Poi, a New Spin to Dance

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Poi like most contemporary artforms is constantly evolving. The word poi however, is a Maori word that means ‘ball‘.  The ingenious inhabitants of New Zealand, the Maori are also well known for their tattoos, locally known as ‘moko’.  Originally, poi was an art, used to train warriors, but slowly morphed into a traditional performance art, practiced mostly by the women of the tribe.

Making it easier to visualize, poi is the act of spinning balls attached to strings. The speed and direction are controlled by the poi spinner which is basically what the ‘spin’ of poi is.  Although this is an art form, poi has its own science.

Based on the laws of physics, the spin of the poi depends on the plane in which it is being spun. There are horizontal planes and vertical planes and most tricks performed are crossovers between these two planes. No matter what the move, there is always room for improvisation. The basic moves, which include weaving, and making figure eights, have been modified by spinners to suit their own individual styles. Practicing poi increases a person’s flexibility, dexterity and coordination.

It is widely perceived that poi is simple hand or wrist control.  A perfect fluid movement involves synchronization of the body. Experienced spinners incorporate dance styles, fusing myriad variations to make one surreal experience. There are a few new -age myths regarding the identity of the pioneers of the tradition of fire spinning. Through time, fire breathers like dragons of the new world, have enthralled audiences. Add fire to the art of poi and a whole new appeal started to radiate.  There is no empirical data on who was the first to start this, but fire spinners are now an in-demand  performance troupe, complete with Pyro-dance schools and special performance troupes.

For those passionate about this, there are no secrets and every accomplished spinner will share new tricks with the community. A field of constant innovations, the world of pyromaniacs  play with hula hoops, staffs, double staffs, single poi, double poi, snake poi and a load of other poi-innovations on fire. 

There are numerous videos available online and helpful tutorials….all you have to do is search!


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