You’ve seen them before, the entre acts: jugglers at the circus, fire throwers of a dance party floor show, plate spinners and hula hoopers – all of them second bananas, the bridesmaids not the bride.
But what they do has a name. It’s called the Flow Arts, and from Friday through Sunday at Dance Mission Theater, the best of the best will take center stage for the fourth annual "Flow Show," an event described as a confluence of martial arts, contemporary dance and Burning Man.
“The objects and disciplines are nothing new but the concept of the flow arts, categorizing them as branches of the same tree, is new,” says festival organizer Khan Wong.
“What people do today – for example hula hooping and juggling – is very different from what they did in the 1950s. There are new techniques and different ways of manipulating the objects.”
A former poet, sci-fi writer and arts administrator, Wong has done what is called “fire spinning,” a bug he caught at Burning Man. “I got inspired there but put the pieces together for the festival when I got deeper into the practice and more involved in the community.”
Like the objects they employ, the performers come with colorful handles. There’s Vulcan Crew, Olive Oyl, Devil Stix Dave and Bliss Butterfly, who, in a don’t-try-this-at-home practice dances and manipulates lit objects while avoiding the torches that extend from metal rods around her waist.
Still, Wong emphasizes that there will be no fire-throwing, spinning or tossing in the current indoor presentation; a key goal of the “Flow Show,” he says, is to “demonstrate how beautiful these acts can be without fire.”
Some of less hazardous devices often used include Buugeng, a pair of s-shaped staffs used in elegant martial arts-like movements. The Cyr Wheel, named for Canadian circus artist Daniel Cyr, is a giant metal ring big enough for someone to stand inside and spin around a room.
In “contact juggling,” the artist’s body becomes a plank for gravity to move weighted balls. And there’s a PETA- alarming one called “puppyhammer.”
“They don't actually use puppies,” says Wong. “It's kind of like a two headed poi – weights on one long cord.”
IF YOU GO
The Flow Show 4
When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St., San Francisco
Contact: theflowshow.org, www.dancemission.com