The Top 10 Poi Spinners of 2012

It was done on a lark and was nothing if not controversial: this year I started an effort to have people vote for their top 10 poi spinners of 2012. I left the requirements as wide open as possible, hoping people would fill in for themselves what those spinners had made their top 10 for: inspiration? most technically accomplished? shiniest teeth? As more than a few people pointed out, that made the requirements so vague as to not serve any kind of measurable which I generally liked to reply, "glad we're on the same page!"

It's been fun to see all the nominees come pouring in--I discovered a lot of artists I'd never heard of before and whom I can't wait to see new work from in 2013. There were so many of these folks, in fact, that within this first week of 2013, I'm going to be posting a blog to shine a light on some of them as poi spinners to watch in the New Year.

With a total of 528 total votes cast on 105 nominees, here are your  Top 10 Poi Spinners of 2012 with links to a video of them spinning:

1. Cyrille Humen

Cyrille has been quiet on the video front in 2012, releasing a couple videos for Flowtoys and a tantalyzing teaser for "Manipoi," which hints at contact and dance-influences moves as groundbreaking as those he's pioneered in the last couple years in "Brainstorming" and "Melting Poi." The real treat was in his workshop tour of the United States this year and his visits to fire festivals, where you could learn firsthand from the master of contact poi himself how to do all his exotic body rolls and those nifty body isolations that have become his trademark. Cyrille continues to inspire the next generation of top-level poi spinners with his commitment to poi in a performance context and pushing the bounds of how poi spinners can interact with their tools.

2. Ronan McLoughlin

The grandaddy of contact poi himself, Ronan has continued to inspire and amaze in 2012. Aside from being a fixture on the fire festival circuit, Ronan took a role behind the scenes for FlowStorm in Texas this past year--releasing a wonderfully hilarious promo video for the festival featuring many of the contact rolls and throws that have become his trademark. It's sometimes said that every accomplished artist has another, more obscure artist behind them--for a taste of the ideas that have inspired nearly everyone else on this list, give one of Ronan's videos a gander.

3. Kate McCoy

In the poi groups on Facebook, Kate is frequently referred to as the greatest female tech spinner in the world--this list should go a lot way towards proving that without qualifier, she is one of the greatest poi spinners in the world, period. Aside from igniting the fishtails boom we saw in the first half of the year, Kate has been etching out a unique niche for herself with the insane multiple twist waistwraps that apparently only she and invertebrates have access to. Plus which her work has gone a long way to popularizing the use of the "superman" and other tricks imported from the glowsticking world.

4. Marvin Ong

Master Ong has landed! Originally a glowsticker who came to poi through the late and beloved flow guru Burning Dan, Marvin has branched out into a plenthora of tools as well as opening his own business selling tools to the flow arts community. Also a fixture on the festival circuit, Marvin has been wowing audiences with his complex and original take on fishtails and his intricate partner poi work with his wife Jennifer. Marvin's style has become a unique fusion of club hybrid spinning, contact, and partner poi that he makes look not just clean but stylish!

5. Keith Marshall

You can hunt for Keith on YouTube, but you'll likely come up with only a page's worth of results. Go to a festival, however, and you'll find an hours-long rabbit hole with this mild-mannered Scottish lad on throws and that great neglected poi topic: negative space. Indeed, these days it seems like Keith has become the standard bearer for this type of poi tech, taking it in directions that make it flow beautifully and seem right at home in the rest of the tech world. A juggler who has taken many of the concepts of toss juggling and applied them to poi, you can look no further than Keith to find a long list of the latest and greatest throws that are possible with the tool.

6. Michael Parisi

Exploding onto the scene in 2011, Michael Parisi has quickly become one of the scene's most promising new artists. Basing his style almost completely on 2D moves with the occasional plane-shift thrown in for good measure, Parisi has demonstrated that the 2D world isn't out of ideas yet with his wonderfully clean and hypnotizing style. Parisi almost single-handedly began the craze earlier in the year of performing body tracers horizontally around the head as the the other hand continues in a vertical plane, touching off scores of new poi spinners to play with atomics for the first time, not to mention keeping the quarter-time craze alive and well throughout the year.

7. Ben "Drex" Drexler

(h/t to Christian Medina for writing this up when I didn't feel comfortable doing it)

If you've been to any workshop related festival in the United States over the past couple years or you're into poi and wanted to learn something new, chances are you've probably encountered Drex in one way or another. You would soon come to find out that he's an inspiring, creative, thought provoking individual as well as teacher; not to mention a veritable cornucopia of poi knowledge. Spanning years and years, its easy to his steadfast dedication to this craft. Whether its making and uploading new videos to youtube (over 300 tutorial videos alone and counting), or capturing performances from festivals, or making contact poi, or teaching classes, Drex manages to hit the mark with all of these. In this time, he has inspired both veterans and new comers alike to keep learning, keep pushing boundaries and most importantly, never stop dancing.

