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Dancing lights

  • Published at 04:17 pm July 5th, 2018
  • Last updated at 09:12 pm July 5th, 2018

This group does things with lights that will blow your mind

Fire spinning has been a widely acclaimed form of performance art in Bangladesh since its inception for a decade and a half now. From corporate events to music festivals, it has captivated the audience with its dangerous radiant charm. With increasing fascination and popularity towards this art, Poi Nation has revolutionized this flow arts from flow poi to ribbon poi and fire poi to LED and Light poi. One of the main equipments use is a ‘poi’, which literally means a ‘ball with a cord’. Poi is also known as a form of dance, where weights on the ends of tethers are swung through rhythmical patterns.
The story is about a group of passionate artists who came together  and formed analliance almost two years ago, and shared the same desire for the arts related to fire and might, martial arts and music, move and motion. The Dhaka Tribune has recently got an opportunity to get an insight of their mystical journey all over Bangladesh.

When was Poi Nation founded?

Poi Nation was borne out of a need to unify during a time of struggle. A struggle to unify our own spinners, to incorporate widely varying ideologies about what we are and the direction we want to head in, and a struggle to bring back our love for all things related to spinning, with or without fire. It’s actually representative, how we hatched out of our cocoon, after a lot of struggling and squirming. As for founders, we really don’t have any -just a bunch of peers who decided to overhaul and reinitiate.

What made you try out graphic lights and pursue the LED spinning idea?

The expansion of our territory into the new era of programmable lights and electronics was actually a fantastic find. We like keeping in touch with and seeing what the international community is up to, and stumbled across the revolutionary Eastern European community of LED spinners, and immediately knew this is something we need in our arsenal.We also noticed that not all the venues approve of fire spinning for safety purpose. Branching out to light spinning has helped us to perform any time of the year rather than just winter.

What does this performance art mean to you? What motivates you?

For many of us that practice the Flow Arts, our first introduction to it is via seeing fire performance and being amazed by the beauty and power of it. I think for most of us, this holds true: Fire Spinning isn’t a very widely practiced form of performance art, for obvious reasons, but those of us who are entranced by the fire, use it as its own self-sustaining fuel. It’s an expression of freedom, as with any performance art, but with the added element of coexistence: A realization that it’s a thrill to be able to adapt with elements and forces beyond your control.

How do you programme and design the performance?

This is actually closely related with one of the reasons we started Poi Nation. Poi Nation was a kick start to what we felt was needed - the freedom to spin however and whenever we wanted, and to bring in all like-minded individuals together. We take into account the theme of the event, what the organizers and audience would find thrilling in that atmosphere. We sync our light spinning movements and images along with the beats of the music. Sometimes we have additional projectors which are also programmed by us and we display visuals synced with the sound. Overall, it creates an astonishing environment. We are trying to make the best of the advanced technology.

Tell the readers about the active spinners of Poi Nation.

Super busy! Everyone has their work, but we do manage to squeeze in the time for us to all get together and hang out like any other circle of friends. And the dynamics of our family is what makes it truly lovely, because when you have people from all walks of life engaging in a shared passion, you get lots of different perspectives, you’re never bored. From students to lecturers, corporate job holders to entrepreneurs – we have the whole spectrum covered.

What kind of events do you do with fire and with light? Share some memorable moments.

I think our best show recently was the show we did in the launching of the Galaxy S9+. We had a friend come back from the US, who also brought in a friend who played the ocarina. The performance went as flawlessly as we expected, and it was just a reminder of just how much energy is in our little group.

What kind of barriers do fire spinners face?

“Sorry, did you mean fire dancers? The fireworks people? Is this your only job?” The questions are endless. Misrepresentation is actually the biggest issue we face. Sometimes it is somewhat disheartening when you see the lack of appreciation in certain kinds of people about what we do, and the effort it takes, but honestly, considering that we’re playing with fire, it is super cool to see the look of awe in most people, so the perks vastly outnumber the barriers.

How can learning to spin fire/light be useful as a hobby or profession?

Once lit up, the experience of spinning fire is hugely powerful. The sound it makes washes over you like ocean waves. The heat will warm you even on the coldest of nights. Sometimes, all you can see is the fire. It erases the ground beneath you and sometimes even your audience, leaving you alone in its incandescent glow. The experience is both exhilarating and calming at the same time. It’s a fantastic experience. The usefulness is not so much tangible as it is therapeutic. We get to travel to different places and share our experience with many interesting people. And it’s great that we can treat this as a hobby and a profession.

What are Poi Nation's future plans?

Poi Nation has two major goals –firstly, to go international, and secondly, building and uniting all the poi spinners of Bangladesh under one roof, as a platform not just for fire spinning, but any form of Flow Arts. We’ve had the vision of revealing Bangladesh to the international community in international events for a long, long time, and it’s one we’re determined to see through.
We are also planning to start giving lessons. The classes will start in September and will hopefully be held at JatraBiroti. Anyone is more than welcome to join us. We are available through our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/PoiNation/)

The writer is a researcher by profession and a former fire spinner of Naur

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