Fire and dancing are closely linked with the very history of humankind. Millennium-old cultures have used these elements to perform rituals and different activities connected with their own culture, which have been part of their customs and traditions. Nourished by Poi art, characterized by fire and dancing, the urban dance group Trancepoi will soon celebrate the First Poi Meeting in Cuba.
Poi is a traditional autochthonous dancing art of the Maori peoples from New Zealand. It was thus called because its performance involved balls that, tied to natural elements such as linen ropes, were smeared with diverse resins and set on fire. The ropes were taken from the hands and moved with the arms, producing a dance with the movements that were being created. This dance was accompanied by drums. In the Maori culture it had several functions: it was performed in ceremonies of the high class and used as element of training, personal defense, in hunting and even practiced by women with the purpose of conquering their men.
Poi is also considered a martial art with important benefits for health. Diverse studies have demonstrated that it favors the development of mobility, of peripheral sight and muscular tone. It is also said to improve cardiovascular activity and the coordination of movement between the two corporal hemispheres. In like form it increases self-respect, fosters inner peace and the mental balance of the practitioners, as well as contributes to develop creativeness and reduce stress.
Although the Maori ethnic group has deep roots and is quite closed to civilization, this dance has exceeded the frontiers of its geographical space to disseminate throughout the world, particularly since the boom of electronic music and rave culture that has developed around music since the late 20th century. Today it has spread as a culture in the Pacific islands, and has been a source of inspiration for the organization of Poi festivals in different countries where it is practiced regularly. Its most modern version is the Poi Fire or Lit Poi, and it not only uses traditional elements, but has also found support in other instruments such as the so-called fire fans. This Poi version is to be seen frequently in DJ movement and electronic music events because of its great visual appeal.
In our country, this dance has been performed for the last 6 years by a small group of persons who make up the Trancepoi fire dance, which has been presented in different festivals, events, activities and cultural shows. Trancepoi has promoted this art in the island, where there are no schools or institutions dedicated to the teaching or spreading of Poi.
With the organization of this meeting, Trancepoi intends to reach a varied public of beginners, interested in Poi art, particularly persons practicing alternative and urban arts who know little about the history of their practices and their current trends. The group also seeks to stimulate an exchange between the practitioners of this art in our country. Above all, Trancepoi aims at creating the basis for the future celebration of an international poi festival in Cuba.
The meeting, sponsored by the independent project Matraka Producciones, will be inaugurated next October 26 at 4:00 p.m. at Casa Gaia, and will open with a theoretical event that includes conferences on the theme, with the purpose of facilitating conversations and exchanges based on the text Poi: un arte que une dos islas (Poi: An Art that Unites Two Islands), prepared by the group. Among the activities that will take place is a photo exhibition documenting on the work being accomplished by Trancepoi since its founding up to our days; a contest of abilities and an audiovisual show. It is foreseen that DJ musicians perform at the closing with presentations of this group. In this way, poi lovers will be able to enjoy diverse activities in order to enrich the knowledge and dominion of this practice. Most surely many of us will be thankful for this meeting favoring harmony and health, and we will be pervaded by the beauty of the show produced by the fire lights.