If you thought New Zealand just has an abundance of sheep, rolling hills and a great cricket team, think again. From the cultural repertoire of its indigenous Maori people, the ceremonial ritual of spinning poi has influenced party and performance circuits across the world.
Part fitness workout, part performance, poi spinning actually makes you agile, dextrous, strong and well-balanced. Think of it as the Tai-Chi of juggling.
In India, poi spinning surfaced as a cool trick at any halfway decent Goa trance party in the early 2000s.
The performance art travelled on the weary shoulders of international backpackers to distant Himalayan retreats like Manali and Dharamsala, even mesmerising its way into Kathmandu’s glowing party scene.
Poi can mean the actual equipment — and the art of spinning it. The thing in question is a weighted object attached to a thick cord or a metal chain, while spinning it is often a display of grace — its choreographed moves are highly meditative.
Some poi have LED bulbs, while some have balls of fire. Simple pois can also be made at home by using a pair of old socks and two tennis balls.
Poi spinning is performance, visual, and physical art, firmly entrenched as a dance ritual at cultural events. A close-knit community of people practise poi across Indian cities — a great way to learn this art of geometry and rhythm, which actually improves balance and arm strength.
In Mumbai, MadPoi is a leading school teaching poi spinning, staff twirling, and an assortment of performance arts. They perform at big events, so you may have seen them covered sometime in the media.
On alternate weekends, Madpoi’s team imparts their knowledge on the city’s terraces and open spaces after sunset — only because spinning looks much better at night with glow or fire pois. Get in touch with them here or here for more details.
Poitrix is another meeting point for Mumbai’s poi enthusiasts and worth a look.
Bangalore’s poi scene used to be prolific in the Koramangala-Indiranagar belt, but it’s been scattered among individual practitioners since some time. Ashwin Kumar aka Poiboi conducts meets and workshops on poi spinning. Get it in touch with him through his FB page.
If you wish to add the next magical dimension to your poi lessons, head straight to Sunny’s Poi School located in the Himalayan outpost of Dharamsala. An affable teacher, Sunny started poi in 1997 and it’s been over a decade since he started giving lessons to several spinning hopefuls. Classes are also held in Pushkar and North Goa during specific seasons. More details here.
Poi classes promise to be a lot of fun, and you can also meet a bunch of interesting, like-minded people.
However, if regular classes daunt you, YouTube is the saviour of your introverted self, providing hundreds of poi lessons and inspiration videos.
Image Credit: Poitrix