In the middle of the pandemic, it’s almost a certainty that people are spending more time on social media. Scrolling through the various feeds, you might see an interesting sight: prop dance. It might have been called flow arts, prop manipulation, spinning, dance, or fire arts. Essentially, it’s just when someone is dancing around with or without music, utilizing an instrument (prop) of some kind. It might have been balls on strings (poi), a hoop, staff, juggling, or any of the wide variety of props to choose from. Either way, in this article we will discuss it all under the broad category of “prop dance”.
In my first five years of spinning, I’ve noticed a plethora of benefits to the long term practice of moving or dancing on a near daily basis. Prop dance is an art form that contains many tricks to learn, constantly allowing for progression. As well, it allows for any individual to build a healthy relationship with themselves. Last but not least, having access to play on a daily basis is always a wonderful thing. There are definitely more things to look forward to, but these three items are incredibly beneficial just by themselves.
Let’s dive in:
Endless Tricks for Constant Progression
One hallmark of a valuable hobby is one that contains a continuous sense of direction and purpose. It’s inspiring and just a bit intimidating to see those who have been working with a prop for a few years, but there’s no reason to worry. Anyone can achieve a high level of control over any prop. I remember when I first started into spinning, I felt so awkward and clumsy compared to the people who were years ahead of me.
During the journey, there will always be something to look forward to. Sometimes tricks are learned through self exploration, and others are learned through skill sharing. Regardless of where they come from, there’s a great sense of development, even years into any given prop. Rope dart is the prop that i’ve spent the most time on, and I still constantly find new tricks and inspiration to keep me wanting to pick it up and dance!
This is something that really can make the engagement and enjoyment last or not. Sure, it’s fun to achieve a high level of control, but there’s nothing quite like the moments where a trick randomly unlocks or someone blows your mind with a trick you’ve never seen before. For that reason, boredom is something you’ll almost never have to worry about when it comes to spinning a prop.
Besides, there are so many props to choose from, even if you feel like there’s no way forward on your current prop, there’s always a way forward through learning multiple props. Many of the skills learned from one will transfer to others and allow this wonderful feeling of understanding the basic physics behind these various instruments.
Prop Dance Movement as Meditation and/or Self-Care
When it comes to self care, many people think of relaxing and enjoying their favorite show on Netflix, or of spending time with friends and loved ones. Many people forget that in a society filled with distraction, some of the most valuable self care is the kind that engages a clear headspace and genuine introspection.
Prop dance, luckily, is fantastic for this. There’s nothing quite like the time you can spend with a prop. Dancing and spinning, with or without music, allows for people to spend valuable self time in a near meditative way. That’s why I like to refer to spinning as a form of movement meditation, similar to how a runner might feel in the midst of their trek, or a painter might feel while moving their brush across a canvas.
This kind of movement meditation is accessible through a variety of means, some people get it simply from just walking! Although, prop spinning tends to be a simple and fun way to allow for self engagement, and this kind of quality time can really help build confidence and understanding of the self. Feeling the expression of yourself as you spin (as shown by style, pace, choice of music, choice of prop, etc.) creates this sense of understanding about what is uniquely you.
It’s impossible to describe with words how lovely it feels to achieve this sense of peace with one’s self, as well as the endorphins that come from enjoying a good bit of exercise! Why not go try it out?
Play, play, play!
Why is play so important? Well, that is the very essence of what prop dance is. It is, underneath all the complexities of it, a form of play. Props are very similar to toys, and time spent with them is most worth it if it is fun. There’s less sense of engagement without enjoyment, and there sure is a lot to be found within this art form.
Sometimes learning tricks can bog down the mind, comparative mindsets creep in as extremely experienced spinners post impressive content. This is common, it happens to almost every artist on the face of the earth. In the case of prop dance, though, it is as easy as reminding oneself that the entire point of it is to play. To enjoy the self, the body, movement, life, breathing, and feeling the expression of self. To stop grinding the gears and just be present with the instrument. Play!
Sure, it might feel silly at times. It might feel like if you don’t take it seriously you’re not doing it justice, but I would argue it’s the opposite. By enjoying the process and the time spent with a prop, it engages a more playful and explorative mindset. I find that some of my favorite tricks found through self exploration were all discovered in a mindset of play. I was just messing around, playing with the physics of the prop, and boom! Something cool happened.
After reading this article, my hope is that anyone on the fence about picking up a prop will feel inspired to do so. There are so many good reasons to spin. The value of play, learning, and self exploration are only a couple of the myriad of benefits artists have noticed over the years. For me, the play state is the most important, as it helps melt away the frustration of comparative thinking and allows for me to simply enjoy myself and the time I spend with my props. Till next time!
Written by Scott Thompson.