Those things really can hurt.

So a couple of weeks ago I’ve made a blogpost about all the fabulous things you can do as a bellydancer with poi. Remember that post? Fire poi, LED poi, sock poi, all sorts. If you have missed that post, you can find it here.

The beginners set I ordered
The beginners set I ordered

That day I instantly had to order my own. So I started browsing a bit on the internet and found some youtube video tutorials on what to do and one of the things they tried to teach me first was; make sure to hit yourself in the head a couple of times because once you know how it hurts, you’ll also know what not to do.

Silly advise, right? Sound advise too, or so I found out later.

With all that in mind I bought a beginners set from poipoi.info

Yesterday I was having a bit of a bad, emotional day. I went home and called the boyfriend. Basically I begged him to go get me food from the stores because I just wanted to go home and cry my atypical depression away into a pillow. When he got home, with pizza and quiche, he patted me on the head and reached into his bag with a smile on his face. “This should cheer you up,” he said and he kindly gave me a post package. My packages are usually delivered at his work, because nobody’s home during daytime.. and the cats don’t know how to unlock doors. Which in itself is a good thing!

Anyways. I opened it and blimey was he right; finally my brand new LED poi had arrived. Through the tears and sobs I managed to force out a smile and for a moment the world had some purpose again. A couple of hours later I felt a little better again, through eating some quiche and much couch-calming-therapy. And I decided to give it a swing.

My poi, my poi, my lovely new poi!

Now, I’ve never handled poi before. I just read about it and saw some instruction videos. I began spinning. Soon it became dark and I could actually spin with the LED lights on, which was amazingly cool. I kept concentrating on not hitting anything in our relatively small, crowded livingroom and tried not to hit myself in the head too often. Of course I hit a lamp (it didn’t break), a table (the poi were still okay) and my knees quite a few times but none of it really mattered until I HIT myself in the HEAD with the METAL bits! Oh god, I thought my head was going to burst right then, right there. It didn’t but I could’ve sworn I was going to have to make due with everlasting scars and deformation. They weren’t¬†joking when they said you needed to know about the pain. I know very well what not to do now and I’ll be looking out to find some cloth to bind around these hinges because that’s not anything I want to do again.

But hey you know what? I practiced with my brand new LED poi. And they ROCKED. It cheered me up to practice with them; I felt real good for the time the spinning lights captivated me and it felt quite nice to do something that pretty. So absolutely worth it ūüėČ

Belly Dance Props – Poi

In a number of posts I will investigate a variety of belly dance props. Props are a wonderful way to add something special to your dancing, designed to dazzled and awe your audience. Aside from that they will force you to try out new ways of enhancing your dance. Different props have different effects and might require a different sort of dancing, a faster or slower rhythm or different costumes. In these posts I will explore where the to-be-described props originate from, how they are used and where they are used most commonly.

This entry is about Poi.

One prop I’ve been very interest in for a while and want learn to play with even more than the veil or the fan is the poi.

Poi are basically things hanging from a string that you swing about. Back in the days when I was going back and forth between the UK and the Netherlands I met a couple of people who were heavily into juggling and one of them was completely hooked on swinging her poi, making intricate patterns in the sky all around her by dual-wielded long threads with balls on the end. And I’ve always thought the idea quite intriguing so I was very much pleased to find posts on Youtube that included poi in belly dancing. Even more incentive to start doing this!

To explain my interest in poi, maybe it’s best to first view some videos:

Do you understand my fascination?

So here’s the history

That's real tribal right there!
That's real tribal right there!

‘Poi’ is the Maori word for ‘ball’ on a cord. Poi is a form of juggling where the balls are swung around the body. Poi can take many shapes and forms from LED lighted glowing, fabric like veils or socks (not real socks! Kevlar socks!) on fire.¬†From it’s beginnings Poi had the purpose of enhancing dance and rhythm. It was soon realised that Poi swinging had several other benefits from wrist strength, flexability and improving co-ordination to name a few. Mastering simple Poi moves can quickly improve self-esteem and gain respect from others. Hence the reason it quickly becomes addictive. And like all performance arts you are only limited by your imagination. (courtsey of homeofpoi.com)

Materials

From the wiki:

Originally, poi were most commonly made from harakeke (Phormium tenax) and raupŇć (Typha orientalis). Makers stripped and scraped flax to provide the muka (inner flax fibre), which was twisted into two strands to make the taura (cord) as well as the aho (ties). A large knot was tied at one end of the cord, around which the core was formed from the pithy middle of the raupŇć stem. Dampened strips of raupŇć stems were then wrapped around the ball and tied off around the cord, forming the covering . The other end of the cord was often decorated with a mukamuka, a tassel made from muka formed around a smaller knot. Occasionally, smaller tassels called poi piu were affixed to the base of the poi ball.[7]Construction and design varied widely depending on regional, tribal, and personal preferences.

