Archive for January, 2013

Find Your Flow



Brian Pollett, a local artist, is flowing and glowing using flow lights at Ritual Cafe in San Francisco. Photo by Julie Hannah

Words: Hassina Obaidy

Vibrant colors of light flow in the air as it dances to the rhythm of the music. Illuminating in the free air, the lights go through different modes from ambient lighting, to lighting that leaves trails while it’s moving. The spinner moves to the rhythm and uses the leash to spin around these bright, colorful lights in every direction.

This form of expressive art has caught the eyes and minds of many intrigued beings and has become a new form of expression, meditation, and movement. Flowtoys, an internet based company, specializes in illuminating toys that encourage the exploration of movement. Founded in 2005, Sean von Stade and Prisna Nuengsigkaplan combined their technical, engineering, design, and administrative skills to build this eco-friendly company, which is rapidly growing in the Bay Area.

“The constant challenge and satisfaction of finding my flow in movement has made me feel in tune and in flow with the people and the world around,” says Stade on his company website.

From flowlights to poi’s to flow wands and martial flow, there are a number of unique and durable designs created for amateur spinners and professionals. The Berkeley based company also sells accessories, gear, learning tools, and flow kits for the full flow experience.

The flowlight is the heart of the Modular System- an interchangeable pixel of light that fits in a wide variety of flowtoys, according to Flowtoys. The flowlight is a versatile, incandescent, rechargeable LED glowstick that runs on one AAA battery. Attached to a leash and sold in pairs, poi’s range from weight preference, styles, and light application. Their newest innovation, the podpoi, which has been recently sold out, are made of silicone and are indestructible.

Their current designs are inspired by martial arts, dance, fire spinning, and other forms of expressive movement. Despite the fun and entertaining aspect of lights illuminating and naturally flowing in the air, flow toys are used to challenge oneself with concentration, to help connect the mind and body through increased brain power, and self-improvement and meditation. According to the Flowtoys website, “by engaging in any new practice, you add networks to your brain, which increases your processing power.” In fact, flowtoys, also called flow arts, are also used to relax and clear one’s mind. Spinners put all their energy and focus on movement.

“The flow arts in general has been emerging since the late 90s and the Bay Area has been an important crucible for innovation and evolution,” says Nuengsigkaplan. “Several entities and events in the Bay have been responsible for that evolution: Burning Man brought fire dancing and spinning to the attention of many.”

After pursuing in live digital art painting, which is the creation of live art in a virtual space using modern media such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, or other traditional mediums such as oils, or acrylic paints, Brian Pollet and girlfriend Jessalyn Dean began incorporating flowtoys into their art.

“Utilizing flowtoys is a movement art and dance that can bring a theatrical, ritualistic feeling to any space or event,” says Pollet. “We use flowtoys to bring a joyous expression of dance and celebration to our live painting, we add more of our spirit to a painting this way.”

During their “glow-ventures,” Pollet and Dean travels within the city after hours from one zone to the next and spins their flowtoys to a set musical playlist. They perform at events and small venues like Ritual where they collaborate on a single live painting. While one is painting, the other is dancing and glowing to the music.

Pollet’s choice of flowtoy is poi, which can be purchased from a small herb shop in Berkeley called Happy High Herbs and the Flowtoys Headquarters.

Pollet says anyone can begin spinning and flowing “whether you want to be a performer or you just like being surrounded by brilliant, fractalicious, colors, flow arts is a long process of infinite learning, possibilities, and fun,” he says. “People of all skill levels are more than happy to teach and share, which can make ones entire exploration in flow arts all the more encouraging.”

Drag Queens on Ice



Mutha Chucka poses back stage before her performance to "Santa Baby" in the Drag Queens on Ice show.

Mutha Chucka poses back stage before her performance to “Santa Baby” in the Drag Queens on Ice show.

Words: Kelly Leslie
Photos: Melissa Burman

Kim Chichi dazzles hundreds of people in Union Square, with her A-line cut, fire engine-red hair, and matching painted lips. Dressed in an all-black, glimmering gown, she confidently moves her slim body to the beat of 2009’s hit song by Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance”. Always on point, and never missing a mark, it is obvious that she has performed a time or two in her life. This is only the beginning of the show, and the crowd is already going wild.

Big hair, perfect manicures and twinkling, flashy outfits from head to toe set the scene… the drag queens, and kings of San Francisco hit the stage once again, but this time they’ve traded in their heels for skates. Families from all over the city have come to see them perform at this year’s show, making it the most memorable, annual “Drag Queens on Ice”, since the event started three years ago.
“Every city has drag queens, and every city has ice skating rinks,” says Donna Sachet, who narrated the event as this year’s MC. “Only in San Francisco will you see them put together.”

Naughty Lee Portman elegantly skates to a Black Swan number as part of Drag Queens on Ice in San Francisco's Union Square, Dec. 6, 2012.

Naughty Lee Portman elegantly skates to a Black Swan number as part of Drag Queens on Ice in San Francisco’s Union Square, Dec. 6, 2012.

The event, sponsored by Alaska Airlines and hosted by the Safeway ice rink in Union Square, was originally started for fun, but has become a great opportunity for the LGBTQ community to be visible within the community, according to Mutha Chucka, who performed as “Mrs. Santa Clause” at the show.  She wore a red dress and carried a black fur coat behind her as she lip-synced a version of “Santa Baby” to the crowd. “We’ve got the professional hockey team skating with drag queens,” she says. “Where else does that happen but in SF?”

It is true that the San Francisco Bulls professional hockey team also made an appearance at the event, and joined the drag queens and kings for a meet and greet on the ice.  Dressed in their signature colors, black and orange, they skated with people of all ages from the city.
“It’s a little more of a liberal atmosphere than my home [in Canada], but we want to help and support different cultures,” says Kris Belan, who plays for the bulls.

“Everyone here is very supportive,” says Ian Catindig, also known as miss Kim Chichi, who only had five days to prepare his routine.  “Everyone [here] just wants to watch and have a good time.  As a performer you want to give that to them.”

Catindig has been singing and dancing for fifteen years and ice skating for eleven, but this is the first time he has ever participated in a drag show, but it may not be his last.  “The energy of the crowd… ahh oh my god, I want to do it again!” he says.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence visited the VIP tent at Drag Queens on Ice.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence visited the VIP tent at Drag Queens on Ice.

Filled with holiday treats and top hits music, it was a night to be remembered by all, but perhaps the most memorable part about it was seeing all of the families engaging with the drag queens and kings, according to Mary Chirichella, who performed to a Justin Bieber mashup as Mary Minajet Trois.  “It’s great visibility for the LGBTQIQ community to be out in the middle of Union Square with a bunch of families,” says Chirichella.  “It’s important to get out and support.”

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