light up the night

Students at Cal Poly express themselves through flow arts, a glow-in-the-dark, movement-based discipline including dance, juggling, fire-spinning, and object manipulation.


Spinning streaks of colorful light captivated an audience gathered on the Cal Poly campus, where three individuals manipulated colorful LED props that lit up the night sky. When they stopped, they were met with cheers for an encore.

SLO GLO is a glow-in-the-dark flow arts club on campus, where members combine skill-based movement with personal expression while using props that glow to practice their art and entertain those watching their performances. The club holds events on campus and at locations in the San Luis Obispo area.

For almost 10 years, the SLO GLO has provided a place for students to learn and practice Flow Arts, a broad term used to describe a way of manipulating and dancing with a prop. The original members started out mostly spinning glow sticks on strings, but their practice has now evolved to include more art forms and performances with a variety of LED Flow Arts props and styles.

President and mechanical engineering senior Nick Tuong said that the first time he saw a SLO GLO performance, he was mesmerized.

“I absolutely loved how they twisted and twirled and jumped and leaped with all these light patterns, and the only thing that I could think about at the time, besides ‘oh my god, that’s amazing,’ is ‘I have to be able to do that,’” Tuong said.

According to Tuong, Flow Arts is a combination of succeeding and failing. Each new move comes with its own challenges to work through.

“It’s like having a new box of crayons,” Tuong said. “You have no idea what these new colors are, but when you have them it leaves a lot of room for creativity.”

Once a member has become proficient at Flow Arts, they are able to graduate to Fire Arts.

“You just feel so alive, and time stops, and it’s just you and the fire,” Tuong said.

“You just feel so alive, and time stops, and it’s just you and the fire”

NICK TUONG

Along with the beauty and satisfaction of mastering skill-based techniques, many people who practice Flow Arts achieve the mind-state of “flow.” According to Fund the Flow, Flow is defined as the mental state in which a person is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and success in the process of an activity in which they are engaged.

Trevor Robertson, the co-president of SLO GLO and an architecture sophomore, said a person can get into this flow state while practicing. He describes the state as “getting into your own head space, a Zen mode where you can really feel the rhythm of the music, nature or what you’re spinning.”

Robertson said he feels this flow state most, however, when he is performing.

“I usually zone out and focus on myself and the music,” he said.

Alternatively, when Robertson focuses on the crowd he finds a lower stress environment.

“It’s really fun because I get to feed off [the crowd’s] energy, and in turn sometimes they feed off of my energy, and everyone really hypes each other up,” he said.

Past president and co-founder Trent Ellingsen helped establish SLO GLO club in 2009. For him, Flow Arts transformed from something he disregarded the first time he encountered it online to a hobby he wanted to teach others. Ellingsen was responsible for introducing Fire Poi to the club, a style of performance art SLO GLO practices at the beach. The club now performs around campus and the Central Coast community regularly.

Club secretary and biology sophomore Ella Griego said that as soon as she found and joined the group, she knew she would never leave it.

“I love everyone who is in the community. I’ve never met a mean flow artist ever in my life,” Griego said. “It’s like we’re a giant family.”

McKenna Roberson, Taylor Barnett and Leanna Newby contributed to this story.

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