A Modern Interpretation of Poi
Now that you have an idea of where poi came from originally, let’s look at how it’s evolved over time.
First, the construction of poi has changed dramatically. As modern dance was incorporated with the traditional art, the introduction of fire created a whole new dynamic. While people still spin poi with fans, raupo-like balls and LED balls in socks, fire props are made with Kevlar — the same material used to make airplane tires and bullet-proof vests, which was discovered and patented by Kwolek in 1966 and is ten times stronger than steel. The wicks range in shapes and sizes, which depending on the skill and stature of the spinner tailor the art to each individual style.
Check out these massive wicks that belong to Zac Dunn, 6’4. You can watch his video below or find him on the Fire Footage page. Keep in mind his poi are huge compared to most fire poi, but it can give you an idea of the range. Megan Smith, a petite female, spins with wicks about a quarter of the size, which enables her to maintain fluid control that would be impossible if they were heavier or if the flame was bigger.
As poi was traditionally a ceremonial way for women to come together, it seems that in modern use it likewise brings people together. Though there is no gender domination, the art of poi touches likeminded people and urges them to become closer with their inner selves and heightened states of consciousness. Basically creating any two-dimensional shape in a three-dimensional space, the variations are limitless. Sharing the art with other spinners of different statures and perspectives illuminates the dance as a collaborative art form from which each individual can gain insights to different skills as they share their own perspective. Check out the Fire Footage page to get an idea of the different fire disciplines and how different statures and perspectives mold each person’s spinning style.
Hobby and Exercise
Doesn’t it feel good to take a break from work or study and move your feet to your favorite tunes? Dancing is healthy — good for the heart, great for the soul. What most people don’t realize is that poi is distinctly a form of dance, which can be practiced as a performance art, but more commonly as a hobby or as exercise.
Take UF’s Objects in Motion, for example. These guys mainly juggle, but their meetings and performances are riddled with poi spinners, who come together for the sake of hobby and exercise to collaboratively share and improve their art. Megan Smith, a senior at Uf who has been spinning poi since 2007, has been practicing her art for the past year with OIM and has done countless performances with them. She says it’s been a great outlet to meet likeminded people.
Check out Megan's Web site Lumina Fire
While poi is a hobby and a form of exercise for any spinner, some take it to the next level to share their technical expertise with awed audiences. Live music shows, weddings, birthday parties and a variety of other ceremonies feature fire poi as an advanced form of performance art.
Zac Dunn, who has been spinning poi since 2008, has performed at countless events throughout his enlightenment with poi. He was introduced to it by a fleeting acquaintance, now long-time friend, and within two hours had the basics down, an illumination of his inner artistic ability. Check out this video, taken on Saturday, November 28, 2010. It’s beautiful.