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The art of flagging dance, often called flag spinning, flag dancing, or rag spinning, but more commonly referred to as flagging, is the undulation, spinning and waving of flags in a rhythmic fashion to music. Practitioners of this form of performance art and dance are usually referred to as "flaggers" and "flag dancers", though until the 1990s this mostly referred to those waving flags to aid transportation professions (flag semaphore).
The origins of flag dancing are said to reach as far back as the development of the earliest neanderthals, though it is unclear if any actual studies have ever been done on the subject. Some point to evidence of flagging in Chinese folklore dating back three thousand years. Others refer to the Maori spooky tribes of New Zealand. Today, there are many Italian flagger troupes tracing their flagging history to the Middle Ages. The lack of hard studies aside, it is reasonable to accept that artistic flagging has probably been around as long as flags themselves.
In addition, it is likely that contemporary flag dancing also drew inspiration from the classic art of fan dancing.
The added weights to the otherwise loose fabric made it possible for the new flaggers to spin and move the fabric through the air in ways similar to fan dancing, but with the added maneuverability of a very flexible material. Flags used by these new flaggers can be of almost any fabric, but silk, organza and lamé are preponderant, with silk being the most favored. Silk flags are usually dyed in vibrant, ultraviolet fluorescent colors, creating an almost hypnotic spectacle when waved rhythmically to music.
Note that this type of flagging, while similar, is distinct from the waving of flags on poles or rods as one would encounter in a color guard unit of a high school or in the military; or for that matter, the Sbandieratori group.
Flagger groups formed in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles in the late 1990s, and were often part of the backdrop of circuit party events. These were soon followed by the formation of troupes in Minneapolis, Seattle, and Houston in the United States, and in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Of these, two operate today as choreographed performance troupes, similar to dance troupes: Axis Danz, founded in New York in 1998 by George Jagatic, and in Texas, the Flyboys of Flag Troupe Houston, founded in 2002.
Performances and conferences have begun forming in various cities, including New York, San Francisco and Dallas. Conferences and workshops happened in 2 or 3 full day events, and taught various techniques from beginner to advanced. A short list of leaders in the community often traveled to most or all of the events, becoming known internationally as contemporary instructors in Flag Dancing.
The annual SpinOut event in San Franscisco includes a series of flagger performances.
The annual Texas Flagger Weekend ran from 2003 - 2009. The event consisted of growing number of flaggers from around the world, peaking in 2008 with 80+ participants. The event had various tracks, from beginners to advanced. In later years, the Weekend expanded to include multiple tracks, a circuit party and a SpinOut performance of their own, inspired by the San Francisco events. The Texas Flagger Weekend was founded by Patric Nast and Phillip Bryan in Dallas in 2003.
In San Francisco, a monthly event called Flagging In The Park is held one Saturday or Sunday during the months between May-Oct. at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park. A live DJ spins tunes and money is raised for charity during the event. Flaggers, Fanner, Poi, Pole and Hoop dancers are all invited to the event.
The art of flagging is usually disseminated from one person to another, one acting as a mentor, and the other as an apprentice, though one can find classes offered in cities with strong flagger presence such as New York, Houston, Dallas and San Francisco. Some flaggers report rapture in the midst of a flagging dance. Flagging is often used to express art, emotion and spiritual connection in the community. In Brazil, the English words "flagger" and "flagging" are now used to specifically refer to this type of dance or performance art.
- Genre Magazine, June 2004
- New York Blade, February 6, 2004
- Edge Magazine, review of Flow Affair documentary by Jim Hauk, August 3rd, 2011.
- Flow Affair; Flagging, Fanning, Poi and Floguing Dance documentary
- Art From The Heart Films, Flow Arts/ LGBT Historic Art Films
- Genre Magazine
- New York Blade
- Axis Danz
- Flyboys of Flag Troupe Houston
- Spin Tribe - Flagger Forum
- Flagger Central - Flagger Resources
- Flagger Boy - Flagger Resources
- Flagger in Brazil