Fire lights up new Main Campus culture

Nadine Thomas performs poi with fire. Thomas hopes to start Temple Flow Arts, a student organization for poi. ( JESSICA REPKO // TTN )
Nadine Thomas performs poi with fire. Thomas hopes to start Temple Flow Arts, a student organization for poi. ( JESSICA REPKO // TTN )
Nadine Thomas performs poi with fire. Thomas hopes to start Temple Flow Arts, a student organization for poi. ( JESSICA REPKO // TTN )
Nadine Thomas performs poi with fire. Thomas hopes to start Temple Flow Arts, a student organization for poi. ( JESSICA REPKO // TTN )

While walking by Founder’s Garden at night, students might be able to catch something rather unusual: lights and, as of late, fire spinning around in the air. Students Nadine Thomas and Jacki Tate have both mastered the art of poi, and are now sharing their talent with the rest of Temple in hopes to start a group soon.

Poi is a form of rhythm and dance that originated from New Zealand by the Maori people. It can be practiced through various mediums that include the use of LED lights, glow sticks, fabric or fire.

Often times, passers-by will stop and watch Tate and Thomas, they said. So much so, that they’ve decided they should try to form a club with not only poi, but many other forms of free-flowing art such as juggling, hula-hooping, gloving, devil sticks, Diablo and more.

The two expressed always being open to having their onlookers chat with them and learn as they watch on the sidelines. They even have extra poi on hand for anyone who wants to try it. The police don’t bother the two too much, they said, with most officers stopping to watch along with the rest of the crowd.

Despite hectic schedules, they can still be found at the Founder’s Garden on Tuesday and Sunday nights around 9 p.m.

And though the skill may be daunting to observe, Tate and Thomas said poi isn’t as hard as it seems.

“I don’t want to say it was hard to learn, just different. It’s about walking and moving your hands. It’s all muscle memory,” said Tate, a sophomore legal studies major.

Tate has been practicing poi for about two years. She got her start when she saw a professional show and it immediately captivated her. From there, she started taking classes and hasn’t stopped since.

However, Tate has only recently started to practice with fire.

“I was a little nervous, yeah. The thing that caught me off guard was that it’s really loud. Especially since it’s whooshing by your head. It’s unnerving,” Tate said.

Thomas, a senior English major, has been practicing poi since April 2011. She practiced for a few months until she upgraded to using fire.

“I was terrified,” Thomas said.

She has the entire experience caught on tape, along with some yelling, swearing and complaints about how loud the fire was. Thomas argues practicing with fire is not necessarily about skill.

“It’s not about a set level of expertise, it’s about being comfortable,” Thomas said.

Both girls take all the appropriate precautions and measures to ensure safety. They keep towels as well as water nearby.

( JESSICA REPKO // TTN )
( JESSICA REPKO // TTN )

Thomas wants to start the group because she wants a setting where people can talk, become friends and learn from each other instead of through YouTube videos and tutorials.

“People want to be involved, and be a part of this crazy art that’s going on,” Thomas said.

Neither Tate nor Thomas has ever competed with their skill, but have hopes to attend the Burning Man Festival in Nevada, which celebrates community, art, self-expression and fire. All the way in Nevada, the two hope it’s something their future group can do if they ever grow large enough.

Thomas has even made enough connections in the Philadelphia poi community to offer a 15 percent discount code for any person looking to buy their own poi at homeofpoi.com.

The two have taken their group to social media by setting up a Facebook page at Temple Flow Arts. They’re constantly updating practice times and any changes within the group.

With the help of the student body, Temple Flow Arts has potential to grow into a hugely popular group on Main Campus.

Patricia Madej can be reached at patricia.madej@temple.edu.

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