The term "flow arts" encompasses 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 Maori poi spinning to modern firedancing, from martial arts and taichi to circus arts and hula hooping.
Poi is one of the flow arts' simplest and most common forms, where you swing two small weights around on cords. The physical activity feels great and the challenge of the movement engages you so fully that everything else melts away. You can pull out a pair of poi anywhere and almost immediately achieve the state of optimal experience known as "flow".
The Flow Arts are at once a sport and a leisure activity, a hobby and an obsession - 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”, a state of optimal experience, also known as "the zone" or getting in a groove.
Many people first encounter the Flow Arts through contemporary firedancing, in which people dance with objects on fire. Firedancing naturally inspires and self-selects the sort of props and movement styles of the flow arts. Also referred to as fire spinning, twirling, and spinning (not to be confused with spinning stationary bikes), the props, tools or “toys” considered a part of the Flow Arts include poi, staffs, clubs, hoops, flower-sticks, swords, spheres, fans and levitation wands. Newer props like buugeng and dragon staffs have also emerged to create fresh possibilities.
While firedancing has inspired and attracted many to the artform, and the thrill is undeniable, most novice firedancers quickly find themselves loving the movement, and prioritizing finding their flow over playing with fire and develop a lasting flow practice with non-fire props.
No discussion on “Flow” is complete without a reference to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced CHEEK-sent-mə-HY-ee), 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 he/she is engaged. 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.
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 this awesome attribute of the flow arts.
There is something special in the Flow Arts for just about everybody at all levels of ability. Because of its very nature of exploration and mastery, the opportunities for challenge, achievement and creativity, and hence Flow, are boundless.