Sunday, January 29, 2006

January Poi Retreat Went Fantastic!

So, that was the biggest and most exciting retreat yet! Thank you so much to everybody who came. I really needed that :)

This could be the beginning of a really good thing. If I could keep getting 12 people at a time, there are many ways I could make the retreats better, as I'd have a budget for guest teachers and such. I'm already plotting to bring over some very brilliant object manipulation masters... but don't tell anyone, it's a secret.

Now I just have to pack my entire life into storage, finish the DVD, work out the details of the new website, and...


Monday, January 23, 2006

Getting a little poispective...

My littel brother Ben and I took a hike yesterday to clear our heads. We're both flinging ourselves into the Internet's latest technologies, and our heads are spinning. Not a bad place to spin, and a great place to have a poi retreat. :)

I spent the rest of the day trying to learn Drupal, the Content Management System that's going to help me roll out the new

I also keep getting sucked into zaadz, which is an exciting social networking initiative, among other things.

...and I'm doing some poi practice, but I'm pretty distracted. I have this tendency to get very engaged with things. If I can apply myself to communications technologies the way I did to poi... well, I hope to have the same result.

This is actually part of what I've found so hard about the last five years. I had to make a lot of sacrifices to practice poi the way I did. The menial jobs I end up working don't help me with the skills development that I think is so vital to living up to my potential. While it was great getting good at poi, I've had to let my communications visionary hat hang on the wall most of the time, and now I have a lot of catching up to do.
...but I can do it!

Having Ben here is great. I got pretty depressed last year, what with losing everything in my failed running-a-poi-studio attempt. He's really helping me get back on my happy feet, and I'm realizing the studio didn't work because it just wasn't the right thing (ok, not having the skills, resources, or money to launch a studio was another factor). I'm better off having the freedom to travel, and to live cheap when I need to fling myself into a project.

Oh, and Ben launched his own blog last night.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The History of Poi: First meeting with the Maori

On Wednesday I had the great pleasure of meeting Dawn Nathan, a very friendly Maori woman living in Vancouver, BC.

Dawn came to North America 30 years ago with five other Maori performers. They spent years performing traditional Maori song and dance at schools in Los Angeles. Dawn later moved to Vancouver with some of the others. She visits New Zealand most years.

Dawn was raised near Wellington, on the North Island of New Zealand. She was brought up speaking mostly english, but she understands Maori, and performs the traditional songs and dances.

Dawn bought me a coffee and proved to be one of the friendliest and brightest people I've met. If the other people I meet in New Zealand are half as friendly and smart as her, I'm in for a very life enriching trip.

I showed her some of the videos I'm working on. She agreed that what I do isn't really "poi" as the Maori do it, but that it certainly comes from traditonal poi. She seemed to be supportive of this, which made me happy. She has offered to help me contact Maori Elders in New Zealand, and says I want to go to the North Island, where the majority of the Maori live (and always have).

Dawn told me a bit about the history of New Zealand. Apparently the Maori were never defeated by the Europeans. Fighting between the groups ended in a treaty, and the Maori are very integrated into New Zealand, with their language and heritage intact.

In New Zealand there are about 590,000 Maori, in a country of about 4,000,000. The Maori language is widely spoken, and is now taught in public schools, as are many Maori traditions. There are varying Maori dialects on different parts of the island, but there is no trouble communicating between dialects. This has made it possible for the Maori culture to thrive throughout New Zealand. In fact, as there is no longer fighting between tribes, the culture of the Maori is becoming more inclusive than ever. Maori songs are being sung throughout new zealand, when long ago songs might have stayed within tribes or regions of the island.

Dawn confirmed some other things we had learned: Poi is very much a part of the song and dance practices of the Maori, and is rarely practiced on its own. There are a variety of poi practices: single short poi, double short poi, single long poi, and double long poi. Poi dancing was practiced by the daughters of chieftains, for a variety of reasons, including the development of poise and grace. The men used to practice poi to develop strength and coordination for battle. They also used the Taiaha, a long, club-like tool and weapon.

No, the Maori did not use fire-poi, and to Dawn's knowledge they still don't.

Dawn showed us some traditional poi dancing. She hummed the song as she danced.

I'm very excited that Dawn is helping to put me in touch with Maori elders in New Zealand. I do, however, have to change my original plans, and extend my stay :)

Final Poi DVD Draft Finished!

We're so close to being done!

Marc left for Mexico on Tuesday morning. We made the big push to finish the DVD and test it and make final changes... but it just didn't happen. Just as well, as it's best if I don't rush things.

We do have a final working draft, and we're just looking for improvements. I'm not going to see the final product before leaving for Australia, but they'll ship one to me.

The picture to the right: Alex, Marc, and myself work out the final details of the Navigation. Alex is my life long friend, and a brilliant designer. He's very different from me. He's organized and takes his time to do things right. Sometimes I feel he takes too much time, but he balances me out well. Marc is probably more like me. I'm lucky to be working with them both. :)