Fan & Flag Dancing

I have been playing flags and fans since 1990 when Chris Smith, a complete stranger and my mentor to be, saw me twirling my T-shirt on a dance floor in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Without so much as a hello, he snatched my shirt away and put a set of fans in my hands. The rest is, as they say, history.

For those of you who don't know what flag or fan dancing is, I will try to explain.

First of all, the Dance Flag is known by many names: Flags (west coast), scarves (east coast), rags, silks, wings, and many more I'm sure.

The act of dancing with any of the above also has many names: Flagging, spinning, twirling, throwing the rags, swinging, tossing.

Fans, on the other hand, are fans. I've never heard another name for them, but if anyone has another name I'd love to hear it! Fanning or fan dancing is the term for playing the fans.

The dancer swings weighted fabric about their body in a smooth, rhythmic manner. Most often preformed in dance clubs to music; it is also presented in outdoor settings, with or without a boom-box. The outdoor experience often takes on the feel of gorilla theater, spontaneous and unexpected by passers-by. Flaggers have become a standard fixture in Pride Parades, at Burning Man, and at Circuit Parties.

Fan & Flag Dancing has similarities to Poi (or fire balls) from the South Pacific, Gymnastic Ribbon Dancing, Rope Twirling by the cowboys of the classic American west, Baton Twirling for marching bands, nunchucks from the martial arts, and many others.

Personal Reflections on Flag Dancing

Flag DancerIf Flags are a water color painting,
Fans are a color pencil illustration.

The flags create large, loose areas of color. Fans, because they are supported by stiff ribs, can create very precise lines in space. Flags are also less dependent on the dancer. Once you get them going they can fly by themselves.

Fans, on the other hand, want you to direct their every move. Flags are more forgiving of mistakes than fans are.

In experienced hands the fans are infinitely more expressive than flags. They can be manipulated into many more shapes than flags. They can cry, laugh, and throw attitude precisely when and where the dancer wants.

My mentor, Chris Smith, was a fan dancer. When he danced with his fans he could mesmerize an audience. His skills were incredible. He could hang a fan in the air for what seemed like hours. I just wish that I had captured him on video for all new fan dancers to watch. The places that he could push the fans to were breath taking. I was able to take stills of him in action, and you can get a sense of what he was doing. But it's just not the same.

He is missed

Fan & Flag Dancing Photos

Fanning & Flagging Photo Gallery »»

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Building Flags and Fans

Instructions on building your own set of Flags or Fans.

Fan Construction »»
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Flag Construction »»
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