Glenwood Center for the Arts plans cultural events |

Glenwood Center for the Arts plans cultural events

Special to the Post Independent Rachel Hansen will lead a poi dancing workshop from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts. Cost is $25.

The circle of indigenous dance widens to include poi dancing this month at the Center for the Arts.

Most people think poi is a flavorless white paste made for Hawaiian luaus, but poi is one of the hottest dance exercise and entertainment trends of this generation.

Originating in New Zealand and Polynesia, poi is a traditional Maori dance prop and has given rise to a contemporary style of spinning popular all over the world. Poi and fire spinners are now common across the globe, with more people starting every day and the art being advanced more quickly than ever before.

“Poi” means “ball on a flaxen cord.” Polynesian women twirled their poi to form intricate designs. The effect of watching and performing this ancient dance form induces an altered or meditative state.

The movements have now been relaxed and softened. Although it’s learned with tennis balls on the end of string, you can enhance your skills by using neon scarves, lights and eventually advance to spinning fire. With movements such as the butterfly, low wave, chasing the sun, five-beat reverse weave and windmill, you can imagine the variations possible on these basic themes.

The exercise and practice firms and tones the upper body, increases flexibility in wrists, shoulders and arms, and ” like some forms of martial arts ” helps concentration and the total body-mind-spirit connection. The movements seem simple enough but challenge even the proficient. Instructor Rachel Hansen’s grace and expertise will inspire you to practice endlessly once you learn some basic moves. A wonder to behold, she has been dancing with fire for four years.

The second poi workshop of the year will take place from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at the center. Cost is $25, materials included. Weekly poi classes will continue throughout the fall and winter.

Indigenous people all over the globe dance to express their life force. In Africa, people dance to relieve the intensity of daily survival, to enhance community and have fun with one another. African dance runs throughout the valley, and from 6:30-8 p.m. Mondays at the Center. Classes are $10, and pre-registration is not required. Live drummers join participants in the celebration of instinctual movements.

During the “Africa! Africa!” exhibit, Sept. 2 to Oct. 30, the center will feature an African dance group from the Eastern Slope, workshops and weekly classes to bring dancers in the valley together.

Rounding out the cultural dance scene is a Middle Eastern Hafla on Oct. 29. “Hafla” is an Arabic word meaning “a party and celebration with food, music, and dance.” The spirit of the dance inspires, motivates and cultivates a yearning to express the energy inside. Dancers from all over the Western Slope and valley may plan to attend this seasonal celebration with instructor and organizer Heather Wallace.

“Free-spirit belly dancing is inclusive of all dance forms stemming from the ancient middle eastern culture,” Wallace said. “Like martial arts, Middle Eastern dance works on finding your center and expressing the life force from your heart, reaching out to everyone.”

Whatever the motivation, join dancers from around the world and learn a step or two. Poi dancers will twirl fire, and a great autumn time will be had by all. Mark your calendars for these great events and where ever you dance, dance your heart out.

Sinda Wood is program assistant for the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts. Call the center at 945-2414 for applications, tickets or information.

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