The following article is reprinted from the July/August 2004 Teach-In that appeared in JUGGLE magazine.
Flower Sticks – Watch Out for Your Head
The light weight and flexibility of most flower sticks make them a relatively safe prop to manipulate around your head. I’m qualifying this with the word ‘relatively’ because heads are valuable. A strong case can be made that the head is the most important (and fragile) part of a human body.
Again, if you are sticking with a light, flexible flower stick with soft ends, the four moves covered in this issue can be fun. Even so, don’t forget to watch out for your eyes and ears.
For stickers willing to put in the time, these moves can also be done with a devil stick. When you realize that professionals catch bowling balls on the backs of their necks and heavy vases on their heads, the weight and rigidity of a devil stick doesn’t seem that much of a problem. Still, I recommend that you learn these moves with a flower stick, with soft ends.
Not as sinister as is sounds, the Guillotine is a nice way to acknowledge your audience with a bow as you play with the sticks. The goal is to have center stick roll across the back of your neck.
From a regular Tic Toc move, send the center stick up and across a bit higher than for a normal return. Begin the move from your right side and the center stick will have a vertical, counterclockwise spin as you view it.
Wait until the top half of the center stick spins down, so it doesn’t hit you in the side of the face. After the top half of the center stick rotates down, out of the way, lean forward so the middle of the center stick flies up to the back of your neck.
The spot just below the midpoint of the center stick should be the first area to contact your neck. Gravity will then add to the spinning momentum of the center stick, so it rolls from right to left across the back of your neck. (see illustration)
Bring your left hand up to anticipate catching the center stick just after it rolls off of the left side of your neck.
Two final thoughts: 1) Depending on when the center stick contacts your neck, the center stick rolls for approximately 180 degrees while it is making contact. The rest of the time the center stick flies freely in the air. 2) The move is much easier if more than half of the stick is above your neck at the initial point of contact. In this position gravity helps the stick to roll in the direction that you desire. This same idea of using gravity to assist the prop in rolling over various parts of the body is frequently used by baton twirlers, when performing body rolls.
Turn your center stick into a kinetic piece of jewelry with the Necklace. The idea is to have the center stick roll horizontally across your shoulders and the back of your neck.
Begin by spinning a clockwise Helicopter. Keeping the flat spin, pop the center stick up off of your right handstick, so it flies up to your neck. Meet the center stick with your body by making a quarter-turn to your left.
A spot just shy of the center the stick should be the first point of contact with your neck. This will help you in balancing the center stick along your neck as you turn into the horizontal roll of the stick. By the time the center stick is ready to roll off of your neck, it will have contact with your neck on the other side of the midpoint of the stick.
Keep turning into the center stick with your body. The center of the center stick rolls across the center of the back of your neck. Seen from above, you are turning in a counterclockwise direction while the center stick turns in a clockwise direction. It may be helpful to think of the relationship between two gears. (see illustration)
Properly executed, neither the center stick nor either handstick should come in contact with your head for the Bowtie. Instead, the center stick, your hand, and one handstick make a nice, well-timed arc around the back of your head.
One way to think of a Bowtie is to imagine a curved, horizontal Curl that passes behind your head, instead of a standard Curl that is mostly vertical. In both moves you support the center stick with a diagonally held handstick. Centripetal force, created by the circular motion of your hand and handstick, prevents the center stick from rolling off of the handstick.
Begin with a low Overhand Curl with your right hand. The center stick is spinning horizontally at about neck height in a clockwise direction, if a passing bird were to look down on it. Keep your right arm extended far enough out to the right side so the center stick doesn’t run into your neck.
Begin the actual Bowtie movement just after one end of the center stick passes by your neck.
Immediately after the center stick passes by your neck, bring your right hand behind your head. This involves raising your right elbow high enough so your elbow passes over your head. At the same time you need to bend your wrist so the handstick points down, instead of up. (see illustration)
Time your arm motion with the rotation of the center stick and you will be able to pass the center stick behind your head, with no collision. The center stick is parallel to your shoulders as it passes directly behind your head. This lets you pass the center stick close to your head, without needing to maintain enough distance for the ends clear.
By the time the ends swing around to hit your head, you will be finished tying the Bowtie.
Most flower sticks are light enough that you can easily pop them up to the top of your head for a quick spin on the old noggin.
Begin with a nice, easy Helicopter spin.
Keeping the center stick spinning horizontally, flip the center stick up and back with your right handstick just high enough so the center stick lands on your head. You want the center stick to land on the top of your head, not your face, so don’t look up to make sure it is landing in the correct position. This means that the last part of the catch is blind.
Ideally, the center stick lands just shy of the middle of your head. The rotation of the center stick will help it spin across your head, to drop off of the other side. Raise your left handstick to catch the center stick after it has completed the Headspin. (see illustration)