As we continue our exploration into the 7 Layer Dip, we’ll begin focusing on the height layer of the dip. Clearly the skills themselves are, of course, important, but one of the most impactful performances I ever witnessed with poi was a student who did, literally, 3 moves. The reason it was so impactful? Her passion, her presence, her authenticity and how she performed and danced in such an elegant and graceful way, using the poi as an extension of her body.
As she was dancing, she was expressing the music, making her poi patterns and body movements a natural expression of the music. Her movements embodied the song and the song came through her body and poi movements with grace, flow and ease. Part of what she and other artists bring to the dance that creates a more compelling experience for the audience is a contrast between what is being performed. No matter how awesome a skill looks, doing that same exact thing in the same exact way for the entire performance will not be that compelling to the audience.When looking at the height layer of the 7 Layer Dip, there are three concepts to consider:
- First there is the height of the poi movement relative to the body. For example, when doing a weave — be it a 2 beat, 3 beat, 5 beat, 7 beat, isolated, polyrhythmic or any other variation you can think of — the position of the hands can be anywhere in space relative to the body. Imagine the difference, visually, between watching someone performing the weave with their hands at their waist versus their hands over their head. Now imagine watching that artist move the hands from one position to the other. If you compare the image of someone changing the height of the weave during their performance next to someone else doing the same weave without changing the height of the movement, it is clear the artist who changes the height is creating more contrast and subsequently a more complex experience for their audiences to view.
- Second there is the height of the body itself relative to the performance space. For example, an artist could be in any number of positions including lying down, kneeling, squatting, bent over, standing up, on their toes and even jumping in the air. Each of these positions in space offers a different visual experience for the audience witnessing the performance and moving between each of these positions creates even more contrast for people watching — even if the performer is using the same weave pattern in each position. Once again, these variations allow the artist to create contrast to expand the impact of their performance without having to learn new tricks with the poi.
- Third, artists can combine the ideas of these first two concepts and focus on how to change the height of the movement relative to the body while the body is being held at varying heights. On a technical level, this can be much more challenging because the movement of the poi as the body is moving relative to the ground requires a greater level of precision than simply doing a move or changing the height of one’s body. However, combining these elements together also allows artists the opportunity to create more contrast for the audience which helps make the performance more interesting.
If you’re wondering how to integrate more height changes into your performance, try this technique:
- pick a move you can perform easily, say, the weave.
- practice standing in one place and moving the weave around relative to the body for 30 seconds.
- over the next 30 seconds, practice moving the body height while performing the same move, while keeping the trick in a comfortable position throughout.
- over the next 30 seconds, practice moving the body height while also moving the position of the move relative to the body.
- during each of these steps, discover what is most comfortable for you to do — your strengths — and what is least comfortable for you to do — your areas of development.
- as you practice, take 90 second intervals throughout your practice time to cultivate both your strengths as well as the areas of development.
- through time, you’ll be able to integrate these new ways of creating contrast into your performance, allowing you to expand your audience impact and repertoire.