If you have attended a music festival or ever been in a public beach on a nice day, chances are you have seen some form of flow art. Flow arts can be any object that is swung around or used in motion to a beat or internal rhythm. They don’t have to be done as a light show in a noisy environment, they are also popular to practice at parks, beaches, and anywhere inside or outside. It’s not something that only a select few can do, it’s relatively easy to learn and it’s fun for people of all ages looking for a new hobby.
Flow arts can be generally described as a form of yoga in motion. It’s a dance, an art, and a performance that is both exhilarating to do and hypnotizing to watch. Some examples are poi, gloving, hula hooping, fans, staves, contact juggling and many others. (All of these can be done with fire too, if you’re experienced.)
Each flow art has its own history as well. The history of poi, for instance, is one that goes back many generations, with the ancient Maui people. Their weapon of choice was the club, and poi was developed with a rope and a ball tied to the end. Poi started as something that helped strengthen their wrists and help with hand eye coordination. It then became a dance among females mostly, and then the men picked it up as a performance. Fire was then involved, and it grew in popularity until it became something that is seen at almost every music festival and chilled out gathering across the world (and in the traditional setting still, of course.) It is a uniquely spiritual and individual performance. Everyone has a different way of spinning, to any kind of music, in all types of settings. If you are interested in picking up a flow toy, follow these simple tips and you’ll be spinning in no time!
1. Do research. Maybe you really want to do fire hooping, but live in a small area with no backyard. Maybe you want to spin poi but are afraid of getting hit in the face. There are pros and cons to all flow arts, and some are better suited to each person. However, if you are really passionate about a certain style, make it work! Take a class or meet up with fellow flow artists. Set up a time or place to practice. There is usually at least one group of flow artists in any given city, some use facebook or meetup.com. The flow community is always accepting and supportive of new members, as that is how tricks and tips are shared.
2. Nothing is impossible. Experienced artists make everything they do look easy. What you don’t see, however, is the hours and sometimes years of practice it takes to learn to do smoothly. When you try to do them yourself, it will be very frustrating when you can’t get it down right away, but don’t give up! Once you learn it, it will click and stick in your mind forever. Practice really does make perfect, and learning something difficult will make you a diligent and patient performer. Be kind to yourself if you mess up and praise yourself for all the hard work you have done. Once you learn a few small moves, you can then build on them and create your own combination of tricks.
3. Don’t be afraid to show off a little. If you’re worried about someone better coming along, don’t be. Everyone starts somewhere and experts are usually willing to give you some helpful pointers and share their own struggle. They will always encourage you to try harder and even if they do show you up, hopefully they will give you inspiration to be that good someday. If someone comes along and makes fun of you, then they are probably jealous or just jerks that aren’t worth your time anyway. For people that haven’t seen a performance like that before, they will be amazed and think you are magical. It’s a win-win situation for everybody!
4. Be spatially aware. Don’t spin in the middle of a dense crowd, and always be aware of people around you. You definitely don’t want to hurt anyone, or yourself, and you don’t want to give a bad name to the flow artists out there who are always careful and respectful of personal space. Also, it’s important to hit yourself with your new toy to get it over with. Fear of hurting yourself can hinder your learning ability, so just get one hit in the face, if necessary, and it won’t be so scary. It helps to practice with softer things.
5. A lot of people will want to use your equipment. It is up to you if you feel comfortable sharing. Ask them if they know what they are doing first (since gear can be expensive.) You don’t want it to end up in the wrong hands of someone who might do it or themselves damage. If they want to learn, you can teach them, or don’t. If you don’t feel comfortable, just tell them politely or pick up and move elsewhere. If they do know what they are doing, however, sharing is caring!
As an artist, they will be drawn to you and you to them. You can spot each other from across any venue, and the light in their eyes and desire to perform will be obvious. It’s like you speak a secret language now. So have fun, be patient, and good things will come your way.