Weird Science :: Written Posts

Charlie's QFT instruction videos--now easier to watch!

So...roll call, how many of us interested in QFT have ever bothered to watch Charlie's videos on the topic all the way through? The one on notation clocks in at an astounding 45 minutes and I'll confess that even though I've been working on the notation system with him for nearly a year, I've never watched the video all the way through. 45 minutes was just too long a commitment to make for something that didn't showcase any spinning and was all theory and instruction.

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The Talent Trap

At a recent regional burn, a friend watched me as I practiced poi one afternoon and lamented that she believed she had no natural talent for the tool. I chuckled and replied that I didn't either, which I didn't think at the time would be such a controversial position, but it lead to a very heated debate over what constituted talent and how one might be judged to have it.

My assertion then is the same as it is now: when it comes to talent there is no such thing.

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A special message from Drex

A personal request to my viewers: I want to be out teaching more and I need y'alls help to make it happen. Here's how:

Like my page on Facebook so I can tell you when I come to your town:

Request that I come to your city either on my website of my Eventful page:

If you live in the DC/Maryland/Northern Virginia area, come take class from me at Contradiction Dance on Thursdays 8-9:30:

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On the merits of arguing Poi frameworks

We all know this're at a festival, spin jam, or on an online forum and somebody mentions a trick or concept you've played a lot with. So much so that you have a framework worked out in your head for how to understand that move and how many other moves interlock with it. You speak up and say, "x move is a type of y and here's why!" And so begins a lengthy debate over the nature of the move that can at times get heated. Each person clings to their understanding and points out the logical fallacies in the other approach.

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A Beginners' guide to Poi (QFT) Notation

If you were are the recent Kinetic Fire Festival or have spoken to either Charlie Cushing or myself face-to-face in the past six months, it's entirely possible you've heard of Charlie's Quantized Field Theory for poi and one of its applications: notation for props. We taught a class together at Kinetic in which Charlie enthusiastically explored the idea with the crowd while I, suffering from a nasty cold and laryngitis, did my best not to collapse and make everybody's day a little dreary.

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Horizontal stacks take off!

It started out innocently enough...Leo had been playing with ways to stall his hands and poi together at Firedrums and Mel had included a funky move that did the same thing in his seminal "Red Pants" video.

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New python program--this one finds transition points

For the past month I've been working on updating my previous Python poi simulator to be able to point out the position at which the poi is either fully extended or withdrawn from the hand path (in other words, the positions at which soft, hard, and mixed transitions are available).

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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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