What is Poi?

The history of poi dancing


Poi is a form of dance, where weights on the ends of tethers are swung through rhythmical patterns. The word poi comes from the Maori people of Aotearoa (a.k.a. New Zealand). Poi dance is part of Maori tradition.

The poi dancing outside of Maori culture is a more recent development, and is quite different than traditional Maori poi.

Poi was popularized throughout the world largely through the performance art of fire spinning, which is not part of Maori tradition or culture. Nobody seems to know who first invented “fire poi,” or when it happened.

This new version of poi was only loosely based on traditional Maori poi, and quickly evolved as it spread around the world. Enthusiasts invented new moves and borrowed heavily from other disciplines, such as juggling, club swinging, dance, and rhythmic gymnastics. Yet the name “poi” stuck.

This new version of poi appeals to those who are looking for a dynamic and engaging physical activity that is less intense than martial arts or competitive sports. There is now a large global community of enthusiasts devoted to “global fusion poi,” and the Internet serves as a major medium for exchanging ideas and enthusiasm.

Over time, poi enthusiasts turned to flag poi, LED poi, and other tools that express the beauty of poi without the health and environmental risks of fire.

Playpoi was founded by Nick Woolsey in the fall of 2004. He now works with other poi artists to share the love of poi via this website and workshops.

To learn more about non-Maori poi, explore this website! To learn more about Maori poi, we recommend booking a trip to New Zealand. Only the Maori can help you understand their culture and traditions.

If you have any questions, contact us!


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