Another variety of poi is poi tńĀniko. In this construction, the outer shell was made of finely woven muka using a pattern based on a fishing net;[8] these poi sometimes included strands that were dyed yellow to form a diamond pattern known as Te Karu Ňć te Atua (the Eye of God).

In the late 19th Century and the first half of the 20th Century, a cottage industry developed from the manufacture of raupŇć poi for sale to tourists, especially in the Rotorua area. Tourist-friendly variations included miniature poi that could be worn in buttonholes and as earrings.

Traditional raupŇć poi are less likely to be used by modern poi artists since traditional materials wear quickly with frequent use. Also, flax and raupŇć are becoming increasingly difficult to find as the wetlands where they are naturally found have been drained or made into conservation reserves (although traditional harvesting is, generally, allowed by law).

Today, most performance poi are made from durable and readily available modern materials. Cores are often made of foam or crumpled paper, while skins consist of plastic or loomed fabrics, such as tulle. Tassels are usually made of wool.

Does this look like bedroom toys? Or is it just me?
Does this look like bedroom toys? Or is it just me?

Though that’s all really cool and I would -love- to own a set of those at some point. But for regular practice I think any juggling-store poi would do to be honest.¬†Poipoi.info¬†has quite the variety of available sorts and though they may not have veil poi, it might be best to practice spinning with a poi and not hitting my face before I start adding veils and sorts. So I’ll be having a look into where I can get a set of normal poi.

Sorts of poi?

So I found a number of things to do with poi. The regular poi for normal practicing, traditional poi for when you want to be exquisitely interesting, single or double fire poi for dangerous a feral Mad Max kind of thing, single or double veil poi for more eastern dancing.. Quite a lot of variation; a versatile prop that leaves a lot to the be creative with, depending on what sort of choreography I want to have.  My personal favorites are fire poi, LED poi and of course veil poi. But there are plenty more different sorts to play with.

And what do you think of using LED lights?

For more info on which types of poi there are: homeofpoi.com. They give a very detailed and interesting description of the most commonly used ones.

I’m eager to start using these things and will soon be looking into buying some.. I even have the music I want to end up dancing too sorted:¬†Juno Reactor – Pistolero. Just the right speed and bounce and not too boring.

If you want to start just like me to learn to use the poi to later on integrate it in your dancing maybe these videos on Meenik’s Youtube videos¬†will help you out. Good luck and let me know how it works out!

Belly Dance Props – Veils

In a number of posts I will investigate a variety of belly dance props. Props are a wonderful way to add something special to your dancing, designed to dazzled and awe your audience. Aside from that they will force you to try out new ways of enhancing your dance. Different props have different effects and might require a different sort of dancing, a faster or slower rhythm or different costumes. In these posts I will explore where the to-be-described props originate from, how they are used and where they are used most commonly.

This entry is about veils. 

 

Photo and design by A’kai Silks

 

Another lovely prop to use is going to be a veil I think. I’ve already enjoyed a workshop about using veils and have had some lessons with them so I’ve had a little bit of a taste about the weight, length, possibilities and sheer beauty of using a veil.

Usually veils are used whilst dancing on slower music. Drum-solos or folkloric music just doesn’t suit. The veil moves with the speed of your own movement so you have to be careful not to take a piece of music that’s too fast or too much staccato. Any sort of music will do. Movie score soundtracks sound good (check out James Dooley¬†or Globus; both names create movie score soundtracks that have yet to be used in movies. Extremely epic. Can you imagine yourself dancing to this?) and bands like Nightwish, Epica and Within Temptation might provide you with excellent tunes.. Personally I think I’m going to be using music from Emancipator for the first time I integrate the veil into a dance. This music sounds so mystical and beautiful, without becoming a “chore” if you catch my drift. Lots going on will invite me to do lots with the veil. For an idea of what I’m thinking of follow¬†this link.¬†I especially recommend the song “Ares” which in my opinion is just hauntingly beautiful.. Sounds good, right?

So where does Veil dancing come from? 

Interested as ever in why things come about and how things develop as being a “thing” to do, I’ve had a bit of a look into where veil dancing originates from. And this is what I found:

The use of veil in belly dancing was made popular by Samya Gamal (one of the bellydance legends during the first half of the XX century) who used the veil to improve her arms carriage. Since then, more and more belly dancers started using a veil as a prop. However, nowadays, in Egyptian belly dance style the veil is only used briefly at the start of the performance during the entrance. American dancers instead, have made an art of the veil as a prop. In American cabaret style the veil is used in a lot of different ways. Dancers usually enter on stage with the veil wrapped around their costume, which is then unwrapped and made to spin with dexterity. American belly dancers have also invented the use of two or multiple veils at the same time. (courtesy of worldbellydance.com)

“Doing the burka” whilst making an entrance

So plenty of styles and techniques to look into. And over a wide spectrum of cultures too, which is always wonderful. The intro for a dance was already studied briefly during the workshop I followed. Depending on the effect you’d like to establish, you may start out with the veil being folded over your arms and face as if you were wearing a transparent burka. But there are also ways in which you make your veil to drape around you in a Greek-style dress over your shoulder, which you can then unwrap graciously during a subtle turning around. You can tuck the veil under your belt so it looks like just another addition to your skirt initially and suddenly; bam. Wings appear on both sides and there you are, ready to dazzle and stun your audience with your chin held high.

