last updated: 051222
This model is the result of considering how to create a beautiful,
well organized framework within which everyone can fit their ideas,
specialties, move names and concepts so the poi community can cross
pollinate the information we know and educate each other from a
common language structure. In developing this model, important questions
arise, such as:
- what is more fundamental?
- what is required to generate a pattern?
- what patterns are most basic?
- how do the poi fit together with each other?
While this model could be distinguished from a variety of perceptual
positions -- audience, artist, observer -- what is distinguished
below is from the perspective of the artist. This is important
to consider when looking at this model because it is about the
poi artists kinesthetic (in their body) experience vs. the audiences
visual (what they see) experience.
What is a holarchy?
The naturally emergent poi model is a holarchy, and rather than
describe what a holarchy is myself, I am going to quote from one
of the forerunning philosophers/integrative thinkers of our time,
Ken Wilber, who has done a lot of work to describe and educate people
in this particular area. From "A brief History of Everything"
by Ken Wilber:
Arther Koestler coined the term "holon"
to refer to an entity that is itself a "whole"
and simultaneously a "part" of some other whole.
For instance, a whole atom is part of a
whole molecule, and the whole molecule is part of a whole
cell, and the whole cell is part of a whole organism, and
so on. Each of these entities is neither a whole nor a part,
but a whole/part, a holon.
A natural hierarchy is simply and order
of increasing wholeness, such as particles to atoms to cells
to organisms, or letters to words to sentences to paragraphs.
The whole of one level becomes a part of the whole of the
next, but _not_ the other way around.
This is a sequence of increasing wholeness,
increasing holons, each of which transcends and includes
its predecessor. Now if, in a type of thought experiment,
you "destroy" any particular type of holon, then
all of the _higher_ holons will also be destroyed, but none
of the _lower_ holons will be destroyed. [That is, if you
eliminate sentences, paragraphs are no longer possible,
but words still exist. Paragraphs are the higher level holon
which becomes more than the sentences by including the sentences
within -- thereby "transcending and including"
the holons below it.]
When holists say 'the whole is greater
than the sum of its parts,' that means the whole is at a
higher or deeper level of organization than the parts alone
-- and that's a hierarchy, a holarchy. Separate molecules
are drawn together into a single cell only by properties
that supersede the molecules alone -- the cell is holarchically
arranged. And without holarchy, you simply have heaps, not
The Poi Holarchy
The poi holarchy levels can be described as follows:
Aspects > Transitions > Moves > Combos > Sequences
In a sense, this is an arbitrary break down of the structure
of the poi interactions. As such, when i first described this
model, i would have differentiated Movements from Aspects, where
movement is a specific aspect of "in motion" or "still".
After a conversation with 2Bags, i decided the two really could
be considered the same thing and subsequently eliminated "movements"
from the holarchy, grouping them as a specif Aspect.
An aspect is defined as an attribute used to define the motion
of the poi. Once you have control over the poi and can apply
various controls over the poi such as the speed, plane, direction,
size, center of revolution, radius of each circle, plane,
location in space and revolutions through time. I call these
attributes aspects and posit these are the basis
of the poi interaction.
Once an artist controls aspects
-- more and more of them through time --an artist can intentionally
change one or more aspect. For example, when doing a basic
spin, you are changing the center of revolution ever so slightly;
when you do a figure 8, you are both changing the plane and
the direction; when you do a stop or stall, you are changing
the direction; when you slide the poi from the plane parallel
to your hips to the plane perpendicular to your hips, you
are modifying the plane. Each of these changes of aspect is
define as a transitions and these include: spins,
figure 8s, stalls, stops, and wraps.
After gaining control over transitions, you can combine 2
(or more) poi doing 1 or more transition each to create reproducible
non-repetitive patterns. I call these "moves".
From a kinesthetic perspective, I believe there are three
fundamental ways the poi can move relative to the body and
One way is to remain in the same and/or parallel plane relative
to each other without crossing the the body. The butterfly
is an example of this, as is the buzzsaw or flowers. Even
circles on the side of the body would fall into this category.
Because they all fundamentally create patterns by having the
poi work in the same manner relative to each other and the
body, I think it is easiest to categories them all as one
move type which, for the sake of argument, I call planar
Another way for the poi to move is such that the poi chase
or follow each other (front to back or side to side or floor
to ceiling, for example) and do cross the body. These types
of show up as pinwheels, corkscrews and hip reels. These are
called chasing moves or reels.
The other fundamental way the poi can move relative to each
other and the body is to chase each other and cross the body
-- like reels -- while also crossing each other. A cross over
(2 beat weave), and all weave based moves are examples of
this type of movement. Not surprisingly, these are called
weaves, crossovers or cross and chase moves
Note that all the "aspects" -- direction, size,
speed, position in space, etc. -- previously mentioned are
irrelevant to the move type, though the aspects can be varied
to create a different visual effect. For example, one can
vary the center of the revolution of the poi while doing a
weave, thereby creating an isolation weave.
A logical question at this point might be to ask, “What
about hyperloops?” A hyperloop is the process of intentionally
wrapping one poi around another to cause directional changes.
A hyperloop, best as I can see it, is a specific type of wrap
involving both poi. One could make a case for this being a
move, though, really, since the hyperloop is done on the same
plane, I would call this a “plane” move where
the “aspect” that is being changed is “direction”
specifically using the type of transition know as “wrap”
to create the directional shift.
One might also question the inclusion of Atomics -- moves
where the poi do not remain on parallel planes. I would suggest
an atomic is a specific type of aspect -- 90 degree planes
between the poi -- rather than a type of pattern used to create
the moves. Atomics and chase, can remain in the same relative
plane, and/or cross and chase.
So, what we have so far is moves, which are created from
transitions, which are created by variaying aspects.
Once you have access to moves, you can then string a move
together with other moves and/or transitions to create reproducible
non-repetitive patterns. These patterns are more complex than
the moves they are made from. The fountain is a good example
of this holon which I call a combo.
Finally, you put together a combo with other combos and/or
moves and/or transitions to create reproducible patterns and
that is a "sequence", which, when you put it all
together, seems like the highest level. One might call this
a "performance", but that implies other things like
an audience so I am avoiding that term since one can desire
to move the poi without performing for an/other(s). It is
at this holon where we first encounter repetition within the
The Poi Holarchy Sumarized
So from the top down, the holarchy is:
Sequences (which transcend and include)
Combos (which transcend and include)
Moves (which transcend and include)
Transitions (which transcend and include)
Aspects (which at one point in time might have been considered
to transcend and include movements, though at this update of
this document, I will say a movement is a specific aspect)
A visual representation of this holarchy might look like this:
"To me, you're more than just an instructor, you are a
mentor. I think about Flowology all the time and it has really, really
helped me deal with stuff, just everything."
~ M. Besasie; June, 2007
"I have to say that any progress and willingness to learn and any commitment
I've made to myself and to Temple of Poi is completely because of the open,
welcoming, friendly environment that you have created that just nurtures my
desire to continue learning and to continue being a part of the Temple Of Poi community. Week after week I really am amazed that you have completely
cracked the code on teaching such a complex art form, in a way that caters to
all sorts of learning styles. So, thank you for being in my life and helping
to create this whole new dimension of who I am."
~ J. Grosser; May, 2005