In order to understand poi, you must first understand exactly what the word means. Modern day poi art stems from the performance art of object manipulation that is tradition to the Māori people in New Zealand. When used in the language of the Māori, the word poi can mean the object used during the routine, the music, or the choreography for the performance itself. Poi was practiced mainly by the Māori women, and was not only a visual performance, but oftentimes included storytelling and singing choreographed into the performance. Yet, modern day poi art has evolved in many stages beyond what the Māori started. Hawaii may be to greatest influence of all to modern poi art, bringing to it the element of fire. In 1946, Hawaiian knife spinners included fire into their performances for private rituals. These rituals started becoming public in 1959, and in the early 1960s, the tourists were pouring in to experience fire poi for the first time. The art became much more specific, evolving to encompass staff, fans, clubs, batons, chain poi, hula hoops, and many other tools. Fire performance is known by the performers themselves to be one of the most exhilarating acts to partake in. With the caress of the heat and roar the flames around them, fire performers express their passion and energy in a way that few others can match. Many performers will agree that not much can compare to the rush of adrenaline experienced the first time lit poi were in their hands. However, many performers didn't just "jump into the fire," so to speak. ff Fire is a dangerous element, and should not be feared, but respected. If managed properly with the right gear, safety equipment, and a safety spotter on hand, it is an amazing spectacle to behold. Yet, no matter how innocent, a little ignorance applied to any situation with fire performance could lead to disaster. Knowledge is power, so learn everything necessary before attempting fire performance. Certain things should be taken into account by the performer and their safety before fueling up. Things like the surrounding environment, the current weather, and the distance from your performance area to the audience should be discussed before starting. For an idea of what can go wrong, look up the story of the fire breather, Pele. Any dangerous situation with fire performance can be quickly handled with the proper equipment and personnel on site. Standards change from group to group, but a few good things to have on hand are a fire blanket or damp towel, a fire extinguisher, a bucket of water, and a pair of wire cutters in case chains need to be cut in an emergency. A First Aid Kit is always good to have on-site for any small injuries or minor burns that may occur. Tools used for spinning should be regularly checked for loose or deteriorating parts. Also, always make sure you are using the proper type for fuel for the performance you are doing. Fire poi is captivating and exciting, but other forms of poi can be just as fun in different situations. In many situations and locations, fire is not a logical or safe option. That, or the aspect of danger just isn't for you quite yet. Either way, glow and practice poi are a fun and interesting solution. Whether it be glow sticks on shoe strings, LED lights and toys, or socks with rice in them, practice poi are a great way to practice or perform nearly anywhere. The market for glow toys is ever expanding, with hula hoops, staff, and other interesting tools becoming more and more common. No matter what tools are used, the key to poi is self expression. Here in Arizona there is an amazing amount of talent in many different groups and solo acts. There are multiple fire events and gatherings in all parts of the valley, and even in all parts of the state. Everything from weekly practices put together by various fire crews to yearly Burning Man Regional events take place regularly. The fire community is generally very accepting and open. "Burners", those who attend Burning Man, are notorious for being eccentric, and almost always friendly and open-minded. Whether you play with fire, flashing lights, or Chemlights just remember that everyone expresses themselves in different ways. The poi community doesn't need "battles" or even competition. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and is perceived in many different ways. Allow anyone and everyone to express themselves the way they see fit. If you are interested in learning more about poi, the fire community, or Burning Man, there are many different sources on-line with anything from history and culture to techniques and tricks. Check out www.HomeOfPoi.com - www.TheFireGarden.com - www.BurningMan.com - www.GlowStringing.com By: Forest Hayes Share