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History & Philosophy, Pizza & Glowsticks

After its inaugural meeting, it’s clear that S.P.I.C.E. (Society for the Pursuit of Interdisciplinary Cultural Enhancement) will be an enlightening student organization. Pizza, high-energy music and an acrobatic light show punctuated Wednesday’s presentation. The group provides a forum for honors students to explore topics outside their highly specialized course load and cultivate interests that would have otherwise remained unexplored or undiscovered. The club’s founders, honors students Hamid Alai and Zayar Khin, seem devoted to exposing their peers to obscure and intellectual areas of art and thought. Every week the topic of discussion will be picked democratically with students leading the presentations.

The first meeting – held Wednesday night in the swanky honors lounge, complete with plush chairs, rows of computers and an electronic key pad on the door – focused on glowstringing, a modern version of the centuries old art of Poi. The presentation began with a discussion of the origins of glowstringing, from which I learned that Poi is essentially a dance wherein two identical lengths of rope are held, one in each hand, with a light weight at the end of each rope. The ropes are then spun quickly, in time with music, around the head and body. The art was invented by the ancient Maori people of New Zealand. Originally the weights were Moa (a flightless bird, now extinct) eggs, then people started using fire. In the late 1990s Poi was popularized by Rave culture, using glowsticks or LED lights at the ends of the ropes to create a bright, visually engaging light show.

Khin started the presentation by explaining the physical and mental benefits of dancing in general and Poi in particular. Dancing has been shown to reduce test anxiety, promote concentration and physical groundedness, and increase self-efficacy, he said. The idea behind Dance Movement Therapy is that positive fluid changes in your physical state will have a similar effect on your mental state.

Besides the benefits to your physical and mental health, dancing and Poi are simply a good time. After a short speech, Khin turned the lights down and the music up and regaled the small group with a light show and dance.

He regrets glowstringing’s unfortunate association with Rave culture because it is often synonymous with use of the designer drug Ecstasy. He made it clear that drugs are not what Poi is about, and said that nobody needs chemical assistance to enjoy watching or performing this art. The atmosphere was relaxed, allowing the art to be expressed and enjoyed without the danger of being judged or mocked.

S.PI.C.E. meetings are tentatively scheduled for Wednesdays at 6 p.m. in the honors lounge, and honors students are encouraged to attend. Future topics will include thoughts on meditation, the mind-body problem and psychiatric therapy, proteomics (the study of the production and interaction of proteins, which are the direct expression of our genetic code) and philosophers and novelists like Heidegger and Dostoevsky.

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