A plastic rod containing some kind of liquid that glows. The good ones usually last for 18 to 24 hours. Used primarily by ravers while liquid dancing. They make for lots of fun in a really dark setting. They also last longer if you freeze them after you are done using them for the night. For a really cool effect, play with glowsticks while on psychotropic substances.

There are hundreds of uses for this trippy little sticks. A few that come to mind date back many years before such things as rave parties ever existed. While very young, I was known to carry these light sources while dressed up in constume on halloween. As it was too dark outside, I found comfort in knowing that drivers and other trick-or-treaters could see me clearly.

I also used to take them on camping trips, which has many uses. Especially on those trips that you plan to do some night hiking, and you want to mark your campsite so it is easy for you to find. (Mind you, there are far better light sources if you want to see what's immediately in front of you). For the boy scouts out there, lord knows, I've used these many times on Snipe Hunts to scare young little scouts.

If you're a juggler, they make good night-time juggling show props. But they do get kind of hard to stare at for too long a time.

Glowsticks (and to an extent their biological cousins, the firefly) use a process called chemiluminescence to produce light. Most common glowsticks use hydrogen peroxide in an ampule which is broken when you snap the stick and is mixed with a liquid called ester to start the chemical reaction.

Differences between the duration and consequently brightness of the reaction is dependent on the amount of hydrogen peroxide provided. Larger amounts of hydrogen peroxide will produce a faster and brighter reaction. Lesser amounts will of course produce a slower and dimmer reaction.

Lowering the temperature of a glowstick will of course slow down the chemical reaction time; raising the temperature will speed it up. Your average "rave-quality" glowstick will survive 5 hours in normal situations (even less if you hit me upside the head with it while I'm lost in a jig).

It seems popular to deride the various stereotypical members of the rave culture. Glow sticks ("sticks") are an enduring fixture in that culture, of which I am an occasionally proud member. Sticks are popular within most sub-genres and I have seen them in just about every part of the world where people enjoy techno music (that would be more or less everywhere, right?).

Sticks have some basic parts: the shaft, the cap (some sticks have no cap, but most do), and the hook. Sometimes the hook and cap are integrated, sometimes the hook is removable, etc. They come in many colors, some of which are described later on.

There is no proper way to "spin" sticks, and the art is not really taught as dance (sometimes) is. Some purists hold that there should not be any "right" way to do anything at a rave-- whatever you do should be original. I observe that ravers are no different than everyone else-- we emulate the good stuff we see in others, so this node is dedicated to describing what people generally consider "good". It will never be finished and is certainly not comprehensive. As with anything else, using sticks is an acquired skill that requires practice to develop coordination.

The basic grip

Thread each stick under the index finger, over the middle and ring fingers, and under the pinkie. Most sticks are tapered, making it more comfortable to put the fat end under your index finger than pinkie.

If you are holding the sticks this way for the first time you probably think it feels strange, but the basic grip offers a lot of possibilities and is easiest to "escape" from into others when you develop technique. It also displays the sticks to their best effect, making you look better ;-).

Basic circle

I am making up these names as I go along, but most people seem to have some variation of "the circle". The key to most moves (just holding sticks isn't really a move ;-) is speed more than accuracy-- the illusion of fluid motion is the desired result. If it's dark you should be able to figure out how to make a circle on your own. I suggest you try to use your arms (esp. forearms) to control the movement rather than wrists as you can gain speed this way, and beginners tend to over-control their moves using wrist movement.

Vary the diameter of the circle as you spin it and try using your upper arms to tilt the circle. Using wrists to control this movement will slow it down: remember speed should be your (initial) goal. If you need to work on control further, holding one arm stationary at a right angle parallel to your upper body, spin the other around it. See how far down your stationary forearm you can get without moving the (supposedly) static arm.

More complicated moves

This isn't a manual, but here are some pointers:
  • Practice/perform with music you can feel. Duh.
  • Use different colored sticks when practicing intricate hand sequences-- performing with different colored sticks is the sign of a beginner unless you are trying to show some neat movement (i.e. transferring sticks between hands).
  • Beginners should avoid wrist movements as long as possible. You will use your wrists as you try more complicated sequences, but try using your shoulders and arms instead.
  • Have fun and learn from others. Ask others to slow down and demonstrate moves. Don't be afraid to use all your dance space-- the space over and behind your head can be employed for interesting transitions and finishing sequences.
  • Slow fluid movement (feeling the beat) is cool, but anyone can do that. To make it interesting practice changing grips on the fly (see some of my favorites below).
  • As with water, don't hesitate to offer your sticks to others. Please don't be confrontational-- I've encountered too many badly behaved people who try to make steps and spinning sticks into some sort of battle. Spread the PLUR.

