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MANILA, Philippines - In the ancient Maori tribes of New Zealand, when women were not busy raising their children or weaving fibers into clothing, they spent their spare time making poi.
Poi is the Maori word for “ball.” The indigenous Maori people would twist flax leaves into cords and then add weights at the end. The balls themselves were made of bulrush (a kind of plant) and cornhusks wound around a coir pith.
To build their muscles, the men used rocks instead of coir.
An exercise in coordination
For the Maori people, poi was used to increase their flexibility, strength, and coordination. The women needed the exercise to weave better and the men, well, to fight fiercer battles.
They also used poi when training with ancient weapons like the Mere or Patu (short club). For over a thousand years, wahine (female) dancers also performed the Maori Poi, a kind of dance which involved the rhythmic swaying of the balls.
Today, people from different corners of the globe have adopted poi as one aspect of the flow arts, an umbrella term that covers different types of movement body arts like poi swinging, fire dancing, juggling, levistick flowing, hoop spinning, and staff/wand twirling, among others.
Flow arts is an emerging category of performance art, which involves people dancing and manipulating objects. And it’s catching on locally, too. People are “flowing” to have fun and to get fit.
The first flow fest
Last February 2, Planet Zips and B-Side Productions organized Philippine Flow Fest 2013, the first ever flow festival in the country, headlined by international performers like renowned Swedish poi artist Thomas “Nevisoul” Johansson, Malaysian fire/flow arts performing group Aifique of Psycusix, Berlin hoop artist Yana La Fae, and USA Burlesque fire hooper Justina Flash.
Paulino Servado III, CEO of Planet Zips, told Rappler, “We are not just promoting the fire arts but movement body arts, too. These are all merging, especially on the floor where we get different influences from various types of martial arts like wushu, tai chi, yoga, and the circus arts like juggling.”
Servado admitted that he and his fellow flow art enthusiasts had been dreaming of putting together the festival for a long time as fire festivals are happening all over the world, specifically in Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan. “We intend to do this every year, and to hopefully bring it outside Manila,” Servado added.
The one-day flow fest featured workshop sessions in the morning, a demo by Parkour Philippines, and a sunset spin jam (an open jam for flow artists). The organizers invited members of Katribu Kolektib to play in a drum circle during the open jam, with artists using different fire and non-fire props.
The highlight of the event was the gala and after-party, featuring international performers and local guests like fire hooper Daniel “Astroboy” Darwin, Boracay’s fire queen Rachel Lobangco, multi-prop flow artist Alvin “Inkshade” Lopez, and the groups Flow Arts Cebu, Pole Academy of the Philippines, and PoiCDO from Cagayan de Oro.
Go with the flow
People are falling in love with the flow arts because these represent many things at the same time: a form of play, a kind of dance, a way to meditate, a type of exercise.
“We have retained the performance aspect of different movement body arts,” Servado explained. “And the personal, meditative, play, and community aspects of it.”
The idea is to have good fun, since it is “all about, play, letting go, and finding freedom in your flow.”
If you are interested to learn any of the movement arts under flow arts, join Flow Arts Philippines, the local flow arts community on Facebook, or get in touch with Planet Zips through email@example.com. - Rappler.com
[Ime Morales is a freelance writer and the founder of the Freelance Writers’ Guild of the Philippines (FWGP). She flows through tai chi as part of the tai chi and qigong group Peace Blossoms Internal Arts Society.]
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