9:47am Wednesday 11th April 2012
By Abigail Woodcock
IN HER third challenge, Action Abi played with fire in an attempt to put on her first fire poi performance. But did she get burned? Read on to find out.
AFTER walking away with a pitiful £1.50 in last month’s busking challenge, I decided to try my hand at a spot of fire performance.
Fire poi uses tethered weights that are soaked in fuel, set on fire and then spun for dramatic effect.
I first encountered it on a beach in Thailand when I was attempting to “find myself” with around 100 or so other uni students.
Sporting dreadlocks and the obligatory henna tattoo - custom for any traveller on such a journey- I sat enchanted on the sand watching people weave fire through the air.
When I got home, I bought myself some poi with red tails on in an attempt to imitate the performance but without the added risk of getting burnt.
They then came in rather useful when I was thinking up my third challenge - learning a choreographed group routine with fire poi.
For this challenge, I discovered Mandy Clark, an infectiously enthusiastic lady from Australia who runs her own poi school in Brixton and Camden.
She gave me two private lessons and taught me a routine which would stand the test when I would eventually light the ends with fire.
Moves included the ‘butterfly’, where you cross your arms in front of each other and swing the poi, and ‘carry turn’, which allows you to walk and change direction.
It was a lot harder than I first anticipated and Mandy pointed out that the odd hit of my arm or head would see me spark up in flames if the poi were lit.
I trained rigorously for three weeks with plastic poi, using my lunch breaks and my evenings to perfect the tricks.
Then my moment of glory finally came on a warm Sunday evening, I felt a mixture of dread, excitement and serious doubt in my capability as I pitched up for the challenge.
Mandy handed the metal poi to me and I soaked the weighted ends in fuel.
I swung the poi into newspaper to get away any residue before wiping the chains and my hands with a cloth.
A wet towel hung on a nearby tree just in case I encountered any difficulty.
I then lit the ends.
It was terrifying. The flames rose up and I could feel the heat on my hands and legs.
As I attempted to perform the moves, Mandy put on some music to relax me, which aptly turned out to be The Trammps’ hit song Burn Baby Burn.
I then started to spin.
The sound of fire was really loud against my ears so I found it a little difficult listening to instructions.
Experienced members from Mandy’s poi classes, Matt Julian, 38, and Rachel Sinclair, 26, then joined us to make a fire formation.
It was incredible to see the flames dancing through the sky.
After a while, I started to become less concerned as fire swooped narrowly past my head. I was hooked.
If only Thailand could see me now.
Perfect Circle Poi runs beginner and intermediate poi spinning courses and fire dancing performance and choreography courses in London -together with private spinning lessons, group workshops, performances and shows for corporate and private functions and poi in the park jam sessions.
For more information, go to perfectcirclepoi.co.uk or call Mandy on 07513256360.
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