Feel the Flow

I’ve been using this term ‘feel the flow’ for several years now as a way to perform, to learn, and to live. At times I’m yelling “FEEL THE FLOW!” at hockey games, basketball games, and sometimes golf tournaments before I’m escorted off the course. I use it most when skateboarding, which is something I’ve continually done for the past 26 years.

There are many styles of skateboarding. There is technical skating, fast skating, big air skating, thrash skating and then there is flow skating. Flowing can invoke all of the styles of skating, but the main key is that it is smooth, relaxed, and looks effortless. With flowing you can skate a nice run and not do one trick, or it could be one solid run of tricks but the flow is so smooth that all the tricks are linked together. This is how I want my improv scenes to be; smooth, relaxed, effortless and to look like I am in complete control of the scene the entire time.

‘Feelin’ the flow’ could be compared to being ‘in the zone’, but I see ‘the flow’ as softer and less concentrated. It just happens. You might not even know it’s happening until later when you look back and reflect. But when you are feelin’ the flow and you know it, it can be relaxing and exhilarating at the same time.

When one skater at the skatepark is in ‘the flow’, it can be contagious and others will sometimes start to ‘feel the flow’. When others join this flow it leads to a fun skate session with everyone supporting each other and pushing each other to accomplish whatever goal or trick they are trying to do, and we might all be strangers but we’re in this session together. When performing improv, I try to get into that ‘feel the flow’ mode. I try to read my other scene partners and feel their energy. I try to flow with them and at the same time, to get them to flow with me. If we can get everyone on stage ‘flowing’ together, we’re going to have a good scene and a good show. But just like in skating, you can fall, and that fall can break the flow. You just have to shake it off, make sure your body parts still move like they’re supposed to, and get right back in the flow. Of course if you can just roll out of the fall, it makes it a lot easier to get back into the flow. If your scene is falling apart, recognize that, and then focus back on your scene partner and reconnect with them. Roll out of it and ‘feel the flow’.

Something that I have always loved about skateboarding and that I also find in improv at times is being on the edge of being out of control. Pushing your board just a bit more, knowing that too much could send you flying, just like taking risks on stage could send the scene into a dive. But when you make that trick, or your improv risk works and the crowd laughs, it’s an exciting rush. We have to take risks to accomplish something new. Flowing can be doing what you know and letting it feel good, but adding something new and different can lead to your next flow session being even better.

For me, the first few times dropping in on an 11′ halfpipe standing on a piece of wood and four wheels was just as scary as stepping onto the stage the first few dozen times. Now they are both just the first step to getting into the flow and having a great session/scene.

Feel the flow of the scene. Embrace it. Feel it. React to those feelings. React to the flow of the scene. Feel the flow.

“Let it flow, let yourself go….” – Beastie Boys


-Chadwick Smith