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Poi Artist Shares Talent at Concord

By Savannah Cooper
On October 24, 2018

Very little information is known about the invention and history of Poi art.
Photo Courtesy of McKayla Phillips

Ty Roachford, a Poi performer, demonstrates his skills and showed Concord students the art of Poi dancing at a performance and workshop on campus.

According to spinpoi.com, “Poi is a weight on the end of a flexible cord, which you swing in circular patterns around your body. Both poi the object, and how you move with that object, can take on many different forms and styles.”

Very little information is known about the invention and history of Poi art, but it is believed this form of art originated in New Zealand. The website goes on to explain, “There is little information about poi prior to European arrival, but it is generally believed that poi was used by Māori men to train strength and flexibility, and by Māori women as a form of entertainment.”

Roachford, also known by his stage name Ty Foods, explains Poi by saying, “Poi spinning is both intense and incredible peaceful. Fire-poi [having fire at the end of the cord] and performing can be intense, but when you are home and you are trying to destress and relax, it can be incredibly peaceful.”

Ty Foods started off the show by spinning blue, green, and purple led lights to up-beat, electronic music. As the music vamped up, he spun the poi faster, which created a colorful display for the nighttime audience. During the end of his performance, he transitioned over to fire-poi. The heat from the fire could be felt by audience members as Ty Foods danced through the cool night air.

Ty Foods spent many years building his Poi skills to be able to spin fire. He describes how he got into poi spinning by giving a brief summary of his Poi journey. He states, “I got into poi spinning at the end of high school, it was 2013. I needed a new hobby, and a friend introduced me to a fire spinner.” After talking with and watching the sire spinner, Ty Foods decided to take on the challenging form of art.

Foods explains that the one skill he needed to reach his level of fire Poi spinning was “the willingness to build skills.” He says, “You need drive. You have to be able to practice every single day, even when you are not motivated.”

In order to practice the skill, Ty Foods had to “learn a lot about flexibility and mobility. I had to understand that when you put your arm behind your back, you need to have strength at that range of motion.”

He describes himself as an “artist athlete” rather than just an artist because he has to do cardio as well as strength exercises in order to keep his body in shape. He also needs to maintain the ability to spin the fire Poi that weighs over 200 grams.

During his workshop, Foods allowed participants to practice spinning by using a sock- like piece of cloth with weighted beads inside. Foods emphasized the need to practice in order to get better. He stated that, “beginners are more creative,” because they are just getting into the art, and may be more willing to try new techniques. The more one spins, the more comfortable they get with how the weight feels while spinning.

This performance not only entertained that audience with neon lights and fire tricks, it also opened views up to a new form of art that is not familiar to our culture. Andrew Sulgit, the Director of Student Union Activities, says, “College is all about learning; I hope students attend events to discover cool new things to be involved in.”

He continues, “Poi spinning is fun, can relieve stress and anxiety, and is something you can get into without investing a lot of money. I hope students take advantage of the activities we offer, as I think it`s a great time in life to expand their horizon’s and try new stuff out.”

Foods will continue on his poi spinning tour with his girlfriend for the rest of the year. They both travel to different communities across the nation to perform and instruct people of the art of Poi spinning. He hopes that by explaining the art and showing how enjoyable it is, more people will take part in this ancient style of dance.

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