Discovering What You Love: Poi Spinning
Mandy, owner and instructor of Perfect Circle Poi, was inspired by what moves most of us - a beautiful person - to take up poi. Poi spinning has since become her passion and career. Here's all of Mandy's advice on getting out there and trying new things to do in London including her lovely story about how she went from gawking at a fit poi spinning Australian man to owning her own poi business.
TasterLab: How did you first get involved with Poi? What inspired you to start?
Mandy: I first saw Fire Dancing at a festival in Australia in 2003 and was completely mesmerised by it - the sound of the fire roaring through the air, the smell of the fuel, the smoke rising from the flames and the beauty of the fire licking and dancing in the darkness......it was a completely sensory and sensual experience - one that was helped by the rather dashing male fire performer! I was completely in awe of it and immediately purchased my first set of poi and proceeded to try to them out and learn tricks on my own.
TL: Why did you decide to keep up with it? What do you love about it?
Mandy: Upon my return to London I managed to teach myself a few tricks just from playing with my poi and having fun at parties. As I am a trained dancer I found it to be a wonderful extension of my dance training and a great hobby - relaxing, physically challenging, artistic and creative and the more I let myself simply enjoy dancing with them to music the more tricks I discovered. I then found a six week Poi Spinning Course in London and immediately signed myself up! At my first class I met my teacher - a rather handsome and magnetic man who seemed very familiar...With each lesson I discovered our mutual interests and similarities - we had both grown up in Brisbane Australia, had common hobbies and had even lived quite close to each other but still we couldn't find the connection..why was he so familiar to me? On our graduation night we went out to celebrate and he asked me:
"How did you first discover poi?"
"A gorgeous man spinning fire at a festival in Australia," I swooned.
He continued to ask me questions about this gorgeous man...What festival did you see he at? What year was it? What music did he perform to?
After a few more questions he asked, "Did one of the fire poi go out halfway through his performance?"
At THAT moment I realised what he had discovered several questions before....HE was the fire performer I had first seen in Australia! It all suddenly made sense - destiny had played its hand.....I covered my head in horror and embarrassment - he simply laughed and said, "I think we should become friends!" I readily agreed!
TL: How did you end up teaching classes?
Mandy: Dave (my gorgeous poi teacher) let me know about a teaching position that had become available within the company and thought I should audition. I am a trained dance and drama teacher and thought it would really compliment my skills and gave it a go...and got the job! I then spent 12 wonderful weeks training with Dave and taught several courses before the company closed. Dave approached me about starting a business together so we set about planning classes and courses. However, Dave's other company Flame Oz, a performance company specialising in Fire Shows was just starting to take off and he couldn't commit to both - so I took a deep breath and set up Perfect Circle Poi on my own and launched in 2007 - since then I have never looked back!
TL: How has it enriched your life and the lives of the people you teach?
Mandy: Poi Spinning and Fire Dancing, like all of the performance and creative arts - is a way to express that which words cannot express. Movement, dancing, acting and performance have been a part of my life from a very early age, and Poi is a wonderful combination of all of these components of my life and personality. Since setting up Perfect Circle Poi I have taught well over 500 students the art of Poi Spinning and Fire Dancing and I'm so happy to say that these incredible individuals have become wonderful friends - some of them are now my closest friends. To watch them develop and blossom both during the courses and afterwards is extremely rewarding and seeing the way it boosts their self confidence, movement and co-ordination skills - not to mention their physical stamina and physicality - is the most enriching experience of all. I adore teaching Poi, as much as I adore performing this beautiful art form.
TL: What would you say to encourage people to get out and try new things?
Mandy: Just do it! It takes courage, patience and determination to try something new and as adults we often feel we should be good at something immediately. It is rare that I see someone who is naturally good at Poi without putting in a lot of practise, practise, practise! Most of the students in my courses are seeking new friends outside of their usual circle, and it is lovely to see students befriend one another during the courses - I have even had a few couples meet their partners during the course! It's always intimidating to try new things - the first step is the hardest. So take a deep breath, smile and take that first step - your efforts are always rewarded!
To try your hand at poi spinning with Mandy, check out her taster for a half-price private class in Central, North or South London.
For more things to do in London, keep checking the TasterLab blog!