Poi is a performance art or the tools which are used for it. It’s a Maori word for ball. The special utensil consists of two strings joined to weighted balls of different materials and shapes, modern poi are usually made with unnatural materials. While storytelling or dancing, performer rhythmically swings tied weights according to geometric patterns. The use of poi improves strength and plasticity in the arms and hands and makes useful for coordination. It is used by both men and women as an exercise tool. The main occupation for women of early Maori tribes was to bring up children. In their spare time, women would create Poi by weaving flax leaves together for the cords and adding a weighted end. The ball weight was formed of Raupo (a plant known as bulrush) and cornhusks wound around a center, the ball and string were then tied together. Maori men used poi to increase flexibility and potency, to improve the balance and adroitness required during battle.
Origins of Poi
The traditional poi used in action songs and dances derives from the ancient “Poi Toa.” These artifacts were used efficiently by pre-European Maori – men, women and children. Poi Toa comes from the archaic “ki.” These were little baskets utilized to carry one Moa, which is an egg of a big flightless bird (now extinct). To relieve carrying, two or more ki were linked by a long plaited flax rope and slung around the neck or over the shoulders.
Modern Poi has been influenced by the Maori version. Traditional poi is generally performed in group choreography at cultural events with singing and music. Modern one is more often performed by single persons without singing and with less dancing movements. The utensils used are more varied. Performance are started up in darkness to dramatic effect with poi including a light source, LED lights, chemical glow sticks etc.
There are various types of poi. They differ from each other and are practiced at large festivals around the world. Many performers find it helpful to practice different moves and classes of moves to make it original and more attractive. So, there are several classes of trick.
For example, Fire poi use wicks for the weighted ends which can be soaked in fuel and set on fire. The first public appearance of fire poi rituals started around 1959 and became a tourist attraction.
The butterfly is a simple trick in which the hands are held close together in front of the spinner and the poi in opposite directions flat to the spinner, so that the poi cross at the top and bottom of their circles. Some skilled players perform this with four poi balls to make a double butterfly; some do with six ones. So it appears to be many variations of butterfly tricks.
Flowers are visually impressive and eye-catching set of moves. The poi spinner lengthens their arms and moves them in circles around the body, which gives a series of loops and looks like the petals of a flower when viewed form the side. It makes 64 different possible combinations.
Many other tricks can be done by the professional performers. This tradition, inspired by Maori culture, became the basic part and one of the most striking performances of the world.