Favorite grips

It might feel unnatural, but it really is the best all around and lets your audience see the most light while giving you control. Thread the stick under your index finger, over your middle and ring fingers, and under your pinkie. Keep your thumb out of the way or use it to prevent your hands from colliding.
"Air traffic controller"
Grip the hook end of the stick in a fist or between your thumb, index, and middle finger. The latter variation will allow you to tilt the sticks and make things look cool, but the fist grip is also good. The hook end generally doesn't light up, so you want to hold it to avoid crossing the sticks, poking people, etc.
"Wrists out"
Hold the end of the stick with a cap between you middle and ring fingers and use your wrists to adjust the orientation of the stick. This usually ends up with your hand back and wrist out (kind of like some retro '80s steps, as seen in Scarface. One can look kind of dumb if one does not know where one is going with this grip ;-).
No, not the London club; start with your dominant hand and the basic grip. Stick the non-cap end behind the first stick between the middle and ring fingers. If your hands are large enough this should not be too uncomfortable, and you should have an interesting cross to play with on one hand. With practice you can pull the second stick from between your fingers as part of a move (I like to do this behind my leg) and transition to having sticks in both hands-- looks neat if done properly.

If you can find them (I've seen them for sale at Raindance in London) mini-sticks are cool for this and have the bonus of having neither caps nor hooks, making them easy to transition from hand to hand (two colors are good in this case so people can see what you are doing).

"The L"
Hold a stick between your ring and pinkie, and another between either the thumb and index, or index and middle finger. You want to create a 90-degree angle (if your sticks have hooks, try putting the hooks together). Some interesting new possibilities involve tracing various body parts-- neck, head, torso, arms, etc.


Attach string to the sticks to do some interesting spinning moves (making them "poi"). These are neat, though pretty common, and require lots of space. Do others the favor of not attempting to use strings until you've practiced-- it isn't much fun to get hit with a ballistic glowstick.
Using string or a small chain you can make glowing nunchucks and be cool like the Michelangelo. Chains help reduce the stress on the stick's plastic case.
Attaching glowsticks to a baton makes it pretty unbalanced, but it can be interesting in a martial arts sort of way. I have never been able to do this well enough to try it in public.
glowing juggling balls
Are not glowsticks at all, but they work the same way. They can be fun if you know how to juggle ;-).

I was into strings/poi ("windmill"-ing as some called it) for awhile but have returned to holding sticks. Various colors are associated with different scenes: green is neutral and standard equipment for any candy raver, red is common in the DnB scene, and countless others are popular. Pink, violet, and white are obviously popular among the fairer sex. I spin blue sticks, learning why is left as an exercise for the reader ;D.

Rave fads are ever present and always changing-- microlights offer interesting (and expensive) possibilities, those glowing necklaces can be integrated into liquid steps with great results, and the list goes on ad infinitem. Spinning glowsticks is a rave talent that is always in style.

In addition to making you look cool and allowing others to pigeonhole you as a raver, glowsticks can be used to communicate. I've seen people accurately communicate

One person kept sending "SOS" in Morse Code from the far side of room two at Fabric one night...

meta: suggestions are very welcome

The glowstick is a common thing nowadays found where light is needed, but it can't be exothermic (situations such as lighting for car accidents instead of flares, camping, trick-or-treating, and raves). The fact that a glow stick is a sealed system and doesn't consume oxygen and can't be extinguished makes it superb for diving.

The glowstick itself is a slightly bendable plastic tube with a small glass vial in it. Bending the plastic allows the person to break the glass in it and mix the chemicals.

Within a glowstick there are three chemicals involved. Within the glass vial is hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Upon breaking the vial, this mixes with an ester (phenyl oxalate). Mixing hydrogen peroxide with anything tends to oxidize it, as is the case with the ester - creating phenol (C6H5OH) and a peroxyacid (H2S2O8) ester which is unstable. When the peroxacid ester decomposes it produces phenol and a cyclic peroxy compound that then further decomposes into carbon dioxide. Each one of these decompositions releases energy and causes a fluorescent dye to fluoresce. The color of the dye is the color of the glow. This process is known as chemiluminescence and was borrowed from the firefly.

The intensity of the light produced is directly proportional to the rate at which the reaction takes place. Realize, however, that there is a fixed amount of reactants in the system - the brighter the glowstick, the faster the reaction, the shorter the duration. This reaction is also affected by the temperature of the surroundings. Typically, these glowsticks are either 30 minute long or 4-8 hours (depending on the brand and purpose). However, changing the ambient temperature will speed up or slowdown the rate of reaction - a classic grade-school science lab is to measure the duration of a glowstick. By immersing the glowstick in a hot water bath the intensity of the light produced goes up significantly. Likewise tossing the glowstick in the freezer overnight drastically reduces the rate of reaction.


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