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Common Flow Arts Terminology

Momo Bonobo

Flow artist spinning LED poi

So, you’re new to flow arts eh? Just like any other community, there’s a lot of slang that comes with the territory. I’m going to cover all of the most common words you’ll hear at a flow jam. Hopefully you feel a little less lost at your next flow jam by the time we’re done here 🙂 This is a long one though, so feel free to use it as a dictionary and search for specific terms using (Command+F for macs) or (CTRL+F for windows).

Flow Slang

  • Contact: Any style of spinning a prop that doesn’t involve holding the prop with your hands. Can also be referred to as contact manipulation or contact style.
  • Dip Can: This is what people generally call a canister that is used when you fuel props. You can pour fuel onto your wicks and let it collect in the can, or fill the can with fuel to dunk your props into. Usually dip cans are either army ammo cans or fresh (unused) empty / resealable paint cans. KEEP CLOSED WHEN NOT IN USE.
  • Dip station: The area where props are fueled and all dip cans and fuel canisters are kept. Make sure this is at least 20 feet away from the fire spinning and spin off area. Also known as fueling or dipping station.
  • Duvetyne: Also called duvey, this is a specific type of fire safety blanket used to extinguish props. People use duvey as slang to refer to any safety blankets nowadays.
  • Fire Arts: This refers to fire spinning, which is flow arts with fire props (or fire breathing). Can sometimes also refer to pyrotechnics.
  • Fire Breathing: A type of fire art that involves oil being put into your mouth and spit out with a fire torch in front of you. This is a very dangerous form of fire arts and should only be done if you have proper training.
  • Fire Dancing: Fire spinning with dance elements involved. Used as a general term for all fire spinning as well.
  • Fire Eating: When lit wicks are extinguished by putting them into your mouth. This also refers to all tricks done within that modality of fire arts. Also a more dangerous form of fire arts that should only be done if you have proper training.
  • Fire Fleshing: Once you dip a prop, you can create trails of fuel by dragging the saturated wicks on your skin. You can then light them to create fun fire trails. Should also be done by those with proper training.
  • Fire Safety: A human that is tasked with keeping a fire spinner, audience, and environment safe while someone is fire spinning. They are usually holding a safety blanket and will have a fire extinguisher nearby. Also called a safety or spotter.
  • Fire Safety Blanket: A fire safe blanket used to extinguish fire props. Often held by fire safeties when spotting a fire performer. Also referred to as safety blanket.
  • Fire Spinning: If it’s not obvious already, this refers to people who are spinning fire props (a fire spinner).
  • Flow: When used as a verb, flow means the action of practicing flow arts. When used as a noun, flow is generally a synonym for flow arts.
  • Flow Artist: A practitioner of flow arts. 
  • Flow Arts: An art form that includes many different modalities of prop manipulation or movement art. Refer to our article What Is Flow Arts?
  • Flow State: Named by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, this is a state of being where one is so absorbed in the joy of an activity that they lose sense of time and nothing else matters. 
  • Flow Style: A style of flowing that focuses more on the dance, movement, or meditative aspects of prop manipulation. Other common styles would be martial style or tech spinning.
  • Flower: Flower can refer to 2 things. One is a technique in double props in which the props are moving in circles while your arms are extended and also moving in circles. Flowers can also refer to staff flowers which are attached to staffs in order to slow down rotation speed (generally made of rubber).
  • Fuel: the gas, oil, or alcohol that is poured over the wicks on fire props in order to fire spin.
  • Hybrid: A double prop technique where each hand is doing a different trick.
  • Isolation: An illusory technique in which a body part or part of a prop appear to not be moving in relation to another body part or part of a prop. This is a common practice in hip-hop dance, breakdancing, and miming. Can be done with any prop.
  • Jam: When flow artists gather and practice their flow together. Also called flow jams, spin jams, fire jams, glow jams, and LED jams.
  • Kevlar: a strong, synthetic para-aramid fiber that is heat-resistant. This is what the wick of fire props is usually made out of. Kevlar is a brand name by Dupont, but most kevlar sold in the fire community is generic para-aramid fiber. Ceramic wick is generally not recommended for the health risks associated (it looks white when the fire prop has never been used).
  • Martial Style: A style of flowing in which martial arts movements are used during prop manipulation. Other styles would be flow style or tech spinning.
  • Movements: Any move or trick that is done with a prop.
  • Object Manipulation: The skillful and artistic movement of objects. In this context it refers to manipulating props.
  • Planes: The area where your prop is spinning in relation to your body or the ground.
    • Vertical Planes: Planes in which the prop is spinning perpendicular to the ground.
      • Wall Plane: When the prop is spinning in front of you. Imagine facing a wall and spinning the prop parallel to that wall.
