Weird Science :: Written Posts

The Poi Heresies: why 3-petal antispin flowers are not triquetras

What is a triquetra?

For most of the past year, triquetra has been synonymous with three-petal antispin flowers and in some cases the hybrids that can be created by combining them with other patterns. Nick Woolsey even posted this video, explaining the concept and the term and its significance to poi spinning in general. After doing the math, however, I've come to the conclusion that what we describe as triquetras don't actually match the visual or mathematical properties of triquetras at all and that a couple of the conclusions we've reached based upon this assumption are false.

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Soft, Hard, and Mixed Transition Theory

Given that Google Wave will be shutting its doors by the end of the year, I wanted to post a document that's long been gestating on it. I wrote up my theory of hard, soft, and mixed transitions in a rough draft form months ago and had shared it with a whole mess of people whose opinion I respect for feedback and clarification.

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Notes from my class on transitions

If you came to my class on hard, soft, and mixed transitions at Fall Wildfire, I promised I'd put a digital copy of the handout on my website and I'm a man of my word. Here is both the outline in math and in practice of what constitutes these transitions as well as the "cheat sheet" that maps out the transitions between common hand path sizes and their accompanying shapes.

Class outline
Cheat sheet

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New session of poi classes at Contradiction Dance

This week begins a new session of poi classes at Contradiction Dance in Silver Spring. I have to admit that as a teacher I was spoiled rotten by the kids I taught in Kenya, whose focus and discipline was incredibly inspiring. Fortunately, the first class we had last night was just as inspiring! This session in addition to focusing on plane control and adding to our catalog of tricks like normal, I've added partner poi to the syllabus. Partner poi has seen some huge advances in the past year and presents some unique and interesting challenges for us.

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The great Kenya adventure, Part 5

It's Friday afternoon in Mombasa. I surface in the Indian Ocean just off Nyali Beach, North of the city. The weather could not be more perfect: lazy clouds hang at the edges of the horizon as an unobstructed sun shines down on a seemingly endless corridor of white sandy beach. Three British tourists attempt to learn to windsurf several yards further out to see without much luck. Next to me floats Martin, one of the first street children who started working with Will when he created the Motomoto Circus School.

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The Great Kenya Adventure, Part 4

Saturday morning: last night was a magical mystery tour with Sarakasi and James. Today it's the hamlets kids we're going to teach. Will Ruddick has been on a bus from Mombasa all night and arrives before I wake up in the morning. There is a package waiting for us at the Post Office in town--the last pieces from the United States we need for the program. Already we've gotten a 100 foot roll of 2" wide kevlar, 40 high-quality fishing swivels, and 40 quick links. The hardware goes so fast as we build, so though all the numbers seem high, we're still budgeting appropriately.

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The great Kenya Adventure, Part 3

For just over two weeks we've drilled and run new concepts. We've played with choreo and fine-tuned what we already have. I can teach until I turn blue in the face, but ultimately what will prove the mettle for any performer is a big crowd and all the crazy uncertainty it brings. It can turn shy, introverted wallflowers into dynamic giants or leave outgoing extroverts weeping in embarrassment. Ultimately, you never know entirely who you are as a performer until you hit that stage.

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The great Kenya adventure, Part 2

Every teacher knows their job is not just as simple as telling their students what to do and leaving it at that (or at least, all good teachers do). On one level you have to keep those students who are zipping ahead of the class engaged while making sure that those who just aren't getting it don't get left too far behind.

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The great Kenya adventure, Part 1

Hello, all! I'm writing to you from the wilds of Kenya...well, apartment on Ngong Road in Nairobi, but I swear the wilds are merely an hour's drive away.

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Home from PEX Summer Festival

If you live in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States and haven't heard of PEX, you owe it to yourself to check them out at some point. It's essentially a collective of creatives who live and operate out of Philly and throw some of the most amazing Burning Man inspired parties you'll ever see. Last year they started an event that is a hybrid of a music festival and a burn that takes place in Northern Maryland over the 4th of July weekend and I was delighted to return to it this year.

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Alien Jon and Major Thom: three poi passing

I've got to confess that as much as partner poi has blown up over the course of the past year, I've yet to really see much of the appeal of it. Like degrees of twist, there comes to be a point where the more intricate the movements involved in it, the less graceful and more unnatural it comes off (and therefore, to my mind, the less entertaining to an uninitiated audience).

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Summer session poi classes

The summer session has begun at Contradiction Dance! If you'd like to hone your skills, get back up to speed, or pick up a set of poi for the first time, come join us at 925 Wayne Ave in Silver Spring, MD on Thursdays from 8-9:30 PM.

Lately I've been pushing exercises to solidify plane control in class as I'm noticing this is a frequent stumbling block for folks trying to get into more advanced technique. We're also playing with the wide, woolly world of 1.5s which for my money are the best way to switch between different combinations of timing and direction.

