Spinning Poi and the Different Types of Poi Styles

Fire Spinning

Spinning  Poi 

The long and warm summer evenings are upon us.  To make the most out of this weather, we have been down the beach to practise our poi spinning, hoop and slack lining skills.

Cone poi by vaudeville hippie


What is Poi?

Fire Spinning

Poi spinning is a dance based performance. The set of poi are used as a prop to create visual patterns.   They become an extension to the movements of the body and accentuate each move.  The ‘poi’ is a weight attached to a cord or tether.  The weight  is swung in a combination of circles, loops and arcs to create patterns.  These are greatly enhanced and most visible when the poi heads are on fire or made out of colourful LEDs.

Poi light trails vaudeville hippie

I first discovered spinning poi about ten years ago when I met my partner, Steve.  Since I first started spinning, it has exploded in popularity and has developed into many styles.

Poi Origins

Poi originates from Maori culture and is traditionally performed by groups of women.  This is accompanied by traditional songs and dance routines, whilst swinging the poi in unison.  The poi strings are much shorter than contemporary poi.   Simple shapes and patterns are created  and repeated throughout the dance routine.

Poi Dancing

Dancing with the poi is the most spontaneous form of spinning that I know of.  This is my favourite way to spin,  and it feels like a form of moving meditation.  No thinking is required, the spinner just goes with what feels good.  This is often referred to as ‘flow’ and hence the term ‘flow arts’ is also used to refer to poi other forms of object manipulation.

Tech Poi

Tech spinning requires less whole body movement than poi dancing.  So tech spinners tend to be more stationary.  The movement is predominantly in the upper body, especially in the arms and shoulders.  Tech spinners focus upon more intricate and complicated interactions with the poi heads and play with timing and direction, more purposefully.  This video by Russian spinner Ivan [Mel] Gorbunov, was my first introduction to tech spinning.

Contact Poi and Poi Juggling (Poi-ggling)

Contact poi is really a hybrid between poi spinning and contact juggling.  Therefore, practise contact balls, are attached to a thicker tether and weighted handles are used to act as a counter weight. This slows the poi down when thrown.  It provides the spinners with an opportunity to ‘bounce’ the poi off their body. 

Typically, other forms of poi spinning  use a pair of poi.  However, many contact spinners like to use three poi heads because this enables them to juggle with the poi as well.   Traditional poi moves have been adapted and combined.  This has created tricks that require the poi heads to interact with the body.  This includes rolling the poi across parts of the body, like contact juggling as demonstrated in this Keith Marshall poi video. 


Partner Poi

Partner poi is all about sharing the fun.  A pair or group of spinners dance and move together as their bodies and poi interact with each other.  Therefore, new moves and patterns are created in this form of spinning.  German based poi performance group Loooop are masters in creating playful and visually stunning partner poi routines.

Spinning with Fire 

The addition of fire flames certainly brings a magical element to the audience when watching fire spinning.  The trailing fire, enhances the patterns created by the poi spinner.  The moving flames roar as swing through the air. This sound emphasis the danger element of fire spinning.

LED/Glow Poi

Like fire spinning, glow poi are great for spinning with at night and outside.  The light trails momentarily capture the patterns created by the poi heads.  In recent years, LED technology has greatly advanced.  A poi performer can now programme the colours and sequences of the LEDs in their poi to correspond to a track of music.  The technology created by Apixel Toys can also create photographic images as seen in this photographic stills video by Japanese spinner Yuta.

Timing and Direction

To really make the most out of spinning a set of poi, the spinner should  understand how to change the timing and direction of the poi heads.  This knowledge helps to access advanced moves and tricks.  This video by American multi-prop manipulator Noel Yee explains the concept in more detail.

Sharing Knowledge and Expansion of Poi

The poi community has expanded  due to the rise of internet forums.   The popularity of YouTube,  has helped to rapidly grow the knowledge base. This has enabled poi spinners to share and discover new tricks and styles of poi.  It will be interesting to see where this sharing of knowledge takes poi spinning over the next couple of years.

My Brand Identity Vaudeville Hippie

vaudeville hippie hand stamp

Choosing a Suitable Brand Name

When I was deciding upon a brand identity I wanted to choose something that naturally reflected my passion.   I have been learning circus skills for many years, and this played an important of this decision.  Visually, the circus theme has limitless potential from the shapes, colours and patterns it provides.


I first encountered the term ‘vaudeville’ when I went to an event in Bournemouth titled ‘Vaudeville Circus and Masquerade Ball’. The night had a range of acts ranging from circus, to burlesque to belly dance and we were lucky enough to see English pin-up and burlesque dancer Anna Fur Laxis and her axe throwing act.

Masquerade ball poster

Vaudeville Hippie at the Masquerade Ball

Since then, it has been a visual and creative reference point. I have particularly enjoyed exploring and collecting images using Pinterest and incorporating these ideas into my drawing and craft work. Whilst exploring images for my Pinterest boards I came across these gorgeous costumes by London based Prangsta Costumiers. I simply adore these costumes and feel that they totally sum up everything I love about the circus and cabaret style.

History of Vaudeville

Vaudeville is a style of entertainment first popularised in America in the early twentieth century. Acts would vary widely from belly dance, circus, burlesque, freak (bearded woman etc), the strongman and comedy acts as characterised by Charlie Chaplin, all wrapped up with a strong vintage flavour.

Vaudeville Illustration

Handmade OOAK Art Textile Doll by VHippie Dolls


Hippie – A Way of Life

My Partner and I would probably describe ourselves as ‘hippies’, nothing full blown (we pay a mortgage for instance). But we are hippies in terms of outlook on life. Aspiring towards something that sits outside the established norm, of creativity and verging on the unconventional. All underpinned by a massive love of nature and appreciating the wonders of the natural world.

Vaudeville Hippie Style Circus fancy dress

We use our time to practise circus skills, Steve plays guitar and creates music, I dabble with learning to belly dance and yoga.

Circus skills poi spinning

Circus Hippie

I knew I wanted to include the word ‘hippie’ in the business name because I just felt it was a strong indication and description of our style and ethos. ‘Hippie’ was in fact the starting point because, as mentioned above, it was something I felt most in tune with.  I began with the concept of handmade hippie, unfortunately this had already been used a million times over.  So the search was on to find something that uniquely summed up what we are all about.

It was important that ‘Hippie’ remained because it also fits in with the circus theme.  Circus skills are becoming popular with people drawn to the hippie style which can be seen at festivals. There are even festivals that are specifically aimed at the circus/ hippie crowd such as Play and Southern Lights (which has sadly been postponed until further notice).

Southern Lights Circus Festival
Southern Lights Circus Festival
Play Festival Circus Festival
Play Festival

Vaudeville Hippie

Therefore Vaudeville Hippie was born.  It is actually an idea that began in 2012 when I was still working full time as an art teacher.  I have adapted this post from my original WordPress Blog.  Now in 2016, I have left teaching and have more time to develop the Vaudeville Hippie brand with new ideas and new inspirations that have evolved since starting.

I look forward to reaching out and sharing the next stage of this creative journey.