In all the years I have been flairing I have noticed the different styles from around the world, from one side of the planet to the other, continent to continent and country to country.
We'll start with the two biggest types of flair styles in the world: American style and European style, or "Juggling" and "UK" (as I'll now refer to them). First off, what is the difference and how did they get their names?
Simply put, juggling does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a style that involves the classic pattern you see from professional jugglers. You'll see it a lot in the 3 bottle sequences in flair bartenders' routines, but you will also notice it in other sequences, from two tin bottle to 4 tin bottle. European, as it has come to be known, but started as UK style, steps away from the classic juggle pattern and tends to use a lot of different throws, grabs and movement with the body. Generally the flair is happening from one side of the bartender to the other, rather than in front of them.
Nicholas St Jean was the first guy to adopt a UK style of flair bartending (basically creating it) which stemmed from him performing a three bottle routine without using the classic juggle style we had seen before. The Americas is predominantly where you find this style of flair, from Argentina all the way up to Canada.
So what's the big deal and why do people care. WELL, this is where it gets tricky. The argument is as follows:
Bartender A: "Juggling style is not creative and everyone in flair using the juggle style is doing the same moves. There is no movement in the body and it is simply the same moves over and over, performed in a slightly different way with varying objects."
Bartender B: "Yeah, well it is much more difficult because all the objects are being used and you are switching them in the air."
Bartender A: "Just because all the objects are being used, doesn't make a move any better, harder or more creative. I can do a move with one bottle that's harder than most juggle moves. Plus I am using more styles of grabs, throws, snatches, and taps. It is much more varied and no one is copying what I do because they can't, or they simply can't keep up because my flair is more creative."
Bartender B: "Juggling is much more visual, harder and more intense. Most of the people in flair are juggling, so it must be right. It has been around for years and some of the best in the world were flair jugglers."
Bartender A: "You already mentioned it was harder and I argued that point, but I will concede that some of the best in the world have used a juggle style. However, these days the best bartenders are adopting the UK style of flair and becoming a lot more creative and opening up new doors."
....and so it goes on.
There will never be a happy medium, simply due to the different opinions of bartenders across the world, which is what makes flair so exciting and diverse.
That being said, as we take a closer look at flair styles, it is noticeable how they differ from country to country, and the reason for this is because one flair bartender will dominate the flair scene in a particular region and everyone will inadvertently copy them, taking on their particular moves and routines. For example, André Guerreiro from Portugal won most of the competitions years ago and some of the other bartender subconsciously picked up some of his mannerism.
"You will notice that most of the big names in flair have their own styles of flair, and I think their individuality is the reason they rise to prominence in the first place."
Szabolcs Soros in Hungary had a specific way of doing things and, when he started winning everything, again the younger guys mimicked his patterns. The Delpech brothers from Argentina, both multiple world champions, have influenced many around the world.
Nicholas St Jean also has a lot of followers in France and beyond. When I started out, the UK had a TGi Fridays style of flair. Everything was kept close to the body and involved a lot of simple effective moves with one bottle and one tin.
As we move around the world, we are now seeing of lot of countries adopting other people's patterns, moves and sequences, which leads us nicely to a new style of flair that has come about. I call it the "split, snatch catch". With more and more objects being used in flair, a lot more tins are being utilised, so the split, snatch, catch method comes into play. This simply involves, splitting the objects in the air, snatching a few of them and catching the rest. Here are some definitions for those who have no idea what I am talking about:
- Split: To throw a mixture of a bottle and one or more tins, or just multiple tins, so that they slide apart and separate in the air.
- Snatch: This is when you snatch a bottle or tin out of the air with a tin. It is a powerful move and you can snatch a tin, then another and a bottle with the same hand.
- Catch can be any of the following. Nest - landing a bottle or a tin inside another tin; Stall - balancing the bottle or tin on your hand, arm, elbow etc; Grab - grabbing the bottle or tin with a free hand or finger.
If you are still with me you can see how tedious it can get, and why I am not a big fan of it. Split, snatch, catch, split, snatch, catch........blah blah blah.
Let's talk about individual bartenders and their styles. You will notice that most of the big names in flair have their own styles of flair, and I think their individuality is the reason they rise to prominence in the first place. It is very simple to create your a style. Everyone has their own personality and imagination, and if you put this into your flair you will blaze your own trail.
- Christian Delpech has a Latino style of flair; it's fluid and smooth, and moves with the music.
- Nicholas St Jean - The French perfectionist. Again, a great smooth style that can make any move look good no matter what he does.
- Danilo Oribe has a unique, very clean and precise method of flair.
- Rodrigo Delpech uses very little movement, but is known for launching multiple objects in the air.
- Marek Posluzsny is a supreme showman, with powerful moves and lots of variety.
- Tomek Malek has big, powerful moves all round, and a lot of movement on stage.
I could go on. What we all need to remember with all these different styles, is simply why we do it and where it all came from. In my eyes, one bottle and one shaker is still the king of the variations. You can tell a good flair bartender by watching their bottle and tin sequence. Does it flow, can they come up with some unique moves and ideas, do they use the rest of their body, and are they moving with the objects or just throwing them around? The style a bartender wishes to take can tell you a lot about them and where they want to go with their flair or even their bartending.
When I'm training people I always try and encourage them to create their own way of doing things, whether it be in flair or just in bartending. This is what makes things a lot more fun as a bartender and gets customers and fans coming back for more. Because flair is becoming more difficult and the standard is growing immensely, the split, snatch, catch method has been adopted by a lot of flair bartenders and we are getting a lot of the same or similar moves being performed. But this repetitiveness is opening up doors for those young up and coming flair bartenders that want to take on the big competitions. Think outside the box!
Happy flair days to all.
By Tom Dyer