      • Wheel Plane: When the prop is spinning on your side. The prop will be spinning in the same direction you are facing, like the wheels of a car.
      • Dark Plane: When the prop is spinning behind you. Imagine facing away from a wall and spinning the prop behind you while parallel to that wall. Also called dark wall plane.
    • Horizontal Planes: Planes in which the prop is spinning parallel to the ground.
      • Earth / Ground Plane: When the prop is spinning below your waist. Some people use these terms to refer to anytime the prop is spinning below your head as well.
      • Mountain Plane: When the prop is spinning between your waist and head.
      • Cloud / Helicopter / Sky Plane: When the prop is spinning above your head.
  • Props: the tools or equipment used for object manipulation in flow arts.
    • Ball Props: Props that have balls involved, such as contact poi, juggling balls, rope darts, etc. Generally refers to props that have a contact balls involved.
    • Contact Props: Props that are weighted more heavily on the ends in order to allow for contact manipulation. Examples are contact staff and contact poi.
    • Daytime / Practice Props: Any props that don’t have LEDs or fire wicks.
    • Double Props: Props that are used as a pair. This would include poi, double staffs, batons, fans, and palm torches.
    • Fire Props: Props that have wicking on them so they can be set on fire.
    • Glow / LED Props: Props that use LEDs to light up and create fun patterns.
    • Pixel Props: A specific subcategory of LED props that involves higher end LEDs that can generally be programmed to show complex patters and imagery.
    • Rope Props: Props that have ropes. The most common are rope darts, poi, puppyhammers, and meteor darts.
    • Stick Props: Props that have some kind of tube (or stick) involved. Most stick props are staffs such as contact staff, spin staff, dragon staff, and double staffs. Other props such as swords, maces, and spears also fall into this category.
  • Spin Directions: Different directions a prop can move.
    • Down-Spin: When you’re spinning a rope prop in wheel plane, a down spin is when the prop is spinning towards the ground. In stick props, this is when the prop is rolling on your body away from the flow artist.
    • Up-Spin: The opposite of down-spin. When you’re spinning a rope prop in wheel plane, an up-spin is when the prop is spinning towards the sky. In stick props, this is when the prop is rolling on your body towards the flow artist.
    • Anti-Spin: Refers to a prop’s rotation in relation to the body part controlling it, which is usually the arm. The prop and arm are spinning in opposite directions.
    • In-Spin: The opposite of anti-spin. Refers to a prop’s rotation in relation to the body part controlling it, which is usually the arm. The prop and arm are spinning in the same direction.
  • SpinOff: A way to shake of excess fuel from a fire prop before you light it on fire. The goal is to have little to no fuel dripping from the prop before you light it.
  • Spin Style: The style of prop spinning that one practices. The main three styles we use to describe someones spinning are flow style, martial style, or tech spinning.
  • Stall: A term usually used for rope props where you suddenly stop the prop from moving and switch to the opposite directions. Common stalls are up stalls, down stalls, and side / horizontal stalls.
  • Tail: Fabric (usually silk) added to the end of props to create extra drag which will slow down it’s movement a bit.
  • Tech: A type of prop spinning that focuses on technical movements, complex patterns, and creating geometrical shapes. Common terms also used are tech spinning, tech spinner, or tech style. Usually contrasted with flow styles or martial styles of spinning.
  • Timing and Direction: A flow concept in double props that describes the way two props are spinning in relation to each other. Can technically be done with props that aren’t doubles as well if you are describing the way the prop is spinning in relation to your free hand / arm. There are an infinite number of timings and directions that are theoretically possible, but these are the most visually appealing and symmetrical.
    • Together (Same) Time: Both props are spinning in a way where they reach the top and bottom (or left and right part) of their paths at the same time.
    • Split Time: Both props are spinning in a way where they’re always opposite each other. Essentially each prop is doing opposite operations at all time (i.e. one prop is at the top of its path while the other is at the bottom).
    • Same Direction: Both props are spinning in the same direction.
    • Opposite Direction: Both props are spinning in opposite directions.
  • Timing and Direction Combos: The four different combinations of timing and direction (2 timings times 2 directions)
    • Together-Same (TS): Props are moving in together timing in the same direction.
    • Together-Opposite (TO): Props are moving in together timing in opposite directions.
    • Split-Same (SS): Props are moving in split timing in the same direction.
    • Split-Opposite (SO): Props are moving in split timing in opposite directions.
  • Wick: The kevlar on fire props that is dipped in fuel in order to fire spin.
  • Wick Covers: Covers that are put on top of wicks in order to protect fire props from damage when practicing and to keep soot from getting things dirty.