Alex Pulsipher paints the sky over Market Square with his ribbon. Photo by Dan Andrews.

By Sarah Baker

The art of stick ribbon dancing goes back thousands of years to Ancient China. However, Knoxville’s own Alex Pulsipher has taken this ancient instrument to another level. Readers may have caught glimpses of him on Market Square painting our Smoky Mountain sky with his colossal flying ribbon.

Pulsipher was at the Lake Eden Arts Festival near Asheville, North Carolina looking for something interesting to purchase his son Sam, now 7. He stumbled upon a dowel type stick with a ribbon it. The stick was about two feet long and the ribbon was probably about 6 feet. Upon taking it home, he found that he found more amusement in it than his son.

About a year later, he came upon it again and remembering how much he enjoyed it, he decided to make one himself. The first one he made had a bamboo stick about 3 or 4 feet long and had about 6 feet of ribbon. Now Pulsipher’s bamboo stick is 25 feet long and his “ribbon” is about 5 feet wide and 60 feet long. Watching him dance, or wrestle, with his ribbon is quite something. Sometimes the ribbon looks like a dancing dragon and other times it is like a powerful ocean wave. Whatever it is, it is art. Pulsipher has reinvented and magnified this ancient art with ingenuity and imagination.

Anyone who is interested in Alex Pulsipher’s demonstrations of sky paint should head down to Market Square on Mondays or Wednesdays from 6:45 to 8 p.m. Mondays are kids’ nights and kids of all ages are welcome to play chase the ribbon. Sometimes Pulsipher brings ribbons to give to kids who come out. Adults are welcome to come see him on Wednesdays and are even invited to try it out themselves.  “I love for people to come try it out.  If you ever see me doing it, don’t be afraid to ask, but it is quite a work out,” says Pulsipher.