Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cliff Hanger revealed:

Gulf Shores, Alabama, September 6, 2013.
Warning:  picture heavy post, but worth it. . .
I ended the last post with this ad:  This show happened to be Friday, September 6, and I said, "Mr. C, I want to go to this."  So, of course, we went.  This was held by the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach.  It was part a fantastic evening and part a real flop.  We got there about 45 minutes early to be sure we could get a good spot.  We were stupid and forgot to bring anything to drink (although we did bring chairs to sit in).  We also forgot we might need bug spray (but that turned out okay, as so many people around us had on bug spray it eventually covered the entire area and we were protected, too.  One of the few advantages of being in a crowd of people, LOL.)

We waited and waited and waited, Mr. C did his Kakuro puzzles (which are an addition crossnumber puzzle and are a ton of fun.  To try it for yourself, go to and choose Kakuro.  There are very small simple puzzles (which I started out with) up to really large hard ones.  I read my Kindle and people watched.  Notice on the ad, it says Show:  7 P.M.  We arrived around 6:15.  7 p.m. passed, 7:30 p.m. passed.  We could see the guys setting up, but didn't have a clue what was going on.  If you notice, the ad also mentions Alabama Gulf Coast Drum Circle and Up in Flames Poi Dancers. . . I roughly knew what a Drum Circle was, but Poi Dancers???  not a clue. . . However, if you would like more information, Wikipedia has a good explanation, as does Home of Poi from which I quote, "'Poi' is the Maori word for 'ball' on a cord. Poi is a form of juggling where the balls are swung around the body. The word 'Poi' is both plural and singular. (I have one Poi, he has two Poi).

From it's beginnings Poi had the purpose of enhancing dance and rhythm. It was soon realized that Poi swinging had several other benefits from wrist strength, flexibility and improving co-ordination to name a few. Mastering simple Poi moves can quickly improve self-esteem and gain respect from others. Hence the reason it quickly becomes addictive. And like all performance arts you are only limited by your imagination.

There are many cultures around the world who have also developed a similar art form (eg. Bola). In most instances they evolved from swinging weapons.

The word 'Poi' is the name given to this art form by the Maori people of New Zealand. So when we talk about the history of Poi it will be the New Zealand history.

The Poi was used, many years ago, by the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand to increase their flexibility and strength in their hands and arms as well as improving coordination.
Wahine (female) dancers perform the Maori Poi, a dance performed with balls attached to flax strings, swung rhythmically.

The Poi dance was originally used by the Maori women for keeping their hands flexible for weaving and by the men for strength and coordination required during battle. Poi are also used as a training aid for other ancient weapons like the Mere or Patu (Short club). "  

So we continued to patiently wait and so did the rest of the crowd and there was a CROWD, with people of all ages from babies to older people (even older than us, LOL).

 At least there was music to entertain us and most of it was Irish
music, which I love, so I was happy enough, although it was hot and humid and I wished we had brought drinks, but then was glad we hadn't, as it would have meant trips to the restrooms.
Finally they welcomed everybody and excused the lateness and thanked us for our patience.  The Drummers had gotten stuck in traffic (one major road into Gulf Shores from Northern Alabama where they were coming from, on a Friday night).  It also turns out that the Poi Dancers and the main Art on Fire presentation required full dark.  It had been a beautiful sunny day, here in Gulf Shores, so it stayed light later than planned. . .

Finally, though we saw a bit of action, as the big thing in front of  us began to glow, at the bottom, just as the Drummers arrived and began to set up.  The Drum circle invited all the children in the audience to come up and play with them and many of them did so.  (I'm sorry this picture is really dark, and grainy, it was the best I could do, at the time, but at least shows some of the children).

  By the time it was dark there were about 20  kids up there drumming along with various percussion instruments).  Then, as it got darker and darker, the fun began, with the Poi Dancers.  Poi Dancers as we found out, for this performance are Poi Dancers using LED lights or Fire for effect. Once I realized that, I got really excited.  Back in my thin, active teenage years, I was a baton twirler (from age 5 on, actually) and was the majorette for our High School.  In addition to regular baton, I also twirled Fire Baton and Fire Hoop.  It was so much fun and exciting to do.  I figured this would be along the same line. . . well, it was similar, and yet so very different.  (Remember, this was before I Googled Poi Dancing).

By the way:  ATTENTION, N (our son) WE HAVE FOUND YOU A NEW PROFESSION. . . As much of a fire bug as you were as a kid and teen, you should have become a Fire Dancer, LOL Besides, you would have enjoyed the exercise of Poi Dancing. Love you lots and lots.  