8. Asaf "PoiBoi" More

Another poi luminary whose had meagre video offerings in 2012, the few glimpses we got of PoiBoi's practice outside of the demands of circus school suggest he's continuing to give Cyrille a run for his money when it comes to being the king of contact poi. Adding juggling to his repertoire is clearly having a positive effect on PoiBoi's tosses and performances, with tosses that rival Keith's in their technical demands and rival Ronan's in their originality. All hoping for a longer video from PoiBoi in 2013, say aye!

9. Noel Yee

Perhaps one of the most classical poi spinners to make the top 10, Noel has been keeping classical wall plane poi stylings alive with his emphasis on "simple tech," moves that can easily be accomplished in such a way that the body is free to express and move to accompanying music. Aside from contributing a host of ideas to the fishtail boom earlier in the year, Noel explorations of single-hand meteor-style manipulations continues to rank at the top of the pack with deeply technical variants on the superman and a plethora of entries and exits to single-hand manipulations in all timing and direction combinations. A huge creative force behind partner poi, you can see him pushing the envelope in partnerships with Jen “Monster” Swanson, Strange Yelle, and with the Foreways Project.

10. (tie) Ivan "Mel" Gorbunov

The undisputed king of Russian poi, Mel has had a quiet year on the video front. We've been deprived of his usual yearly tech video but have gotten a glimpse of him competing on Ukraine's Got Talent with a nifty hybrid contact juggling and poi spinning piece. The instigator of the horizontal stack craze, one of the first poi spinners to pull off a horizontal cateye vs isolation in performance, and one of the great innovators of body tracers, Mel has earned a lasting place in poi history.

10. (tie) Teddy Petrosky

Another rising star of the American tech poi scene, Teddy has one of the widest movement vocabularies of all the up and comers, equally comfortable spinning traditional flowers as he is with contact poi and exotic tosses. Add into the mix new influences from Cyrille and Keith in the past year and Teddy has begun to branch off into his own muses, playing with uses for ground rebounds and “meteor-locking,” twisting a pair of poi knob handles together to make them a functional meteor and drawing puppyhammer tech into the poi world.

The list this first year definitely skews very American-centric, with 6 of the 11 people who made the cut coming from different regions of the United States (two from California and one each from Ohio, New York, North Carolina, and Washington DC). After the United States, the most represented country is the UK with two of the folks on this list and the remaining spinners from Israel, Russia, and Switzerland. 

I did want to present people with the opportunity to check out some of the other amazing artists that people voted for. Here's the complete list of nominees with real names inserted where I either already knew them or was able to find them relatively easily ;)

Full list of nominees:

"Alien" Jon Everett, Adam Savage, Adam Solander, Aifique Khaikal, Alex Powell, Amir, Asaf "PoiBoi" More, Ase Anthony, Ashley Ellis, Austin Odum, Basil "Baz" Simon, Ben "Drex" Drexler, Brian Thompson, Bryan "Arashi" Kitchens, Cameron Dollinger, Cary Jerome, Charlie Cushing, Chino, Chris Dokler, Chris Kloester, Colin Morton, Corey "Kory San" Ellis, Cyrille Humen, Daniel Ledel, Danielle "Strange Yelle" Good, Darius, Dave Statik, David Beeler, David Cantor, Declan Mee, Dimitry "Dima" Holmsky, Dittmar Wündenaut, Dominik Harant, Dorothea, Drew Brown, Eli Harrod, Emily Brumbaugh, Eric Dibich, Erik Bublitz, Erik Svedin, Evgeny Pilipenko, Fedor Sharapov, Grant Baker, Greg Maldonado, Gustavo Ollitta, Hosuke, Ivan "Mel" Gorbunov, Jack Denger, Jason Garfield, Jesse Bowen, Joe Graff, Johan Lein Ahlin, John Routson, Jonathan "Daddy" Alvarez, Jordan Campbell, Justin Benson, Justin Hinde, Justin Warren and Christina Koller, Kate McCoy, Keith Marshall, Ky Lee, Kyle Johnson, Lando Ramos, Leonardo Icaza, Libero, Lindzee, Loooop (Francois Erb, Tina Lange, Hanna Lange), Lorq Nichols, Maiki Nope, Marcus Furtner, Marvin Ong, Matt Cullen, Matt Jorgenson, McMcPoiPoi, Michael "G" Chesney, Michael Karas, Michael Parisi, Motofumi "KiM" Kimura, Nick Woolsey, Nicky Evers, Noel Yee, Ola Nordmann, Olle Ekman, Pierre Paris, Poiislifelifeispoi, Resses2150, Richard Cranium, Richard Kohut, Robin "BoBBo" Jäderfält, Rocco, Ronan McLoughlin, Russell Megowan, Santiago Escobar, Santo (Sa), Teddy Petrosky, Thomas Dietz, Thomas Johansson, Tim Goddard, Tobias "Tipper" Pedersen, Tom Charot, Tommy Vågbratt, Vojta Stolbenko, Wyatt Davis, Yuta Imamura, and Zan Moore.

A huge thanks to everyone who voted this year and contributed to the effort!

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