Magazine Articles

TNT Magazine/Juggle Magazine/Kascade Magazine


JUGGLE Magazine, May-June 2003

Poi Spinning - The Book! by Eric Bagai
Poi in JUGGLE Magazine? Okay, I promise to devote every Shoptalk column after this to the purest of toss juggling and related props. But for the moment please bear with me: this review is about the definitive book on swinging and spinning poi.

It's not surprising that many jugglers get along with poi-swingers about the same as they do with contact jugglers. People see poi-spinning or contact juggling and see a dancer, and they want to learn that dance, or don't. A dance is exactly what poi-spinning is: as social ritual, as performance, and as personal expression.

Spend time with any group of dedicated poi-spinners and you will find a spiritual center to their practice and performance that is completely absent in the juggling community. This is especially true among fire-spinners. In the U.S., every major city has a regular spin-jam when weather permits. Go to any of them and you'll notice the neo-goth New-Age atmosphere in everything from the communal light-up candle and fuel pot to the way in which safety-spotters quietly kneel behind carefully spread wet towels. The details may vary from place to place, but the spiritual feeling is much the same everywhere. Survey the players and you'll find far fewer mathematicians and computer scientists than you find among jugglers, and a great many more people wearing crystals and talismans, and a display mystical symbols borrowed wholesale from other cultures and times. This is also a very sensual group, so you'll see more tattoos, piercings, and greater expanses of casually bared skin. It's not just the prop that makes it different, it's the people who are attracted to it and the mind-set they bring with them that make this a different experience. The loose-jointed nerdish intensity of the typically mostly-male club of jugglers is here replaced with mostly women teaching mostly other women the weaves and turns and wraps of the art of poi-spinning.

Despite its popularity, it has taken almost a decade for a teaching literature to develop for this prop. First it had to find a vocabulary and language of its own. Earlier works depended largely on staff-spinning and club-swinging techniques, and so incorporated their terms or invented new ones. But the community of poi-spinners settled on a vocabulary taken from the club, ribbon, and rope-swinging of rhythmic gymnastics. This book comes from a teaching poi-spinner immersed enough in that culture to familiarly use the terms that poi-spinners have almost universally chosen to describe the elements of their art.

The book itself is typical of the fine work produced by Butterfingers. And the cartoon character that illustrates the moves is, though Anglo, absolutely anime, and charming too. Poi-Spinning begins by treating forward and backward spins as equally important. Within five pages you are introduced to carries and turns, wall and side planes, split and parallel time, and rewinds. The emphasis on these as the essential basic moves takes the two-dimensional club-swinging model and transforms it into a three-dimensional art that is seen from all sides and performed "in the round." It's like moving from the flat depictions on Egyptian tombs to Saturday morning TV anime - both are cartoons, but one is dynamic and the other static, and only one of them can dance.

The progression of techniques presented here is quite good, so that even if you learn on your own it should not be difficult to learn poi with only this book as your teacher. The language is clear and precise, as it would have to be if your life depended on it - and in the fire safety section, it does. I always wince when people mention the use of wire wool (steel wool in the U.S.), and producing colored flame, but the handling here is quite reasonable if you take it very seriously.

Poi is not like other juggling arts, and yet it is. The very best diaboloists, devil stickers, and unicyclists make their props dance and bend their bodies to serve that dance. So do the very best toss-jugglers. With poi as with contact juggling, the possibility of dance is just more immediately accessible and apparent. This book will teach you the basic dance steps poi makes possible. The dance itself is up to you.

Eric Bagai


Kascade Magazine, Issue 70, May 2003

Poi Spinning
by Gabi Keast

This is a comprehensive collection of poi tricks ranging from beginner level to very advanced. It soon becomes obvious that the author is a very experienced artist and workshop leader. Clear, concise explanations and preciseguidelines on how to overcome difficulties make learning easy, as does the presentation of the book: precise drawings illustrate each step, and the main points are printed in bold face so that you can read them from a distance (making it possible for you to practise and read at the same time). Beginners are encouraged at an early stage to create sequences of tricks, and cross references to tricks elsewhere in the book also inspire you to link tricks together. The book also gives ideas on how to develop your own moves, how to design a choreography or how to put together an act. One chapter is devoted to fire, including advice on equipment, materials and safety.

Ein umfangreiche Sammlung von Poi-Tricks für Anfänger bis zu weit Fortgeschrittenen, plus Tipps zu Trickentwicklung, Choreografie und Show. Sprache: English

Gabi Keast

TNT Magazine, Issue 970, April 2002