Evolution of An Artist

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As the community continues to grow and technique distinguished at rapid rates, here at Temple of Poi we’re feeling a dearth of conversation around performance theory and the journey of a flow artist from their entry into the community to their emergence as a dance performance artist.

Perhaps, as an academy focused on dance performance rather than exploring flow arts as a cirque form, we are simply coming from a different perspective and for us, the “trick” itself is valued far less than the actual presentation of the trick as a flowing journey visually articulating the music.

Whatever the reason, in an effort to help usher artists through this journey with tools to help them become, again and again, we are creating this series of articles focused on cultivating the practices necessary to support artistic growth in its endless journey.

This first article is designed to give an overview of our understanding of the phases of growth associated with artists. Subsequent articles will offer various practice techniques that we suggest investigating and utilizing that are informed by the current stage of development.

  • Birth: this is the moment of awakening into the community, where the artist first picks up the tools for themselves. For some it is an instant love affair and for others, it is a longer process that may involve long periods of disconnection between the artist and the tool until that moment clicks, the time when the artist finds within themselves the impetus and motivation to practice because, in the end, all artistry begins with the impetus to practice followed by the actual practice itself.
  • Vulnerability: While the initial moments of play with the tools may bring joy, at some point early on, artists generally hit that place where they feel vulnerable revealing themselves in their growth process. It could be as simple as the humbling moment of taking a poi straight to the face or nuts… or, perhaps, that more intimate space of revelation where their True Self is seen in their access to the egoless state of flow wherein their essence shines through the movements, transcending the moves themselves to create true art. Both are places of vulnerability, and moving through them creates the strength to support the process of moving beyond the comfort zone.
  • Exploration: As the vulnerable artist begins to explore themselves and the use of the tools to express flow, they expand and become again and again, each time they cycle through that space of vulnerability and exploration. This is a process of  trying things on as one might do in a shoe store, looking for the right look and feel to really express the desired emotions and have the sought after impact. It may be as easy as it was for Goldilocks and in just three tries, an artist may find what is just right. Though, the process is much more likely to be an endless exploration and discovery for an artist to stay at the top of their form.
  • Confidence: With enough cycles through the vulnerability and exploration process, artists begin to gain the confidence necessary to present themselves to other people as artists, even if it is as emerging artists just getting started.This confidence grows as the cycle repeats itself which often impacts the cycle by landing the artist more opportunities to explore and present themselves.
  • Experience: After presenting themselves frequently enough, artists begin to gain more confidence, continuing to explore their edges and eventually become experienced artists. Experience being what it is, this process is never ending because each performance truly offers the opportunity for something unique to be born.That said, performing 1000 times in front of an audience of 10 people will never give you what a performance in front of 10,000 people will.
  • Refinement: As the artist continues to bloom, they visit and revisit the endless process of refinement that touches on all the aspects of their presentation, including the moves themselves as well as the style that uniquely defines how each artist articulates the moves. In addition to the span of comprehension the artist discovers through exploration, the refinement process brings a depth of experience that adds rich subtle layers. Sadly, what often accompanies the richer tapestry is a decreasing level of appreciation from the audience whose own understanding isn’t necessarily deep enough to comprehend all the textures. However, as artists continue to refine themselves, the very act of the refinement becomes an exercise in masturbation — more for their own pleasure than that of the audience. Ideally, the artist would choose to develop skills that will appeal to the audiences as well to be most efficient with their practice time, though sometimes, it really is because it just feels good no matter how it shows up in performance.

As with all artistic endeavors, this process repeats itself again and again, because, after all, an artist will embody the following philosophy:

I am a constantly evolving unfinished work of art.

If you’re looking to level up in your training and aren’t sure which class is right for you, contact GlitterGirl (GlitterGirl TempleOfPoi com) to set up your free assessment. GlitterGirl offers coaching world wide via skype, email, phone and video in addition to in person coaching on site at Temple of Poi headquarters or at your facility. 

4 thoughts on “Evolution of An Artist

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  1. I think that masturbation isn’t intrinsically a bad thing, and sometimes the things that feel good, while not in themselves beautiful to watch, add enough joy to the dancer that it shines through in the performance elsewhere. I agree that for a performer, considering the audience is important, but not all artists are performers, and not all audiences are ignorant. I consider myself a performer of necessity. I become a performer when it is necessary in order to be able to fire dance in the contexts where I want to fire dance (for example, I’d go to pretty significant lengths to dance to Bassnectar live, especially if I was close enough and in-line enough to make eye-contact & interact). However, the vast majority of the time I’m dancing for the joy of dancing. My audience, or at least the one I most care about, is other spinners. Bystanders who happen to be there are welcome to watch, and I’ll try to give enough of a show to earn my space on the dance floor, but fundamentally, I’m there to flow and hopefully I can find the space necessary to do that.

    1. I think masturbation is a good thing. That doesn’t mean it is the ideal thing for an intention performance artist which, based on what you’re reading, isn’t really the journey you are on. Doing a set in front of other people doesn’t mean you are performing it, nor does it mean you want to be a performer. “Performer of necessity” isn’t really what this article touches on. This article is more for those who are intentionally pursing the art of being a dance performance artist.

      And, as I said, I consider masturbation a good thing! 🙂

  2. This is a great piece. Oddly, here I am ten years later and I don’t feel like I’ve moved through the vulnerability phase. I mean, I definitely entered it. I just never left it. I feel vulnerable all the time. Braver some times than others … but that feeling of vulnerability is always there. I am a bit of an introvert and somewhat shy too. Engaging the world feels like a never ending act of courage.

    1. I struggled with that as I was creating the diagram: do we ever really leave that phase of vulnerability if we are continually exploring our edge? Your point is a great one Caroleena, because in a sense, we find new and different ways to be vulnerable even after we have confidence and experience under our belt. 🙂

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