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Saturday Art: Flam Chen (#ArtOutside)

Flam Chen is a ‘new circus’ troupe based out of Tucson, Arizona. They have their origins in Crash Worship, an anarchic performance troupe of the 80s and 90s which was heavily influential. Crash Worship inspired much of modern Burning Man culture and street performance groups like Extra-Action Marching Band, mentioned yesterday on myFDL. The new circus movement is booming right now, with aerial dance, burlesque, acrobatics (and ‘acro-yoga’), fire dancing and related arts more popular than they’ve been in decades.

Stilt-walking 'mantises' and two dancers around a fire

Flam Chen's Rites of Spring, Art Outside 2012 (Photo: Kit O'Connell)

Flam Chen combine modern dance, stilt walking, fire dancing, experimental theater and aerial dance with colorful costumes, modern projection technology and electronic music. They lead Tucson’s annual All Souls Procession, an annual participatory street festival. They expect 50,000 people to attend this year’s procession and 30,000 will participate in some way. This event trains new performers, then draws them into the streets for a weekend-long ‘Day of the Dead’ style festival.

New Stiltwalkers Take their First Steps

Flam Chen's Stiltwalking Workshop, Art Outside 2012 (Photo: Kit O'Connell)

The troupe performed twice at Art Outside 2012. On Friday night, they performed Rites Of Spring, which artistic director Nadia Hagen calls one of their seminal works. About every five years, the troupe revives and revises it for new audiences. This year’s combined fire, quadruped ‘stilt walkers’ dressed like insects, and even a gorgeous aerial silk performance. In keeping with their work at the Procession, they taught over 50 new stilt walkers their first steps during the course of the weekend.

A costumed stiltwalking woman in a balaclava

Flam Chen dancer at Art Outside 2012's Closing Ceremony (Photo: Kit O'Connell)

Flam Chen returned to close out Art Outside’s Sunday night. As the brilliant remixer Pumpkin finished a high-energy set, six members of Flam Chen appeared among the crowd wearing bright balaclavas, with the men’s woven masks looking like devils (or perhaps a Mexican Guy Fawkes). They cavorted, flipped, and danced then led the crowd into dancing with them. Finally, they encouraged the entire festival into a gigantic howling, ohm-chanting group hug.

Six colorful stiltwalkers in a circle

Flam Chen lead Art Outside 2012's Closing Ceremony (Photo: Kit O'Connell)

For more from Flam Chen, see

If you’re near Tucson, Arizona on November 2-4, be sure to check out the All Souls Procession.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and