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Vector graphics of poi patterns

As I've played around with my soft and hard transition ideas, I've found it helpful to move around the hand and poi paths of some popular moves in Illustrator and other graphics editing programs, but my technique for doing so has left a lot to be desired. Essentially, I've been putting the proper variables into an online spirograph program (located at and mirrored below), taking a screencapture of the result, and importing it into Illustrator using the livetrace function.

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Vesica Piscis charts

Whoops! I just rewatched my video on vesica piscis soft transitions and realized I'd promised to post the charts I'd used to work through these transitions and never did. Here they are, along with the original video--they depict a series of soft transitions from cateyes to triquetras and vice versa in which the overlap in hand paths between the triquetras resembles the vesica piscis pattern sometimes seen in sacred geometry. Enjoy!

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Ronan practice session

For a large portion of the past year, I've had a massive poi mad-on for technique like Ronan McLoughlin's. He's from Cork, Ireland and has one of the most original poi spinning styles I've ever seen. Unlike most poi spinners (myself included), Ronan centers his style around stopping the momentum of the poi rather than keeping it moving, resulting in a dizzying array of stalls, pendulums, and contact work that always leaves me scratching my head.

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I Believe/The Disorder of Things

This weekend comes the fruit of weeks worth of labor: my glowspinning troupe, Revolutionary Motion is performing at Contradiction Dance's spring concert. Featuring some of my favorite local spinners: Surprise, E6, Mia, and Maddy, we've worked up a piece incorporating elements of modern dance and hip hop with our tools and we're stoked to be performing this piece in such a fantastic setting.

If you live in the Baltimore/Washington area, please consider attending. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

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And now for something more personal...

We interrupt your regularly scheduled poi program to bring you a special bulletin:

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The first Home of Poi collaboration vid!

Back in the day, used to frequently feature videos that edited together footage of many glowstickers into one fabulous vid that showed off the talents of many people all at the same time. Recently, the challenge went up on the Home of Poi forums to put together a similar collaboration vid between many of the spinners on the forums. Ten fantastic poi spinners answered the call and Poiboi edited them all together.

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Pineapple Pete and G: the Reloaded sessions

Things have been busy down under! If you're not familiar with Aussie poi auteur Pineapple Pete, you should give a look to this fascinating video from a couple years ago showing off some of his experiments at the "Church of Poi".

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Free Poi Class!

The studio I teach at has moved from Takoma Park to Silver Spring and we're celebrating the move by offering a week of free classes, including poi!

This is a great opportunity for rote beginners to get free instruction to start them on the road to the playful and challenging world of object manipulation. If you've been wanting to learn or have learned only a couple tricks and would like to learn more, this is the perfect chance!

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A few updates

Hey, all!

Those of you who've been crusing through here the last couple days have probably noticed the addition of a few items. After Sphericulism went down and then returned, I grabbed a copy of Rev's Manifesto so I could continue to read and be confused by it and a few recent queries from friends for copies of Cyrille's Geometry document from last year, I stuck up copies of both and added a couple other writing on poi theory that I thought kicked ass or that had influenced me a lot. Hopefully in the future I'll be adding additional documents into this section (Charlie's 9-square Theory perhaps?). If you've got a suggestion, hit the contact box and tell me what you'd like to see mirrored here.

Also, I added a rating feature to my videos and blog entries. There's really no great reason for that aside from the fact that I'm curious what people are digging on. Thanks to all the folks who've used this site since it launched a couple months ago. It's nice to have a home and to have people visit you there :)


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Awesome diagonal planes tutorial

Over the weekend, Zan posted an excellent tutorial video on diagonal planes, those bizarre bits of techery that came out of EJC this past summer. Zan breaks it down in such a way that it'll help you figure out how to keep your planes straight, some very basic diagonal transitions, and how to execute some pretty mean-looking turns with them. If this stuff intrigues you like it does, me give this vid a gander:

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Bring on the Blogs!

Times are getting exciting for those of us who love poi blogs: there are two new video blogs in town that I'm all about. First up is an Israeli poi spinner who seems to be taking inspiration in equal parts from both the European school of float/pendulum/contact poi spinning as well as the American unit circle schools of thought to create some of the cleanest technique I've yet seen (read: yes, I'm totally jealous of this guy's form ;). PoiBoi's latest blog can be found below. I highly recommend visiting him on YouTube at and seeing his other vids.

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Poi symmetry: why my hybrid theory is full of holes, Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the many holes that had been poked in the theory of hybrid construction I posted a few weeks ago, among which are its incompatibility with any timings other than split-time or same time and the fact that it can't account for a static spin versus extension hybrid. Thus begs the question of how exactly we can define hybrids in a way that is extensible (ie, that works at any size shape we can image).

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Poi symmetry: why my hybrid theory is full of holes, Part 1

A couple weeks ago I posted a video conjecturing a new framework for understanding how poi hybrids are constructed--namely that they are examples of poi motion retaining multiple combinations of timing and direction. I've had a couple holes in this theory pointed out to me and I've come to see additional holes myself, so I'm putting together a breakdown of why my theory was flawed as well as laying the groundwork for a new theory based both upon this feedback and my own explorations.

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