Choosing the right fire poi dimensions which will feel right & allow you to pursue your own personal style of fire dancing can be daunting. There are so many poi specifications to consider including poi length, overall weight, poi head type, handle type… It may be helpful to seek the advice of an experienced artist.
I’ve made a career of dancing with fire poi, (20+ years including 3 years onstage with the Cirque du Soleil). I’ve always designed & constructed my own fire tools and have been teaching poi & staff & swords for over 15 years. Questions about ideal poi specs have come up often from my Students but much more so since I began offering my own custom-made fire poi to the public via the Fusion Arts Pro Fire Shop.
Below you will find my revelations regarding fire poi specs over years of impassioned obsession and design modification. Disclaimer! Opinions vary even between experienced poi artists. This is largely due to the different styles of poi spinning. I’ve named the style I’ve developed Dance-based Fire Dance, which I teach at my Workshops and Fire Dance Retreats.
In addition to my dance-based style, there is also contact poi, tech poi & other styles, each with their own priorities regarding poi specifications. Ultimately the question of which fire poi are right for you comes down to your own personal style and aspirations.
Choosing Fire Poi Length:
A general rule of thumb for choosing the right fire poi length for you, is to stand normally & measure the distance from your knuckles to the floor, then to subtract a couple centimeters (or inches) to make sure you aren’t going to skim the floor when you are spinning. This magic number is the length from the edge of the wick nearest the floor, all the way to your knuckles, but is not your total poi length. For your total poi length you will need to factor in the handle length (see the section on handle type below).
If you are someone who is going to spin while standing as you normally would (hooray tech poi!), that measurement should be a good starting point.
But if you are someone who is planning to use levels during your performance (hooray dance-based fire dance!), getting low sometimes & lunging in order to jump, you will want to make sure that your poi aren’t so long that you are skimming the ground all of the time. In this case, you will want to take that same measurement (knuckles to floor) not while you’re standing normally, but at the level you plan to spin at the most often. I’d recommend taking a stance which is as wide as you think may be your average when navigating around the stage, then doing the measurement from there.
Here I am onstage with the Cirque du Soleil where I taught 20+ acrobats & dancers to perform some simple moves with poi & swords as a backdrop to my 5 minute act.
Keep in mind, you can always wrap up if you want to do some moves which require a shorter length (like the buzzsaw or anything in the internal plane) but once you’ve decided on total length, you won’t be able to make your poi longer without a redesign.
Many of the tech poi spinners I know, prefer poi which are a bit shorter, like 10-15cm (4-6”) from the floor. Having shorter poi can help when doing some techie moves (like contact-handle wraps and things in the internal & wall plane), although it can also make some techie moves more difficult (like isolation).
My custom fire poi come with two options for chain type; chain & technora. If you are ordering poi with chain instead of technora, it’s good to always err on the side of too long, as it’s easy to reduce the length with simple tools you may already have at home. If you are ordering poi with technora rope instead of chains, you won’t be able to easily change the length once the poi are built, so it’s best to have a clear idea beforehand.
Choosing Fire Poi Handle Type:
When I began spinning poi in 2000, there were far fewer choices for poi handle type- single loop & double loop. These days, I can’t imagine being a newbie and trying to wrap my head around all of the different options. In the Fusion Arts Pro Fire Shop, I offer 3 types of handles: single loop, double loop & pomgrip handles.
For more on how handle type affects total length click here.
Single & Double Loop Handles:
The standard for years, these are great for learning & many experienced performers stick with them. The single loop handles offer a ton of different ways to hold your poi and you are bound to find your own unique way which feels the most comfortable to you.
They are limited in two ways as far as I can see. Firstly, they take a little bit longer to put on and off than ball or pomgrip handles. Of course this is just a matter of a couple of seconds, so it’s only a consideration if you are like me and choreographing quick transition between fire props during your show. Secondly, you won’t be able to toss your poi (and tosses, although they might seem daunting at first, are really a lot of fun and probably something you will want to try at some point).
I spun poi for 20 years before I really began doing tosses (thanks to covid 19’s silver lining and being stuck in Bali with Vojta after our annual fire dance retreat there). I’d been using some ball handles on my fire ropes as part of Fusion Arts Fire Dance Shows (to allow for quick transitions between props) but my fire poi still had single loop, nylon handles. After Bali I began using pomgrip handles because I really like the feel. They are grippy & light weight and offer the possibility to regulate the weight using washers. They also come in loads of colors, including glow in the dark, which is pretty handy for doing tosses in low light conditions.
If you order your pomgrip handles from the Fusion Arts Pro Fire Shop, they come built with either a bit of technora & a swivel connected to chain or technora all the way between the pomgrip and the poi head, which makes spinning super comfortable & safe.
Choosing Fire Poi Head Size:
Which size of fire poi head to choose depends on how comfortable you are with the flame & your specific goals or style. If you have a specific goal, like performing to faster music this can affect your choice as heavier poi spin more slowly. By the same token, if you like to spin slowly, you will find it difficult to do so with poi which are too light.
I personally tend to spin slowly with my poi & quickly with my ropes. I’ve designed my acts this way because the ropes I make (and sell) are super lightweight and create great trails AND because I like the way slower movements look & feel with poi. I actually have two sets of fire poi which allow me to adapt to different tempos of music. They are Medium Monkey Fists (80mm/ 3.15” in diameter) & Large Monkey Fist (90mm/ 3.5” in diameter).
I offer 1-2 week-long fire dance retreats per year, in Hawaii, in Europe & in Bali. Join us!
Choosing Fire Poi Chain vs Technora Rope:
Who wants to risk metal burns from chains when there is an alternative that both looks & feels great? Fusion Arts currently offers technora rope as a replacement for chain on all of our poi & ropes.
I offer 3 sizes of monkey fist poi heads from the Fusion Arts Fire Shop.
Choosing Fire Poi Head Type:
There are as many poi head types as there are knots! I personally like the look & feel of the round, monkey fist poi heads. They feel like my contact poi/ LED poi which makes it a no brainer to switch between props for different shows or training. The type of wick is important too, which is why I use only knit (not woven) fire rope for it’s superior burn time.
2003! My hairstyle & poi design have gone through multiple evolutions since ; )
Ultimately, choosing fire poi which are right for you depends upon your personal goals & style. After 20 years of building & spinning poi, I know how much every little detail can impact your performance. I began designing & selling custom made fire tools, to allow others to fine tune their staff, rope & poi specifications even if they don’t have the time or resources to design & build their own fire props . You will find even more info about specific fire props on those pages. If you have any questions, I’m here to help so feel free to contact me.