(Image Source: Yutapoi )
By Jakesepher Hohenheim | Feb. 5th, 2016
Flow Arts in the its simplest definition and explanation is the art of movement. The general practice is movement-based disciplines that include juggling, dancing, poi spinning, staff spinning, and other object manipulation methods. One can describe the therapeutic and meditative state is similar to that of Tai Chi. But rather than a form of martial art, it is a state of a “flow” or “groove” accompanied with music and the use of props.
Many use flow arts for performance entertainment, recreational purposes, aiding in the increase of mobility, and even stress relief.
Flow is also a psychological term coined by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a Hungarian psychologist: “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” – Flow (psychology), Wikipedia
“According to Csikszentmihalyi, creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. Having devoted his life to studying what makes people truly happy, Csikszentmihalyi notes that people live more fully when involved in creative pursuits, and discusses the notion of flow as the creative moment when a person is completely involved in an activity for its own sake.” – Flow Toys
Juggling, Twirling, Poi, and even Hooping each have their own distinct origins in history going back from a few hundred to several thousand years in human history. Today, there are many practitioners performing the traditional styles and a new generation of flow artists are taking advantage of technology to add another mesmerizing layer to their performances.
(Image Source: Wikipedia )
Now there are many forms and variations in the world of flow arts that use fire, LED lights, steel, wood, and other materials. The few forms I want to share are what have always been in rave culture but have also significantly evolved in the current dance music scene of North America. If one were to attend a electronic music festival in Florida, New York, or even Las Vegas, they will be sure to see a plethora of people performing whatever craft they mastered to entertain their friends or fellow guests. Which has given rise to the popularity of “lightshows“.
Although many major music festivals have placed a ban on a particular sort of the flow toys, assuming they have strong association with drug consumption, it isn’t stopping the growing popularity of flow arts.
– Increased coordination and balance
– Form of exercise
– Relief from stress and depression
– Increased body function and mobility
(Image Source: Link )
Poi refers to the equipment used and performance art that it demonstrates. Poi involves swinging tethered weighted objects in a rhythmic form and geometric patterns. The practice originates from the Maori people in New Zealand which is still used to this day. Originally, it was performed by women in Maori culture but legends tell men started the form to condition themselves in the use of weapons for, of course, warfare.
The last half century has seen a worldwide growth and development of Poi as a performance art and for and dance. In modern poi, it still mirrors the traditional Maori style and incorporates other influences from various object manipulation techniques.
If fire spinning isn’t your thing but you still want tantalizing visuals, using LED spheres gives a futuristic and spacey look. The movements involves swinging the tethered object around your body and moving your body in corresponding maneuvers you are performing.
I personally rather leave the fire poi to the professionals, it must take a lot of discipline to to swing burning flames so close to your body. But LED Poi Balls are rather entertaining in their own right, and you’re much more likely NOT to get a 3rd degree or start a wildfire.
STAFF & STICK SPINNING
Spinning is, of course, the art of spinning staffs whether they are pole staffs, S-staffs, triple S-staffs, or even batons. It can also utilize glowsticks or LED sticks that is similar to poi but instead of swinging outward, the movement are closer to and around the performer’s body.
Okinawan kobudō refers to the weapon systems used in Okinawa martial arts that include: Bo staff, Sai, Tonfa, and Nunchaku. As you can see the video above, you can really see how these movements would be used in fighting, but as times goes on, peace time comes and these techniques are incorporated into dancing ceremonies and events. Whether it is for performance or meditative reasons.
Buugeng & S-Staffs are a form of object manipulation that incorporate many spinning techniques to create a sort of “optical illusion”.
“The art of S-Staff borrows many moves from traditional staffs spinning with the addition of the curved S shape to create an optical illusion known as the “visual kaleidoscope”” – Firepedia
Shown in the video above, you can see how the shapes of the staffs and the way the performer moves, angles, and twists create a hypnotic and almost fractal-like effect.
Contact staff is another form of object manipulation that uses juggling and spinning techniques that also makes the performer utilize their torso to balance and spin a staff.
