Flow Going with the Glow

StuyFlow is a community at Stuyvesant that features a unique type of dance involving glow-in-the-dark props.

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By Zoe Oppenheimer

As the music starts to play, a swarm of figures dressed in black rushes onto the dimly-lit stage. With a crack of their glow sticks, they begin an elaborate choreography that resembles fireflies dancing in the dark for the audience. These dancers are part of Stuyvesant’s Flow community, which has been an active part of dance performances, including StuySquad, SING!, Stuyvesant Outlet Showcase (SOS), and recently even more with the founding of StuyLumière.

StuyFlow (formerly StuyRave) started in 2011 as a mental health and recreational club under Angel Colon’s SPARK program. Rave is a form of light dancing specifically at parties and festivals. Though it was centered around this unique form of dance, StuyFlow’s initial goal was to promote the principles of P.L.U.R.R., which stands for peace, love, unity, respect, and responsibility. They created the club to welcome those who felt like they didn’t belong in any other communities at Stuyvesant. As one of the newer forms of dance introduced at Stuyvesant, it attracted students who hadn’t been able to find an interest of their own or wanted to express themselves in a way they couldn’t through other activities such as writing or speaking.

The welcoming atmosphere that the club started with became the reason why it has expanded so significantly over the years. Sophomore Aaron Hsu shared, “I joined Flow in the beginning because it just looked cool, and I ended up staying because of the family—we’re all like one big community.” Now, he is on the board as a leader-in-training to ensure that there is a trained underclassman to lead StuyFlow in the future and to maintain its legacy as a welcoming community. He and the club’s other leader-in-training, Raymond Xu, teach other underclassmen about their duties as members of StuyFlow.

As time passed, the club expanded to include general Flow Arts, a category of movement-based disciplines to which Rave belongs. It incorporates skill-based techniques to carry out creative expression. In fact, it is also described as “moving meditation” because the skill-based aspects bring awareness to their bodies while the creative aspect brings awareness to the present moment.

As the Flow community continued to grow in school, StuyLumière, Stuyvesant’s first official intensive Flow dance team, was created to expand StuyFlow outside of the school. “StuyLumière is a dance team of advanced Flow-ers, who want to take their skills to the next level, to perform in events outside of the school, such as corporate events, charities, hospitals, and the global conference,” said Khandaker Ridwan, leader of StuyLumière. He became involved in Flow after seeing a StuyFlow performance at StuySquad during his freshman year. He had been asked to be the videographer, and as he was recording the show, the Flow performance caught his attention. “They danced gracefully with their beautiful lights like happy fireflies on a starry night,” he described.

Ever since he became president of the club in June 2019, Ridwan has pushed StuyFlow to be involved in more performances. “This year, alongside the three shows at Stuyvesant, we’ll also be performing to the North American Passive House Conference, a competition, corporate performances, other StuyUnity events, and more,” he said.

Since its start, StuyFlow has grown both in its membership and the number of performances it puts on. Co-Vice President Joanna Zheng explained, “[StuyFlow] really went from a more niche club to one of the bigger clubs, just in terms of membership. The increase in interest from students caused an impressive increase in student involvement.”

“During my sophomore year SING! [and] senior SING!, Flow was a group of roughly 30 people,” said Co-Vice President Heiley Tai. “Now it has about 200 members.” In fact, it is predicted to be the biggest crew at this year’s upcoming StuySquad show.

Flow’s growth isn’t limited to Stuyvesant: StuyFlow has had an impact on the growth of the NYC Flow community as well. Though it’s big at Stuyvesant, Flow isn’t as common in other schools. However, this is beginning to change as StuyFlow’s performances are gaining more exposure. “Inspired by our community, Brooklyn Tech High School has created their own flow club, ‘BTHS Glow,’” Ridwan explained.

StuyFlow’s drastic increase in membership has not only garnered attention from other schools but has also caused some shifts in the club’s fundamental structure. Hsu’s status as a leader-in-training, for example, is a new board position added to confirm future executive leaders. Leaders-in-training are involved in board decisions and are assigned tasks which help increase leadership skills, such as reflections, director critiques, leading meetings, planning events and more. Flow is also extremely expensive due to its high tech equipment and the scarcity of the necessary props, and it becomes even more expensive as new members join. As such, StuyFlow has always had a Treasurer. The current Treasurer is senior Evan Zou, who works closely with the President and board to manage the club’s budget and inventory. The treasurer must be organized to ensure the club’s budget processes run smoothly.

Moving forward, StuyFlow plans to expand its initiatives outside of Stuyvesant. Zou expressed his enthusiasm for this, sharing that “this year, we’re actually trying to reach out to the world, and let them know who we are and what our goals are.”

This includes their involvement with Passive House, a specific form of construction and building that reduces energy waste by 90 percent. StuyFlow became involved in this event after Inez Cho and Timothy Shields, the parents of a current Stuyvesant junior, attended StuySquad and were impressed by the dance community at Stuyvesant. At the annual North American Passive House Conference, Cho and Shields, as well as other policy-makers and architects, will help to revise New York City’s energy code while sharing the new ideas of Passive House. StuyFlow is one of the dance crews that is helping to combine the technical principles of Passive House with its art to contribute to efforts to save the Earth. “[I hope this will] become a tradition and spread to other schools in New York City,” Zheng said. “[It’s something] we’re doing as a city to promote Passive House and sustainability and fight climate change.”

Though it came from humble beginnings, StuyFlow continues to attract more members each year because of its captivating performances and welcoming community. It’s clear that each “flow-er,” from general members to leaders, is equally passionate about the Flow family. “Flow definitely got more serious for me in terms of commitment. [This year] I did StuySquad, SING!, SOS, and I’m in StuyLumière now, too,״ senior Samantha Tan said. Ridwan expressed his hopes and love for the crew, saying, “I wish nothing but happiness and success for my crew as I know each and every one of them have problems or baggage they [have] to deal with on the daily. I hope that StuyFlow can be the place where they can leave the baggage in front of the door and walk in with a genuine smile of joy and love and passion.”