the Flow Arts
“Flow Arts” has become an overarching term for the emerging movement-based artforms that integrate dance and creative exploration of movement with skill-based prop manipulation. The Flow Arts draw from a multitude of ancient and modern movement disciplines from taichi and Maori poi spinning, to martial arts and juggling, to circus arts, hula hooping and modern firedancing.
Sometimes called the “spinning arts” (not to be confused with spinning stationary bikes), the Flow Arts have evolved to encompass more than spinning poi and staffs to include the artistic manipulation of many other props, such as hoops, swords, balls, fans and levitation wands. New props such as the buugeng are also emerging to create fresh possibilities.
The Flow Arts are at once a sport and a leisure activity, a new way to dance, explore and interact with the physical world, a movement meditation practice, a fun and creative outlet, and a serious technical pursuit of mastery. For many of its practitioners, it is a way to achieve the mind-state known as “flow”.
Most people first encounter the Flow Arts through firedancing, which is basically dancing with props on fire. It is hard not to notice someone dancing with fire, especially if you have never seen it before! While firedancing has propelled and attracted many to the artform, most novice firedancers quickly find themselves loving the movement, and prioritizing finding their flow over playing with fire. Many develop a lasting flow practice with non-fire props.
No discussion on “Flow” is complete without a reference to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a leading researcher in positive psychology, who defines Flow as the mental state in which a person is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity in which she is engaged.
Also according to Csikszentmihalyi, creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. Having devoted his life to studying what makes people truly happy, he 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.
There is no question that the Flow Arts continually bring people to a state of Flow. The countless number of people who have picked up a pair of poi never to put them down, and who have fallen in love with the hoop or the wand at first flow attest to the fact.
There is something awesome in the Flow Arts for just about everybody at all levels of ability. Because of its very nature of mastery and exploration, the opportunities for challenge, achievement and creativity, and hence Flow, are boundless.
Burning Dan, courtesy of www.flowtemple.org
Flow Arts is a fast-growing fitness and meditation practice that blends play, exercise and dance into a fun and healthful activity that moves the body, stills the mind and uplifts the spirit. It’s a physical workout that is also a brain booster, a relaxing way to chill out, and a compelling performance art.
The concept of Flow Arts is simple: learn to move in harmony with an inanimate object so that it becomes an animated extension of your body, then flow with it in ways that look and feel totally awesome. With enough practice, you can learn to flow with almost anything. Staffs, hoops, batons and even spheres all make wonderful dance partners and teachers once you’ve grasped each tool’s unique dynamics. The basic techniques are easy to pick up, but the adaptations are infinite, allowing for wide variation in personal style and expression. In the rapidly growing global Flow Arts community there is still ample opportunity to make and share novel discoveries.