We had seen Xander in and around the flow community, but it wasn't until early 2019 that we got to work with him. We were doing a photo and videoshoot, and needed a martial flow jedi for showcasing the vision chucks and dart - Xander was a natural choice. Not only does he wield both props with martial precision, he has the soul of a flow artist. He also happened to be in the Bay and was about to leave for an extended trip to Southeast Asia. We caught him just before he left, and got to spend a weekend getting to know the solid person that he is. We're stoked to share his flow story here ...
What's your "flow origin story?" How did you get started?
Growing up in a Muay Thai gym started my fascination with martial arts. Years of dance sparked my interest in rhythm and movement. Theater taught me how to be a performer. Going to school for communication and speech taught me how to express my passion with others. And flow arts helped me find a way to put it all together.
The first time I saw anybody flow was a friend of mine using glowstick handles back in 2011. I remember thinking he looked like a nunchuck jedi … and if that was a real thing, I obviously had to become one. After one year of awkwardly spinning glowsticks alone in my apartment (up until this point I had no idea what flow arts was and had never even heard of the word poi), I finally made it to my first fire jam. I remember being awestruck at the talent everybody had. It was inspiring, and the community was incredibly enabling in the best way possible.
Seeing fire nunchucks for the first time was like falling in love. I was completely enamored and I immediately saw all the potential the prop had for expressing my love of martial arts, dance, flow and some mild pyromania. Triple section staff sparked my curiosity even further; the idea of exploring the potential of such an obscure prop was a prospect that was too enticing to ignore. Rope dart eventually came into my life at the perfect time - 5 years after my initial introduction to the flow arts world. This prop and its unique framework of movement reinvigorated my passion and motivation for learning.
My true flow origin story is the compilation of all the friendships that inspired my growth, the community leaders that held the space, and teachers that took the time to guide me. I've evolved personally, professionally, and artistically because of all the time spent, and love shared by these people and I will always be grateful.
What inspires you to play & practice more?
The flow arts community is filled with so many amazing performers, teachers, and talented people to draw inspiration from. Surrounding myself with people who are all pushing to improve yet also make the time and space for play is the best thing I could have done to adopt those qualities for myself.
Outside of my peers I’ve always taken inspiration from my favorite books, movies, shows, and games. Whether it's winding up my rope dart screaming Kamehameha! Or swinging my trisectional staff pretending to be fighting off an army of ninjas on my own, my inner child has always enjoyed being along for the ride as I push myself to learn and share more.
Practicing martial flow, I always try to keep in mind the discipline needed to keep myself on track, and the introspection that can be gained by using flow as a moving meditation. But I would be lying if I didn't mention the goofy kid who swung around a stick wanting to grow up a warrior.
How do you overcome blocks? Any tips or techniques for getting through humps?
Blocks are such a natural part of the creative process that I've encountered this problem many times, in many ways inside and outside of flow. The best solution I’ve found that works for me is utilizing variety to distract myself from blockages. Whether it be moving on to other moves that you know are easier… getting into your flow vibe, switching props or even activities. By stimulating other parts of your brain, you don’t compound onto the stress from not getting a particular technique. That way when you come back to it, you’ll have a fresh perspective, not clouded by frustration.
I also have a controversial opinion when it comes to practicing new moves, I am not a big fan of drilling. When I learn a new technique I try it a few times, and once I catch myself getting frustrated and in that pattern of “try, drop, repeat” where my attempts increase in speed and decrease in effectiveness I stop. I move onto something else then try the move after achieving flow from doing things I am more comfortable with. Often times I’ll have moments where something just clicks, and that is when I repeat it a few times to get it into my muscle memory.
I think that practicing a move 100 times and getting it wrong will just teach my muscle memory how to do a move incorrectly. That is where the value of having an instructor in person is. Youtube is a great resource for learning, but nothing can replace someone guiding you through your practice, and identifying and correcting ways in which we struggle with a technique. So much of a development as a flow artist only happened once I learned how to be a good student to someone else, instead of trying to be a teacher to myself.
What flowtoys do you have? What flowtoys would you like to have?
I have crystal poi - they're a great design for poi. Reminds me of glowsticks in the way that they feel and handle. The new flowlight-FS solve the problem of color options, though using AAA batteries can be annoying. My ideal set of poi from flowtoys would be a crystal casing with a capsule light 2.0 chip and battery. You'd have more light dispersion from the crystal shape and multiple LEDs, but it'd be rechargeable and have more color options like in capsule 2.0.
I have 4 sets of capsule poi set up as 2 sets of capsule handles (1 set is 1.0, one set is 2.0) I prefer this set up to podpoi, because I feel like they behave closer to the original crystal lights. They have a more concentrated center mass, and bounce/wrap easier.
I also have 2 sets of flowchucks with capsule lights: Visually stunning, however only using 4 capsule lights does not make the prop "look" like a nunchuck and using 8 capsule lights gets tedious, especially if you don't have all 2.0s synced up. Since all the weight is connected to the end cap and not dispersed throughout the prop it also doesn't perform in a manner similar to true nunchucks.
Most recently I got 2 sets Vision Chucks - they're AMAZING. The balance and weight issues with the original flowchucks are non existent here. Great design, beautiful lights, less parts to worry about.
Double Staff - Really well balanced, I added flowmass to increase the weight for tip tales and contact moves to offset my sets shorter length. Many people who have used my doubles have commented on how the weight feels really good and have expressed interest in adding more weight to their doubles.
Martial flowdart - The weight with flowmass is fine, the shape is too long and can wobble during flight at times. Ideally a shortened tube with a capsule light 2.0 would work better I think.
More about Xander
Currently I am living the nomadic life, I just spent 5 months in Asia experiencing the flow scene, festivals, and circuses there. I fell in love with one in particular called the Medicine Circus (@medicinecircusproductions) in Pai, Thailand. I am planning on returning to join them in October 2019 to perform, host workshops, and teach private lessons. I recommend a visit to Pai for anyone traveling through SE Asia to experience the wonderful community they have there.
When in the US, I can usually be found performing and teaching at events, hosting classes regularly out of dance studios, or doing private lessons. In addition to teaching poi, nunchucks, triple section staff and rope dart, I've also been hosting workshops related to performance and showmanship, martial movement fundamentals, and other cool concepts applicable to flow arts.
I like to tell people who take my classes or privates that they are paying me for the knowledge and not my time. I keep myself available as a resource for those people to help facilitate their growth as a flow artist even when Im not around. I also offer private lessons over Skype for anyone who is not local but interested in learning a technique they see in my videos. I can be contacted through my performance Facebook page by anyone who wishes to book me for performance, lessons, workshops, or tutorials.
Follow and support Xander:
- Facebook: facebook.com/crouchingtigerhiddenxander
- Instagram: @crouchingtigerhiddenxander
- Youtube: youtube.com/user/XanderParis91