History of the Human Flag: Creation of the apparatus and technical vocabulary

It all began in 2006. At this time, I was a circus trainer, a member of the National trampoline team, founder and athletic director of the ITECQ trampoline Club. In addition, I continued to be an active circus artist as well as performing my solo and duo strap act whenever the opportunity presented itself. Having retired my duo hand-to-hand act in 2005, I had to find a new discipline, a new act to fill this gap.

I threw myself into free running parkour. I viewed a parkour video on You Tube and was immediately hooked by this discipline. During 2006, and early 2007, I posted many videos of free running and acrobatics on YouTube. As the popularity of my videos increased, the more enthusiastic I became about my new interest. Having seen numerous performances by Cirque du Soleil coupled with my gymnastics background I was able to integrate some of their basic moves into my videos. The feedback from my viewers' comments on my videos gave me confidence and confirmed that I was moving in the right direction. The viewers thoroughly enjoyed my performance as a human flag. As a result, I decided to create more videos re-integrating the human flag with interesting variations such as: chin-ups, vertical air moonwalk, and « the suns ».

The idea of the air moonwalk came to life during a workshop: exploring various ways to walk in the air with artists during the creation of 'Le Rêve, directed by Franco Dragone'. This is when I created the vertical air moonwalk. It then dawned on me that I should try and present these flags (the Human Flag) onto the stage and to attempt to create a marketable product in the form of physical prowess.

My original idea was to sell and market an act that featured 3 different, 2-minute performances accompanied by a host. I began reflecting on the possibility of a creation of a future apparatus. I asked myself the following questions: What could I use as a pole that would be able to sustain and provide all the functions that the Human Flag act would need? What kind of apparatus could I create that would be quick and simple to set up for short performances of prowess? It was during a performance that I stumbled on the answer to my questions. I noticed a tripod that was holding a large speaker and was immediately inspired! The next day I found myself in a retail store that specialised in sound and lighting. I asked to see the biggest and strongest tripod in the store. I tried it out in the store and bought it on the spot. And that was my first portable Chinese pole, a Manfrotto.

During the same month, namely June of 2007, I received two phone calls which would change the course of my life. The first phone call was from a German television show that was all about setting Guinness World Records. The producers of the show had discovered my videos of the Human Flag on You Tube and asked me if I was interested in setting a new record. Without any hesitation, I accepted the challenge. Six months later, November 2007, I established the first Guinness World Record in the Human Flag: 39 seconds in the Human Flag position with holding a perfect horizontal line with my legs together. The second phone call from a French-Canadian television show was looking for a very specific act. It was a friend of mine who had referred me to this show. Unfortunately, on such short notice I didn't feel I had the means to answer their specific criteria. After giving it some thought I answered: 'No, I don't do this and the guy who does is a Russian, and will be difficult to get on such short notice. On the other hand I do perform a Human Flag act'. I sent them one of my videos featuring a couple of different movements as the Human Flag. They responded by asking for the full length video within a 3-day delay. Without hesitation I answered, 'No problem'.

But in reality, I did not even have an act, let alone even think of creating one! Consequently, I spent the next 3 days at the Québec circus school creating my new act on my Manfrotto: creating moves, choreography, developing a concept and adjusting the Manfrotto. This hard work resulted in a new performance which uses a series of sequenced combinations which I was able to put on video. I still was not yet able to perform this new act from beginning to end. After much practice, my determination and hard work paid off. The Human Flag act premiered live across the nation for the opening act of the Montreal symphony orchestra directed by Maestro Kent Nagano. After the success of this first performance, I had the chance to present the Human Flag act at numerous corporate events, festivals and special events with Cirque Éloize. At this point, I was still performing my act on my original portable stand, which had no rotation option.

During the following year, I heard of a great artist, Dima Shine, an artist who performs an exceptional contortion and handstand act with a rotating pole. In his act, he integrated the human flag skill. However, what really sparked my interest was the way he executed air moonwalk while his apparatus was rotating. Dima is still an active performer. He uses a portable pole representing a lamppost with a light at the top. The ability to rotate during the act is what separates his act from the rest. This rotation adds a whole new dynamic and dimension to the act. Dima's pole is regulated by a motorized computer resulting in having the pole rotate a quarter turn at a time. A few of my friends had told me about him but I was very apprehensive at first. I didn't want to copy someone else's idea. The thought of a complicated, heavy and motorized apparatus did not appeal to me.

Things changed when it came time to perform on the televised show: 'La France a un incroyable talent'. For my first 2-minute performance, I created a new act to my favourite soundtrack by Craig Armstrong from my favourite movie, 'Love Actually'. For my second performance, I used a piece of music that I had previously worked to and created another short performance while integrating a new skill which I invented: 'Struli'. Following this performance, I was selected to come back for the finals. Finals presented a more difficult challenge. At this point, I had already presented all my movement vocabulary for this apparatus and if I wanted to stand a chance at winning I needed to bring something new to the stage.

This is when the idea of the rotating pole came back to my mind. I acted upon my instincts and made a phone call to Jean-Marc Cyr from Quebec city, who specializes in set designs, special effects etc... We set a meeting up to discuss the requirements for the next version of my portable pole. We wanted to keep the Manfrotto design and add in the rotation option. We came up with new design. Shortly after, a prototype came to life and my first four legged rotating tripod was born!

I quickly created a 3rd number for the finals of the '2008 La France a un incroyable talent'.

In the end, I placed 4th in the voting category and won the Princess of Monaco prize which enabled me to participate in the 'International Monte Carlo Festival'. For this festival, I decided to link each one of my acts presented at the 'La France a un incroyable talent' from the 1st to the 3rd show. This is how my new version of the Human Flag act was born and went on to be presented around the world for the following few years.

Since 2008, I have participated in over 1000 various types of shows, in over 30 countries, 70 television shows and one international commercial (Men's Vasoline). Therefore, over 500 million people have had the chance to see this performance.

The Human Flag act is a unique creation, featuring a new discipline where the human being is acting as a flag oscillating in the wind.

Copyright 2011 by Dominic Lacasse. Website by FW4.