7 Layer Dip: Size (layer 3)

As we continue our exploration into the 7 Layer Dip, we’ll begin focusing on the size layer of the dip. As we already discussed when talking about the height layer of the dip, contrast is really a key piece of performance. Tony Robbins talks about this in his TED talk presentation about the 6 human needs we have. If you listen to the presentation at about 11 minutes in he begins talking about our needs. The first thing he mentions is we need certainty. In the context of performance, for example, everyone wants to know they are both going to be safe as well as being entertained. Depending on how aware the audience is will determine how much the audience expects in terms of skill level of the moves themselves. For example, less educated audiences will be far more impressed with a poi artist doing a buzzsaw and more educated audiences will find CAPS or Hybrids more potent. So when we’re creating a performance, we want to create a certain amount of predictable and reliable movement that gives the audience a sense of certainty about what is coming next.

Tony goes on to say, “If you got totally certain… if you know what’s going to happen, how it’s going to happen, and when it’s going to happen, what would you feel? Bored out of your mind! So God, in her infinite gave us a second human needs, which is uncertainty.”

In the context of performance, this shows up as increasing variation in your spinning. As much as height creates variation, size also does that. (Regardless of what anyone’s told you, size does matter. ;)

Here’s a few things to consider related to size in performance:

  • First there is the size of the poi (hoop, staff, fan, etc.) movement. 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 — there are various points in the movement when you can add an extension of the poi. By doing this, you’re taking your same weave (whichever one you’re doing) and adding a new visual element to it and allowing it to become a visually different movement even though no new skills were introduced. Imagine the difference, visually, between watching someone performing the weave in regular size and then, for contrast, making it bigger.
  • Second there is the size of the tools. This is really very specific to poi since there are two or more tools being used and poi somewhat uniquely has the ability to change in size on the fly. If you wrap the poi up on your hand and make it shorter, suddenly, you have a different aesthetic for the audience while also creating different possibilities in terms of positioning (i.e., inside planes) than you could have with longer poi.
  • Third, there is the size of the tools relative to each other. Again, this is very unique to poi because not only can you make your poi shorter on demand, you can do so asymmetrically. This adds a whole new way of playing with the tools because the same move now has a very different visual impact.
  • Fourth, there is asymmetric application of extensions. Imagine doing a weave or a pinwheel where only one arm does an extension. Take that  step further and you can apply asymmetric size of tools and asymmetric application of the extension to create an even broader range of visual possibilities.

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 adding extensions while performing the same move
  • over the next 30 seconds, practice changing the size of your poi while maintaining the movement, experimenting with different possible combinations. (NOTE: I’ve often seen taller people have a much easier time with this because it is usually easier to manage longer poi to begin with and therefore make them significantly shorter.)
  • over the next 30 seconds, explore the same move with one poi full size and one poi shorter, noticing what new patterns arise for you
  • over the next 30 seconds, explore the application of extensions asymmetrically
  • over the next 30 seconds, let all these concepts meld together and consider how they can create contrast in your performance
  • 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.