This performance began with LED Hula Hoop Poi Dancers.These hula hoops were the same shape and size as regular hula hoops, but they were covered (or made?) entirely of various colored LED lights.   This one was just being twirled in place in front of the guy (yes, some dancers were guys and some were gals) which gives you some idea of the lights.  This one was multicolored.

The more intricate patterns in the rest of the pictures are from the ways they were moving, swinging, twirling the hoops.

It was fascinating how the lights swirl and move and mix, especially in the camera's eye.   Most of the dancers were not the best Hula Hoop(ers) we've ever seen (there was one on FaceBook--plain hula hoop in her kitchen--that kept the silly thing going for about a half hour up and down her body, head, arms, legs, on and over, around and around).
 I sure have to give these people credit though, as I never could keep a hula hoop going, no matter how often I tried, LOL.  Anyway, these colored designs were made as the Poi dancers moved the hoops around.

Then the Poi Fire Dancers started to play, and it was obvious that to them it was play.  At first I thought it was just "juggling sticks with fire on one end" and wasn't too horribly impressed (due to my own past experience with fire baton twirling, I thought, I could do that. . . but they were using TWO of them, one in each hand and while I did double baton with regular batons, I had never double fire twirled, LOL);   However, I quickly became very impressed as I realized that this Poi Dancing was done with fire on the end of short lengths of rope or chain. Per Wikipedia, "Fire poi use wicks for the weighted ends (often made using kevlar)The bottom flap of the wick is sewn with Kevlar thread, which ensures the wick has a longer life. The wicks are soaked in fuel, set on fire, and then spun for dramatic effect."

Photo courtesy of Charles Hagan

Photo courtesy of Charles Hagan

As with all physical endeavors, there were all levels of expertise.  Some were obviously beginners and some were, obviously, even afraid of what they were doing.
One of the Poi Fire Dancers also used a hoop.  Unlike a Fire Baton Hoop (which has a baton, to twirl, across the center of a hoop that is completely on fire all around the circumference of the hoop) this hoop had 6-8 spots around the hoop with the wicks and the dancer actually had his or her hands directly on the hoop (obviously avoiding the wicks as much as possible).  It is still used as a hula hoop, rolling around the body, head, legs, arms, swung in front of and behind and even jumped.   This happened to be a young man and he did an outstanding job.  As the fuel of the various wicks burned out, they would just go out and he played "fire eater" on the last couple each time (if I understand correctly, you let the flame appear to go into your mouth while you blow it out, but never having tried this myself, I am not sure).
Photo courtesy of Charles Hagan

Photo Courtesy of Charles Hagan
Finally the gentleman who was the head of the Art on Fire, Lee McKee, got on the microphone and thanked us for our patience.  He explained that his performance would utilize cast iron art.  They had a specially made "Smelter" I believe it was called or a furnace (it looked like a cannon set on end).  He further explained that they had to have an extremely HOT fire in the furnace and it couldn't be forced or timed, it would get hot enough when it got hot enough and would melt the pig iron they had dumped into it.  When it was hot enough to melt they would let it flow out of one of the small holes at the bottom of the furnace.  They then would demonstrate pouring molds as well as "apparently" make art by throwing it (from special equipment) onto the boards they were using as a backdrop.

He also explained that the Coke (fuel used for the fire and heat) and the pig iron were all products of Alabama.  In fact, everything used for his part of the program was produced right here in Alabama.  His educational part of the program was very interesting and informative.  
So, we waited and waited and waited some more, 9:00, 9:30, the poor drummers kept drumming, the Poi Dancers kept dancing and trying to keep the crowd entertained and Lee and his group kept messing with the furnace.  Something had gone wrong, it obviously kept getting hotter and hotter,
Photo Courtesy of Charles Hagan
 but there seemed to be some sort of clog and the iron just wouldn't "pour".  The poor guys were doing everything in their power, including jury rigging a leaf blower to add more air to the "fire", to no avail, but I sure felt sorry for the guy standing there holding that leaf blower with the welding face shield and protective gear on.  As hot as it was out in the open I can't imagine how hot he must have gotten.  They gave it their all though.

So finally around 10:00 pm they called it quits and did the Poi Grand Finale, which appeared to be Poi Fire Dancing with bursts of fire/sparklers/fireworks, and it was indeed a grand finale.  Then, we all went home.

My apologies that this post was so photo heavy, but it was a visual event and to be honest this is only a handful of the best photos I took that I am sharing with you.  Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.  Smiles and I hope to see you tomorrow for another installment of "Chasin' Rainbows, Too".  

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