One of the greatest things I ever did to make my life better, was picking up poi (I’ve already talked extensively about the art form with my post about Johnathan Alvarez). When I initially decided that I wanted to learn poi after a few years in Toronto’s rave community gloving (the last gloving video I made before picking up poi can be found here) I was lost for a place to start in order to pick it up. I love dancing a lot. One of the things I sincerely miss about Toronto is its dance culture. People were proud to pick up styles of dance, and it was the part of its underground community which I fell most in love with. Moving out to Vancouver, it always felt like dance was dealt with more in extremes. Either you’re a performer, or you have no moves (which isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just… different). I digress. Then I found Nick’s website playpoi, and all my troubles were assuaged (best sales pitch ever, right?).
Nick was born in Halifax, has spent most of his life travelling the world. One of the wacky things about playpoi videos is that they take place in very different places. Each video marks part of Nick’s journey as well as yours! Nick is also the most back-to-the-basics teacher in the world. Every lesson is taught with an attention to detail, and a “how-to-spin-for-dummies” mentality that was quite appreciated for someone who is not naturally good at dancing! I have never been ‘good’ so to speak at learning to dance. Everything I have learned has been cultivated over many a youtube video! Nick though doesn’t care, because he knows how hard it is to cultivate skills you aren’t naturally good at! In this video created by Ben Drexler who is also an amazing teacher (really helped with my flowers and basic throws), Nick explains how his style of teaching is based in knowing what it is like to really suck at something and have to put a lot more effort into it than anyone else.
For me, finding poi was a godsend. It’s a fun art, in that it challenges your sense of space, and fluidity of your body. Nick also taught me the value of patience in the creation of flow. Gloving was like picking up the bass guitar, it is easy when you start, but gets progressively harder. Poi though is a completely new feeling in that the poi are an extension of the movement rather than just a representation. Building off moves is in itself easy, but learning to orient and think of your body in new ways is hard, really hard. I’ve been spending the last few months trying to teach myself behind the back weaves and transitions (using Nick’s tutorial as well) and it’s been very difficult. Nick has brought a lot of inspiration into my life, in forcing myself to practice and discipline my dance, although I still have a lot of fun (even when I’m frustrated!).
Johnathan Alvarez also discusses how highly influential Nick Woolsey has been to him/us. His work has been a gift, a way of transcending our own boundaries. Nick is my “superhero”.
Countercultures is a new bi-weekly series on Thursdays at Existential Awe that looks at life histories of artists and thinkers who pushed against the system and created countercultural social change.