Levitation wands take from the magician’s “dancing cane” trick, which uses the same technique from the old “levitating card” trick. A very fine, hardly visible string attached to an object from the performer. That being said, they aren’t anything really new but the last few years has seen these performance props equipped with lights to create a more mesmerizing experience to this levitation trick.
Glowsticks are synonymous to rave culture since its beginning which is used as a form of object manipulation and dance style. Early practitioners could be traced to experienced poi performers as it would have a similar aesthetic effect as the glow of fire poi. Glowsticking is performed in two forms: Freehand, which is done without the use of strings, and Glowstringing, which is very similar to poi but also uses freehand techniques.
The beauty of glowsticking is it can switch between the spinning techniques of poi and the movement of the arms with staff spinning techniques.
The downside to glowsticks are their very short life span, with hue dying out with each passing hour. There are programmable LED glowsticks on the market that not only last much longer than glowsticks, it also gives the performer further control of their color sequence and patterns, giving them the ability to refine their own signature style.
(Image Source: LINK )
Hooping is one those ancient toys dating back to Egypt in 1000 BC. The practice of hooping around the waist gained popularity in England during the 1300s and it wasn’t until the last 1950s when America took a liking to this toy.
Today, hooping has become its own subculture with countless meet ups for beginners and professionals that are involved in music festivals and charity events across the country. There are probably as many various types of hoopers as there are different types of DJs or musicians. One of the most recognized hoopers around is Rachael Lust.
Rachael Lust is a Ohio native in her mid-20s who was raised as a gymnast and was later introduced to hooping by her husband, who is a poi spinner, and she became dedicated to it the craft. Sometime after all the practicing, she started posting videos that showed off her own fast paced, unique style that is both fun to watch and has a hardcore grace to it.
Another one but with LED lights this time!
For a long time, I’ve always thought hooping was the least exciting performance to watch until I started discovering these performers that really push the possibilities from the conventional. Sure many will say “it’s so simple doing those movements”, but I think it is more HOW it is done that impresses me. Especially the last few years have seen developers manufacture these intense LED hoops with crazy light patterns.
Gloving is quite possibly one of the most compelling ,even controversial, form of all flow arts. It is not quite known who created them or when they were created, but they have been growing in use since the early 2000s. To put it simply, they are plain white gloves with lights in the finger tips and sometimes in the palms and backs of hands. The movements incorporate hand formations, finger rolling, finger tutting, and other techniques that is very similar to the techniques of a magician’s slight of hand. Actually you could perform the very same trick as the Magic Thumb Light.
I was part of those early enthusiasts around 2008 when you had to put together your own gloves from several different sources. Getting plain, white cotton gloves at Walmart or whatever drug store and finding keychain lights in sports/camping stores. There were few online stores that sold particular choice lights like Inovas and Phantoms.
But sometime around 2010, almost out of nowhere, Emazinglights, a Southern California based company, started pioneering this potential and demanded market. Not only was there, at last, a convenience for consumers to purchase a full glove set from one source but it also gave the ability to customize your own color sequence and pattern effects. Furthermore, Emazinglights have patented programmable light chips, the likes that have not been seen before. Even having motion and tilt sensor capabilities.
Over the last 5 years, Emazinglights has seen exponential growth and recognition in not only dance music culture but entertainment and sports culture as a whole. Stage performers, cheerleaders, and even those with disabilities are utilizing this flow form to rehabilitate their mobility.
In light of the bans on many of these flow toys, Emazinglights is even taking the initiative to pushing a campaign to have the major music festival promoters see this as not a paraphernalia for drug recreation but as another extension of free expression which many of these promoters preach is their core philosophy. Regardless, flow arts will always captivate would-be flow artists. Are you one of them?
FLOW ART RESOURCES
OTHER ARTICLES BY JAKESEPHER HOHENHEIM:
– Music Festivals part one: Rave Gear, Travel Tips, and Other Essentials
– Music Production: Top 5 YouTube Channels
– Music Production: Top 5 Blog Sites
– Artifact Documentary: A War of Music and Business