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No. 12 (September 1955)
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THE
POI
DANCE

Two of the most accomplished dancers at the Ngatiponeke hall are Margaret Mariu and Dawn Nathan. Both of them have been performers for years: they have not only perfected their own technique but they have become very good at teaching newcomers. Miss Mariu comes from Tokaanu and Miss Nathan from the Hutt. Te Ao Hou has made the daring attempt to show in pictures the poi dances taught by these two performers at youth clubs in Wellington. Of course, methods will vary from place to place and the names of the dance movements are also merely [ unclear: ] ocal. However, no full photographic record of Maori dances exists, and Te Ao Hou's story should appeal to all students of Maouri culture. We have also shown a short single poi dance, called ‘Porotiti’ (the twirl). This is always the first poi taught to newcomers to Ngatiponeke. Its name derives merely from the first movement, also called porotiti. We have also shown the two principal movements of the ‘waka poi’ (canoe poi), a popular double short poi, that is, danced with two short poi balls. The musical accompaniment was sometimes song, sometimes a saxophone. Without Miss Mariu's gentle and patient instruction, Te Ao Hou could probably never have presented this feature.

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1. The first movement of Ngatiponeke's poi is the ‘porotiti’, and therefore the whole dance is known by [ unclear: ] at name, Porotiti means twirl. While the right hand twirls the po [ unclear: ] he left arm is raised from the waist to receive the poi which beals gently against the palm of the outstretched hand (left). Then the right arm slowly moves to the right and the left arm to the waist. The dancer then lifts her left arm again, but this time the poi does not hit the palm but the back of the hand (right). These two parts of the movement alternate while each beating of the poi against the hand strikes the measure of the tune.

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The second movement of the waka poi is called ‘hoea’, rowing Both poi are used and the arms are swung through a half circl in a rowing movement, while both poi are twirling simulaneously The beginning and end are accentuated by the poi hitting the floor at the front and back. This dance may accompany the son Hoea ra te wuka nei (an old canoe song) or one of the man modern songs, such as Hoki hoki.

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2. (Left) The second movement is pakihiwi (shoulder). Here the poi ball strikes alternately the palm of the left hand and the back of the right shoulder. While the poi is carried to the shoulde the left hand rests on the waist. 3. (Right) Tihaea, the third movement, falls into two portions. The first is rather similar to paki-hiwi—there is often a subtle transition between one movement of a poi dance and another. The poi strikes the back of the right shoulder and then the back of the left hand. As the hand moves back to the waist, the right arm is drawn slowly to the right while the poi describes a wide but narrowing spiral which gives this movement its name (learning).

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4a. The hopuhopu (catch) movement also consists of two parts. The first part is to twirl the poi towards the body and catch it.

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4b. The poi is then twirled sideways and caught again (above). After this follows another inward movement, then a sideways movement, and so on alternately.

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5. Kumea, the fifth movement is like the pakihiwi, except that the poi is swung alternately over both shoulders. Above: the poi swung over the left shoulder.

Some of the most picturesque movements following the kumea could not be successfully’ photographed. They were: 6. waewae (legs), where the poi is twirled first on the left, then on the right hand, accompanied by a leg movement. 7. tirairaka (fluttering of the fantail), the same as the waewae, except that the legs are not used and that the movement of the poi is far bolder describing a wider circle, resembling the fluttering of a bird. 8. kawau (shag), similar to the tihaea, except for the left arm action. After the poi has struck the back of the left hand, it is swung slowly back after the manner of a tihaea, and carried to the back of the right shoulder. In the meantime the left arm shoots forward and is held out horizontally.

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Our cover picture (above) illustrates the kawau (shag) movement at its climax, when the left arm is fully stretched out and the poi is travelling in a spiral away from it.

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The dance ends in a left-handed military salute (whakahonore), accompanied with the twirling of the poi.