THERE’S SOMETHING RAPTUROUS about watching fabric spin so fast that discrete shapes dissolve into the blurred trails of after-image. Even a few seconds of watching a gifted flag dancer are enough to flip a switch in your mind, unhooking part of your consciousness; it’s the outer border of trance.
Born about thirty years ago in the gay clubs of San Francisco and Chicago, flagging—which is also known as fanning, spinning linen, or rag dancing—has migrated across the United States and as far away as Australia and Brazil. Despite its increasing popularity though, it has remained a private art form, flourishing mainly within the confines of a subset of the gay community, where it lives as both a performance genre and a dance floor phenomenon. That is, flag dancing can be a spectacle, taking place on a stage or raised platform; or it can be a spontaneous expression of individuals at a dance who take out their own flags to dance alone or in groups. Sometimes, both happen at once: a flagging performance inspires those in the audience to join in, casually erasing the boundaries between performers and spectators.
But for those deeply involved in it, flagging is no casual pastime