I’ve looked at many videos with gorgeous veil performances and these are some of my favorites:

Veil types and materials

There are various shapes, sizes and materials to choose from when you go buy yourself a veil. Depending on what you want to dance like or what you want to do, you should pick a different veil. The length of a veil is usually chosen according to the dancer’s height. Sometimes when the dancer is specifically trained to use veils he or she can use the extra long ones but more veil is more to handle so -I- not going to delve into that just yet. Maybe in a couple of years.

Veils can be rectangular which makes them more versatile in usage or semicircular which makes them a bit easier to use.

Now that’s working a veil like you mean it!

There are veils with sequined and plain hedges. I looked into that too and the difference is (plain logically to be honest) that the ones with sequined hedges don’t float so well. These veils are used in Egyptian cabaret style and are dropped after the first minutes of the performance. So not fit for spinning then.

Materials vary between silk, rayon chiffon, polyester chiffon or georgette. The cloth should be light enough to float gently in the air but they become more difficult to handle as they grow lighter so I’m going to have to make sure I know which cloth is a better beginners’ cloth. Silk is the most expensive type of of those but also the one that floats nicest. And of course the veil should be transparent enough to give the audience a glimpse of the gorgeous lady behind it.. To raise expectations to that which is about to appear.

That’s the entry about veils! It’ll be fun to practice with them. Next entry about props will be released soon but for now that’s enough studying in one day.

Belly Dance Props – Fans

In a number of posts I will investigate a variety of belly dance props. Props are a wonderful way to add something special to your dancing, designed to dazzled and awe your audience. Aside from that they will force you to try out new ways of enhancing your dance. Different props have different effects and might require a different sort of dancing, a faster or slower rhythm or different costumes. In these posts I will expore where the to be described props originate from, how they are used and where they are used most commonly.

This entry is about fans. 

The Fan is a very unique prop that originates from the fusion belly dance movements in the US and it’s the first one I wanted to have a closer look at because there seem to be so many different, interesting things to do with them. Apparently using a fan in your dance can add Asian, Spanish or Fantasy influences to your choreography and can be used to flirt with your audience or simply mystify them with creative, clever ways of poses and ways of showing (or not showing!) them. Sounds gorgeous!

A fan for any type of dance!

Fans can give your dance an unique feel. So I have to make sure I’m familiar with the atmosphere I want to create with my outfit and choreography and add the fan I think fits best. There are a lot of stereotypes but I’ve also found some very interesting combinations like Asian style dancing with feather fans or tribal veil fan dance. And since nobody ever knows what kind of awesome combinations one might come up with through experimentation it’ll be important to keep experimenting.

Imagining you're like the wind
Imagine you're like the wind

Feather Fans:¬†this type of fan seems to be for a more Burlesque type of dance. These are fans seem to give your outfit and dance a gracious, elusive and mysterious look. They seem specifically designed to seduce the audience. I would assume that for instance¬†Deeta von Teese¬†is a fan-fan too. At least she’s using them in her shows, right? As a burlesque dancer she understands the power of seduction and adds feather fans to her prop repertoire. Personally, I love the sensuality she’s mastered and displays. For granted, regular feather fans used in belly dance aren’t anywhere near as huge as the ones she uses but I think her photo’s are enough to get the idea of what they can be used for.

Fire Fans: these seem to be for a more tribal style of dancing but I suppose that as a beginner you should probably use fans in more toned down colors first, to make it less hazardous and a bit more accessible.. Dangerous but still impressive enough to make it a goal though! I found this video for several gorgeous techniques on how to use them. Can you imagine yourself in a lovely tribal outfit, swaying these around? I certainly can!

Looks dangerous!

Veil fans:¬†according to info I found,¬†these fans have been appearing in bellydance shows for the last 10 years. They are used to portray the elements (air, water, fire, earth) in more eastern themed choreographies like Chinese or Japanese style but of course you don’t have to stick strictly to this usage. Although I do like adding some symbolism to things, they are just gorgeous to look at without a deeper meaning to them, too. ¬†If you want to know more, I’ve found a¬†fantastic piece¬†MissBellydance¬†has written¬†about what makes veil fans so special to use. She explains the origination and what they are most commonly used to depict but she also writes the following to which I couldn’t agree to to more:

Last but not least they just look good on stage. If you use your imagination to see your favourite colours floating in the sky you can also see you and your dance pals forming patterns on stage with veil fans floating and fluttering their beautiful colours. It’s truly something to behold.

In short; I think fans are awesome and from what I think it’s safe to conclude I can’t wait to start working with them.. In a couple of weeks I’m going to have a look into buying some props at¬†Tanz-Boutique Tabou¬†and I think I might just have to set some cash aside for a pair of these lovelies. ūüėČ