B-Boy Essay, Research Paper
The Origin of the Flare
The first Flare was done by Canadian gymnast Phillip Delassal in the mid-1970’s. It was seen and bit by American Kurt Thomas and competed at the World Gymnastics Championships. The skill is often referred to as a Thomas, or a Thomas Flare because he was the first to use the skill at the World Championships, but props need to be given where they are due and Delassal was the innovator of this now common trick.
The Flare is a modification of the most basic element on Pommel Horse, the Double Leg Circle. Often Breakers will refer to the D.L.C. as a legs together flare, but this is a mistake since the Circle has existed for well over a century! The Flare is a straddled Double Leg Circle.
The Flare was first done on the Pommel Horse, then taken to the Floor Exercise by gymnasts and then to the dance floor by Bboys. No Bboy should ever be ashamed of the origin of any of our moves. We have borrowed moves from many styles of human movement and other forms of dance. A perfect example is “the Swipe” which is borrowed from an African tribal dance. Bboys have done things with these moves that never occurred to those at the source, and this originality is the heart of Bboying.
1. The Double Leg Circle (D.L.C.): The Double Leg Circle is the basic gymnastics element performed on Pommel Horse and it this movement on which the Flare is based. The legs are together and straight as they perform an elevated circle in the horizontal plane. During the entire performance of the skill the body is suspended on the hands.
2. The Delassal or Thomas Flare: A D.L.C. performed in the straddle position.
3. Front Support: Front Support is the start of a push up position. Imagine prone position with the arms straight and the body tight.
4. Rear Support: The opposite of Front Support. Imagine sitting down in a Pike position with your hands on the floor beside you. Now lift your bottom off the floor so that the body is held tight and straight. Your fingers should be pointing either towards the toes or out to the side. All that is touching the floor is your hands and your heels.
5. Side Support: With your body out to one side hold yourself in Support. Only one hand and the outside of one foot should be touching the floor. The body should be held straight and tight.
6. Flanking Forwards: When you are moving from Front Support through Side Support to Rear Support.
7. Flanking Backwards: When you are moving from Rear Support through Side Support to Rear Support.
8. Planche: The word Planche is french for board. It is a strength hold move where you hold your body parallel to the floor. Imagine front support with your feet off the floor or a handstand with the body parallel to the floor. It can be done tucked, Straddled or for the most advanced, with the legs together.
9. Centre of Gravity (C.O.G.): The Centre of Gravity is the point around which the body rotates. It is also the balance point of the body. Every object has a Centre of gravity for humans it is located close to the belly button. Think of a handspin and you can get the concept of the C.O.G. being both the Balance Point and the Centre of Rotation.
10. Base of Support (B.O.S.): The name is self explanatory. Any object resting on another has a B.O.S. A object (or person) is stable if the C.O.G. is over the B.O.S. If the C.O.G. is located outside the B.O.S. the object will fall. The wider the base of support the easier it is for the C.O.G. to be within the base and therefor the more stable the object.
11. Torque: Torque is a force applied at a point away from an objects C.O.G. This off centre force causes rotation. The same example from #9 of a handspin is a good example of torque. When you push off the floor with your free hand in order to initiate rotation in a handspin that is Torque.
Understand the Flare
The Flare is a variation of the D.L.C. on Pommel Horse. Mechanically it represents a combination of pendulum and circumpendulum actions. Wide spread of legs during rotation of C.O.G. along an elliptical trajectory allow the performer to reach maximum amplitude with relatively small efforts.
Every one got that? Here comes the regular English version…
1. While flanking forward the left leg must drive towards the left ear. The driving of this leg elevates the hips and causes a reaction which effectively pulls the right leg under the left towards rear support.
2. While in side support flanking forward the shoulders must lean to the right in order to keep the C.O.G. over the B.O.S. This theme of leaning your shoulders in order to remain stable occurs in every phase of your Flare. While doing a Flare you must always lean your shoulders in the direction opposite from your extended swinging leg.
