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I remember reading somewhere that one of the places it derived from was the polynesian fire dancers not sure on that one? Also have you looked at BO staff which is a martial art that came from the stick that they put across their shoulders to carry water with. dont know if thats any help tryed looking at this before but couldn't find much.
Well I'm also looking into the art that may have inspired it... I need to do some practical work... as in not spinning cos it'll be counted as performing art. I can submit videos too... I'm looking at Maori art aswell... need some more inspiration... I had the idea that I could use some pretty twirling photos to merge Maori patterns into... might be cool, but I will also look at several other things.
"Polynesian society developed out of migration and cultural exchanges that took place over a long period of time before European contact. Tongan dances such as the mauluulu and the taualuga were thought to have originated in Samoa. The fire dance, which has been adopted by Samoans and Hawaiians, has it roots in Uvea. "
By Lemi Ponifasio, choreographer and Director of MAU Dance Company
"Aggie Grey(s)" has imo the best traditional fire performance. Maybee u could e-mail someone there for infomation as the net info is just not legit enough. And the traditions vary from island to island and even between tribes.
I was actually wondering the same thing - when I tell people what I do (poi) they always ask where it comes from, which I'm vaguley clued up on. However, talking about staffs there doesn't seem to be a definate answer.
Mostly I guess it's such a generic item that it's been used in almost every culture - alot of dance forms are derived from fighting/battle preparations, and a big stick is a pretty basic weapon so I guess there was never just one culture that thought "Hey, lets take this stick and jump around with it for a while - it'll keep me healthy and look damn scaring to ol' Johnny Foreigner who stole my goat last week"
As to setting it on fire - I doubt you'd ever get an answer.
*chink chink* my tuppence
Burner of Toast Spinner of poi Slacker of enormous magnitude