Flow Arts: A Dance of Mind, Body, and Soul

Momo Bonobo
Momo Bonobo

Flow Arts is an immersive, dynamic form of movement and self-expression, bringing together elements of dance, prop manipulation, and even martial arts. At its core is the psychological concept of being “in the flow”—a state of heightened concentration and joy where actions seem effortless, and time loses its grip.

The concept of “flow” originates from the psychological research of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who, in the 1970s, identified a unique mental state. This state he termed “flow” signifies complete absorption in an activity, fostering deep fulfillment and joy, and is universal across cultures and activities.

Csikszentmihalyi’s exploration of ‘flow’ unveiled a fascinating aspect of cognitive work. His studies showed that people can invest considerable effort for prolonged periods, not through willpower but by entering a state of ‘effortless attending.’ In this state individuals experience an intense concentration that eclipses their sense of time, self, and problems.

This ‘optimal experience,’ as Csikszentmihalyi calls it, separates the dual aspects of effort: concentration on the task and the deliberate control of attention. Activities like fast-paced motorcycle racing or competitive chess, while demanding, become less about exerting self-control and more about immersing oneself in the task when one enters a state of flow. It is this sense of deep immersion that characterizes the essence of flow arts.

Generally associated with prop manipulation, modern flow arts’ definition has broadened to include a more diverse range of activities. The defining feature is not the props themselves, but the experience of flow—deep, effortless involvement that engulfs the performer.

Key modalities in the expansive world of Flow Arts include:

  • Prop Manipulation: The use of tools or ‘props’ like staffs, hoops, and poi to create flowing, rhythmic patterns.
  • Dance: Free expression through rhythmic body movement, allowing a deep connection with music and audience.
  • Martial Arts: A practice of seamless flow of offensive and defensive movements, leading to a dynamic interaction between opponents.
  • Body-Centric Modalities: This category includes forms like Contact Improv, a spontaneous dance that transforms the dancers’ bodies into ‘props’, and Animal Flow, a ground-based practice involving fluid, animal-inspired movements that engage the entire body.

Each of these forms, though distinct in practice, all embrace the concept of flow—immersing the performer in the present moment and fostering a profound sense of connectedness and joy.

Flow Arts, therefore, extends beyond being an art form—it’s a celebration of movement, a platform for self-expression, and a pathway to achieving the state of flow. The tools or ‘props’ used are secondary to the enjoyment and experience of the movement itself.

Inviting elements of flow into your life fosters a sense of presence and contentment, transforming not only your movement practices, but also your broader outlook on life.

If you don’t already have your own flow props, be sure to check out our full inventory of flow props here! Just remember you also don’t need flow props to start your flow arts journey, so don’t let the lack of one stop you from finding fun ways to creatively express yourself through movement.