Welcome to my blog and thanks for checking it out! I’m excited to begin creating a business for myself through the flow arts, and I want my blog to be a space for me to share what’s going on in my development as a performer in ways that hopefully can benefit other artists.
What I’d like to do for this first blog post is explain why I started spinning poi in the first place, and how I stayed captivated and motivated to keep learning.
2009 was my first ever music festival and it was one hell of a festival at that. Shambhala in Salmo, BC. The culture shock I experienced upon arrival was amazing. This micro-city was jammed with a crazy assortment of costumes, incredible and trippy art installations, hula hoop classes, and nude bathers of all shapes and sizes. We could sit and chill anywhere and be presented with some ridiculous event playing out in front of us; constant entertainment.
What always stuck out for me was anyone playing with a flow toy. Contact jugglers rolling their orb so skillfully and smoothly; poi spinners twirling two points of lights in beautiful circles around their bodies; and even hula hooping was reintroduced to me as the talent-driven performance prop that it can be.
Over the years of seeing these skilful displays, I eventually decided that I wanted to contribute in some form. I didn’t know how or with what, but I knew that I wanted to bring something to a festival that I could show off to people and make them happy. My reasons were of course riddled with vanity. I wanted to be the person that I was impressed by, but a reason is a reason.
After toying with the ideas of a few different skills (I considered levi wand, conga drum, contact juggling, etc) I never found quite enough motivation to actually do any of them. Looking back I can say that it was likely that my main reason for wanting to do these things were for attention and praise, which is not enough of a driving force to get off my ass.
How I eventually landed on poi is a little hazy to me, but I pretty much just watched a few YouTube videos of some poi performances, and then switched to beginner tutorials. I had no long socks for some makeshift poi so I cut holes in a couple tennis balls, jammed some rope in, and started spinning.
Satisfaction, I found, came really quickly. Every little victory in learning something felt so good. Stuff as seemingly irrelevant as switching my poi into split time was so rewarding, and doing it more and more just dialed it up further.
Over time I found that I would watch old poi videos that I had seen before and realize that I learned something they had done that I thought was impossibly hard. It was an amazing feeling to surpass what I thought possible for myself without even really thinking about it. At this time, my perspective on poi shifted.
I was going travelling on my own, through California and Europe. I knew that I wanted my poi with me, and before I left home I considered my relationship with the ball and string. I was (and largely still am) at a point of intentional self development. I thought to myself “OK, for the sake of it I am going to go at poi hard. I’m going to teach myself not only how to spin poi, but how to learn poi effectively. And I’m going to do this just to prove to myself that I can learn anything.”
As I travelled around, poi was an amazing companion. It’s amazing to me how much time I could spend joyfully spinning these balls around in all these cool new locations. Half the time I would have to force myself to do some traditional tourist stuff just so I didn’t feel like I missed out.
Doing this had a tremendous effect on me. For one, my skills improved the whole time so that I could effectively transition between moves (or “flow”). Second, and just as importantly, it gave me the confidence to spin poi whenever and wherever I was. Before that trip it was a big insecurity for me to spin in public, for (irrational) fears that people would judge me or think I was showing off. To shed those fears felt amazing, and even more connected with my art.
To this day I am doing my best to keep the same motivation for learning poi and other prop manipulation. I try to learn new moves regularly, and try not to get down on myself if I feel my skills are in a rut. It’s an ever-going task that I would like to be held accountable for by myself and by the unseen pressures of exposing my practice and performance to the public.
Although a weight on a string seems like a simple thing, poi is infinitely diverse and an amazing outlet for creativity. I’ve never seen two spinners who are entirely alike, and I think it’s amazing that everyone can have their own style. I’d urge anyone with a creative streak to give poi a try, and see if you’re not instantly hooked ;)