Monday, August 24, 2009

Redundancy...and playing with fire

I've been made redundant. Just for this week though, and just for this blog post. Andrew and I and a couple of our friends went inner-tube rafting down the Pembina River on Saturday. We lucked out with warm, sunny weather and even the river temperature was quite nice. We spent the whole afternoon in the great outdoors and the evening too. After we got back to Edmonton we stopped at our apartment long enough to grab our poi equipment, next to Save on Foods for dinner supplies, then we headed over to our friend's house. We sat around a fire, roasted hot dogs and marshmallows then Andrew and I spun poi. We haven't done that in ages. If you want an in depth report on the day, you can go here. Like I said, I've been made redundant this week, and I'm feeling too lazy to write up a full report myself.

Instead, how about a few words on poi, also known as fire dancing?

I started spinning poi, oh I'm not quite sure now, six, seven, maybe eight years ago? A friend of Andrew and mine had spend some time in Australia woofing (that's working on organic farms for room and board). One night she and the friend she'd been traveling with, spent the evening on a beach. This particular beach is apparently where all the hippy, poi spinning people hang out, and for the price of sharing their loaf of bread our friend got to learn how to spin poi using socks stuffed with rocks. When she got back from Australia she demonstrated her new found talent and wowed us all. Andrew picked up the hobby next and not too long after so did I. I was once told by a member of the girl guide group I used to help out with that, "I wasn't as boring as I seemed," after I had demonstrated my poi spinning skills.

The way to learn how to spin poi is with tennis balls. Do not start out with flame on your first try, you will probably seriously hurt yourself and potentially others. Practice poi cost about $3.00 to put together with a quick trip to your local hardware store for 2 tennis balls, string and 2 washers. You just have to nick the tennis balls with a cut long enough to slide a washer tied to string inside and you're pretty much done. Then you start spinning, just the basics of course. Spinning forward, maybe turning and the basic beat/wave. Once you've masters those tricks you can move onto the butterfly and its variations. I learned many of my tricks off of a website called Home of Poi, which I believe is still in operation (just Google it).

The first time I tried poi with real fire was pretty terrifying. I recall it was a New Years eve and I could do all of three, maybe four tricks. For some reason I also recall wearing a white shirt at the time. I think it's good to have a healthy does of terror on your first live spin, you are after all, flinging flaming balls of fuel soaked Kevlar (in my case anyway) around your body. The flame roars while you spin. Andrew often tells people we can't hear what's going on outside our poi while we spin, but that's not entirely true. I don't practice too often, and get to spin with fire even less, so I have a tendency to have little mess-ups. The worst I've done is smack myself in the face while preforming for a bunch of girl guides. I swore rather loudly. I had singed some of the skin around my upper lip and felt a bit like the Phantom of the Opera for the next week.

My poi are made from Kevlar rope (as noted above). The rope is tied into a monkey's fist knot around a large metal ring, which is then attached to a length of chain. I used to have handles made out of bits of an old leather belt, but they broke a long time ago and now I hold onto the metal rings the handles were attached to. It's a little hard on the hands, but I've gotten use to it. We use citronella oil as fuel. You can use kerosene as well but it's rather smelly. Most of my tricks center around the butterfly maneuver, including: regular butterfly, giant butterfly, Mexican wave, alternating Mexican wave from front to side and from front to over my head, as well as a front butterfly/behind the back thingy. I can only do a 3 beat wave, whereas Andrew can do 5. I've said for a number of years I need to learn more, but I've never found the time/someone to teach me.

Below are my poi, unlit. You can see the monkey's fist knot and the bear rings I hold onto. You might also notice that one of the poi is frayed. This happened one night when some chemist friends of ours brought us some salts to test in our fuel in an attempt to make the flames burn different colours.

These two pictures are from a few years ago when Andrew and I went camping in Pembina Provincial Park, AB.

These final pictures are from a June night in Elora, ON several years ago (I don't remember when specifically). They include our friend who originally showed us poi as well. I'm not really sure which picture is of whom.




Lisa said...

Oh wow, those pictures are way awesomer than the ones I took!

Thanks for linking to my blog, I've linked back to yours. And thanks for introducing me to poi, it was really neat!

S. Andrea Milne said...

We don't get much chance to spin, so whenever the slightest opportunity knocks...