado hatched a plan to travel the world helping youth in impoverished countries to unlock the mysteries of flow. And thus, the Sponsor a Staff project was born.
“I love performing and always will, but I’ve realized I can have a greater impact on the world through teaching.” Says Enrico. “I have always loved to travel and wanted to devise a plan to help enable myself and like-minded others to travel and perform, but for a cause. When I learned about Performers Without Borders I decided I wanted to try and use my influence in the community to develop a similar project around what I love, Traveling and Staff Spinning.
When I met Yamil this summer I was incredibly inspired by our mutual love for sticks, and our ability to use the common language we spoke, movement, to influence those around us. We both had seen first hand how something as silly as spinning a stick around could change someone's life for the better and his influence helped motivate me to create and implement this program. Although he won’t be able to join on the 2018 PWB Kenya tour, his initial influence and support of this idea was a huge factor in aiding the project's development.
The purpose of the project is to help organize 'Social Circus' outreach trips to developing countries. Social Circus is an intervention methodology that targets ‘at-risk’ youth and uses Movement Art as a medium to increase personal awareness, encourage expression, strengthen discipline, and foster community. The life skills gained from successful Social Circus programs leave youth with heightened autonomy, self-esteem, physical coordination, communication and adaptability skills, and a greater potential to succeed, no matter the obstacle. Through community driven fundraisers, donations, sponsored workshops, merchandise sales, auctions, and performances, we help improve the lives of hundreds of children around the globe. Now, the project is lucky enough to have 2 phenomenal staff ambassadors, Tyler Spades and Arianna Madappa, aiding the Sponsor a Staff Project and Performers Without Borders on it’s first collaborative tour.”
The Next Generation
Where a lot of performers would flow for fun, as spiritual therapy or to make some extra money, none of that became a motivation for Enrico. Instead, he put the hours in to transcend the level of teacher, to graduate to leader, where he could focus his efforts on driving real change in people’s lives. Like seeds sprouting into saplings, he’s watched his efforts bloom too. Reflecting on his youngest progeny, Jessie, he noted that it’s not uncommon these days for the next generation to push the envelope and go a few steps further than anyone has done before.
“Everytime we teach somebody, we have the privilege of saving them hours and hours of the mistakes we made. This process leads to an exponential development of the art form and allows the community to push the envelope of what’s possible.
In 2014 I spent 9 months traveling through Central and South America and I spent lots of that time playing with, and teaching local performers and children on the streets. One of the most profound experiences I had was in Bolivia where I taught a kid to make a staff from a broken broom and water bottles filled with sand, all of which we found recycled in the street. Later that day I came back and he had taught 2 of his friends how to do the same. They were all having fun with each other playing with sticks and that’s when it hit me.
The first iteration of the Sponsor a Staff Project came when I decided to ask my facebook feed for $2-5 donations so I could build staffs out of curtain rods and irrigation tubing to donate to a local after-school organization in Banos, Ecuador. The first day I went and performed for the kids and the second, I showed up, taught workshops and donated staffs and the third we helped them host their own performance. The response was incredible and it felt amazing to use my influence online to source the components needed to enable these children to learn what I love most.
What was important was that I taught them how to build the staffs themselves and that it wasn’t about learning tricks, but instead connecting with yourself, with others and just generally having fun. I think there is an art to ‘Play’ and our society is slowly losing grasp of it.”
This project would not be possible without our incredible community’s support. Enrico wanted to extend gratitudes to FireGroove, Flowtoys and Wizardtricks for believing in him and supporting this cause and for everyone who’s purchased some merchandise or made donations to support the Sponsor a Staff mission.
With the passage of time, young flow artists seeking a teacher with a comparable technical precision and organic grace have appeared to Enrico searching for some way of furthering mastery in their craft. These days his students are taking on students of their own, adding ripples to the impact he brings to flow. With his efforts shining so far and now coming full circle, it seems only fitting that his onstage moniker is “SolRiso”, the one who is fueled by the energy of the sun.
To learn more about the Sponsor a Staff Project check out their website here.
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