3. While in rear support the body should be as stretched as possible. A common mistake is to pike the body in the front of the Flare. Do not pike! Stretch as big as possible, imagine trying to paint as large a circle as possible with your Flare. A common misconception is that the Flare should be high in the front, but going too high in the front will cause you to go too low in the back. A well done Flare appears to be high in front because of extended hips and the wide spread of the legs.
4. While flanking backwards it is extremely important that you drive your right leg to your right ear. The driving of this leg elevates the hips and causes a reaction which effectively pulls the left leg under the right leg towards front support (If this sound similar to #1 it should, the two sides of the Flare are essentially mirror images of each other).
5. While in the side support flanking backwards you should use active flexibility to try and hold your right leg up a little moment longer (Active flexibility is using your muscular strength to hold a stretching position). This extra effort will help to decelerate your Flare and allow the performer arrive in the back of the Flare (front support) with both a high back and wide spread of legs.
6. You should arrive in front support (the back of your flare) in a Planche or high Planche position with the legs wide spread. From this position you are ready to drive your left leg up again to begin another Flare (See step #1).
The Start Position
A Flare is generally started from a front support position. Even if you are starting standing up as soon as you place a hand on the floor in front of you, you are starting in a modified front support. Flares can be done from rear support, but it is best learnt from front support. Also most combinations into Flares are started in some modified form of front support.
Most gymnasts start in a typical front support. They then modify the front support by stepping their right leg off to their right hand side. They then use this off centre position and their hands on the floor in order to Torque and begin their Flare. With both hands on the floor you can cause Torque by trying to turn the floor as though it was a giant steering wheel.
Most Bboys start in a modified front support. From a stand they step their right leg off to their right hand side and probably slightly to their rear. The left leg bends in order to lower the C.O.G. to a more appropriate level. The right hand is then placed on the floor in front of the performer and the straight right leg then swings low to the floor in a clockwise direction until it virtually knocks the left leg out from underneath.
In either case the directions from above in “Understand the Flare” are accurate.
Tips to Learn a Flare
1. Improving your flexibility will assist the learning process greatly. Work your splits in all three directions (middle, left leg forward, and right leg forward). Hold every stretch for 30 seconds or more to achieve maximum benefit.
2. Improve your strength. developing general upper body strength through a conditioning program will help, but specific conditioning will be helpful also. One example of a specific conditioning element you can do is to develop your Planche strength (see “Terminology”).
You can begin to learn a tucked Planche with relative ease by starting in a squat position with your hands on the floor in front of you. Keeping your elbows straight and knees together and tucked close to your chest, lean your shoulders forward until all of your weight comes off of your feet and you are actually able to lift your feet off the ground. Build up to being able to hold this position for 10 seconds.
Once this position has been mastered practice opening your tucked Planche to a 90 degree opening in the hips. Build up to being able to hold this position for 10 seconds.
Once this position has been mastered practice opening into a straddle Planche with your hips open. The wider you are able to straddle your legs the easier it is to hold. This position looks virtually identical to the back of a Flare.
3. Put your belly button over your hands. Remember from the “Terminology” section that your C.O.G. is very close to your belly button. If you can always shift your weight so that your belly button is over your support hand (or in the middle of your two hands when they are both on the floor) you will remain stable in your Flare. A training partner can watch you for this error.
4. Don’t try to go high in the front. Stretch in the front and work on getting high in the back by driving your leg to your ear and trying to hold it there for a moment as you pass around to front support. Too high in the front means too low in the back.
5. Have fast hands. Having slow hands, especially a slow hand while flanking backwards to front support is a common problem. Focus on hand speed and do not allow yourself to Czech. A Czech is when your Flare turns in the direction opposite of a Spindle (see below). Your Flare is doing a Czech if you begin a Clockwise Flare facing the wall in front of you and begin to turn to face the wall to your right hand side.
