The poi

The most commonly used instrument in fire shows is probably the poi.

Simply said it is an instrument for spinning. Colloquially they are sometimes called poi´s which is not correct.

The poi consists of two parts. Those are the body at the bottom which actually burns and the top finger loops. They are connected by either a chain or a piece of rope. Usually two, one in each hand, are used to play with. When performing with them the aim is to move them creatively in circular motions around the body. It is important to connect the different shapes and figures to achieve a fluid and dance like image. With some practice two can be used with one hand.

Poi Ravenchild Fire
he origin of the Poi is not medieval Europe but the Maori culture in New Zealand. Poi is the Maori world for ball.

There are different theories of the beginning of them. One theory is that men invented them to train their wrists for war or hunting. Later women took over, lengthened the rope and invented different dances and moves with them. It was then used by men to determine the coordination and creativity of possible future wives. The first Poi were constructed of two pieces of wood which had a ball of flax at the bottom. Those were lit to obtain a nice effect in the dark. Later the wood was replaced by Raupo (Typha orientalis). Instead of only flax it now also included rests of the Raupo plant wrapped in its leaves and a cord of New Zealand flax (Phorium tenax or Harakeke).The poi kept on evolving and fur and feathers were added to the ball. The poi being an important utensil of the women was probably never used as a weapon contrary to the South American bola. At last people are not 100 % sure about its origin.

Poi is widely spread throughout New Zealand. Even in schools it is taught to students being part of the Maori culture. However, traditionally it is still mostly used by women.

Fire- ,chain- or ropepoi usually consist out of an ignitable end which is preferably soaked with lamp oil and made of Kevlar. The finger loops are then connected to it by a chain. However, there are different versions, which instead of burning ends, use LED lights (e.g. Glow-Poi) or fluorescending bands (for black light). In those a small bag of sand is at the bottom to provide the weight for the spinning. Normal coloured bands (sometimes “dragon tail”) are used as well, preferably in daylight or for practising. Generally the amount of positions and different figures with two Poi is nearly infinite. They are swung in different planes. Those are two wall planes (front and back), two wheel planes (sides of player), and the roof and ground plane (up and down). Furthermore, one can swing them at the same speed or different. Moreover, every figure can be done forward and backward. Thus, the only limit to the amount of moves is only limited by the coordination and creativity of the player. The most often used spins are the “Weave”, the “Butterfly”, the “Windmill”, the “Turn”, the “Wrap” and the “Flower” variations.