Poi is the Maori word for a "ball on a cord”, which is used as a form of juggling where the balls are swung around the body. The word "Poi" is both plural and singular. (I have one Poi, he has two Poi).Traditional Maori poi consists of two flax strings attached to weighted balls of moss and other materials. The strings are swung rhythmically while dancing or storytelling and are used as percussive instruments, since they made distinctive sounds as they travel through the air or brush the body.
Poi was used many years ago, by the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand to increase flexibility and strength in their hands and arms as well as improving coordination. The Poi dance was originally used by the Maori women for keeping their hands flexible for weaving and by the men for strength and coordination required during battle. Poi are also used as
a training aid for other ancient weapons like clubs and axes. There are many cultures around the world who have also developed a similar art form (eg. Bola). In most instances they evolved from swinging weapons, such as the slingshot, nunchucks and the mediaeval mace.
Fire dancing is often referred to as “poi”, which many believe originated in New Zealand; however, traditional Maori poi did not involve fire which was a much later Western addition to poi dancing, inspired by other types of traditional fire dancing.
Fire poi requires a heightened level of awareness and skill, as it can be quite dangerous. Most people use traditional Maori poi for training before graduating to the use of fire poi, that are made from different materials than traditional Maori poi.
Typical fire poi use metal chains with Kevlar wicks soaked in odorless burning kerosene (also known as paraffin). To avoid
the danger of fire, exciting and colorful visual effects can also be obtained by using multi-colored silk streamers, tails as used on kites, battery-powered LEDs and material with fluorescent colors that glow under ultra-violet light. For extreme visual impact people usually use fire. The sight of flames flying around someone as they dance is a real crowd pleaser.
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