6. If you work and work and work and still can’t learn a Flare, join your local mens gymnastics club and practice on their “mushroom”. If you are a handy Bboy, you could build one yourself. A mushroom is a elevated platform approximately three feet around that looks like, well, like a giant mushroom! It is usually padded on top and can be at any number of heights (in fact most are adjustable). A Mushroom allows you to perform multiple Flares and to get the feel of the action even if your feet dip below floor level.
Tips to Improve your Flare
1. Hand speed is of extreme importance. An excellent drill for hand speed is to practice a Spindle. A Spindle is a where your body is turning in the direction opposite your Circle. For example if your Flare is a Clockwise Flare (viewed from above) then your body rotates in a Counter-Clockwise direction.
This sounds very confusing so here is a simple way to practice a Spindle. Put two strips of masking tape on the floor crossing each other in the middle to form a big plus sign (+). Call the top left hand corner “1″, the top right hand corner “2″, the bottom left hand corner “3″, and the bottom right hand corner “4″.
Begin performing Flares with your hands in three and four. Then while flanking backwards turn your right shoulder forwards with extra speed to try and arrive in front support with your left hand still in three, but now your right hand in one. As your Flare continues by flanking forwards pull your left shoulder back with extra speed to try to arrive in rear support with your right hand still in one, but now your left hand in two. Now continue to Flare. You will have just performed a half spindle.
Flare to Handstand
The prerequisites for performing a Flare to Handstand are, of course, good consecutive Flares and a good handstand pirouette. Make certain that your handstand pirouette and your Flare are in the same direction (ie. If viewed from above they must either both be clockwise, or both counter-clockwise). Here are some drills to help you learn a Flare Handstand.
1. Practice a press to handstand with your legs flanked off to one side. Your legs should be off to the side that will be your flanking backwards phase of the Flare.
2. From the same position as drill #1 bend your top leg (the one that would be driving to your ear) and put your foot flat on the floor. Use the bent leg to push off the floor and jump towards handstand. Your other leg, which should remain straight, may drag slightly along the floor on your way to handstand.
3. In drill #2 and in the actual performance of a Flare to Handstand it is imperative to backwards pirouette. To understand the backwards pirouette I will use the masking tape example from the Spindle description in “How to Improve your Flare”. Imagine starting your Clockwise Flare with your left hand in one and your right hand in two. As you flank backwards your right hand must reach under your body so that you arrive in handstand with your left hand still in one, but your right hand now in three. This encourages the correct lean of the shoulders necessary to arrive in handstand and develops a smooth turn in handstand for combinations like Flare to 1990.
4. Perform a Flare that is very stretched in the front. While flanking backwards really drive your leg towards your ear and try to hold it there for a moment. These two things will help decelerate your Flare and allow you to lift your back in front support. Make certain that you do the backwards pirouette described in #3. If done correctly the Flare to Handstand can be done without the feet dragging on the floor and into a very fast turning handstand.
Great Combo’s I’ve Seen…
A 1988 Olympian from the Soviet Union named Gogoladse was the first person to perform a Flare to Handstand Pirouette back into Flares. This Combo is called a “Gogoladse”.
Chris from the Canadian Floor Masters was the first person I ever saw do a Flare to Headspin in the Mid 80’s.
A former gymnast I used to coach named Ben Potvin became Canadian Floor Champion in 1997 with the following Flare Combo after one of his tumbling lines…Full Spindle to Handstand Pirouette back to Flares into a Gogoladse into another Gogoladse into a Full Spindle into a Windmill. Ben is now a performing artist with Cirque du Soleil in Los Vegas.
Trevor from the Canadian Floor Masters was the first person I ever saw do Flare to Turtle to Flare in the Mid 80’s
All the common ones like; Flare to Swipes
Swipes to Flare
Flare to Windmill
Windmill to Flare
Flare to 1990
And Variations on the Above…ie. Flare to Halo instead