What are Fire Dancers? Information and definitions via the web:
Fire dancing (also known as "fire twirling," "fire spinning," "fire performance," or "fire manipulation") is a group of performance arts or disciplines that involve manipulation of objects on fire. Typically these objects have one or more bundles of wicking, which are soaked in fuel and ignited.
Some of these disciplines are related to juggling or baton twirling (both forms of object manipulation), and there is also an affinity between fire dancing and rhythmic gymnastics. Fire dancing is often performed to music. Fire dancing has been a traditional part of cultures from around the world, and modern fire performance often includes visual and stylistic elements from many traditions.
Fire dancing is a very dangerous performance art, and fire safety precautions should always be taken.
Metal parts on fire tools have a high heat transfer coefficient and may burn on contact; the wick has a lower coefficient and is less likely to cause burns directly, but can spray or spread fuel. Costumes from non-flammable or flame retardant materials, such as leather or treated cotton, are preferred when employing fire; synthetic materials tend to melt when burned, resulting in severe burns to the wearer.
Fire tools require a safety regime to address the risks of setting fire to the user, bystanders, or the surroundings. Typical elements of such a regimen include a sober, rested, and alert spotter who has access to an ABC Dry Chemical fire extinguisher for putting out material and fuel fires (water-based extinguishers may spread oil fires), a damp towel or woolen/duvetyne fire retardant blanket (for extinguishing burning clothes and fire toys), a bucket of water (for the eventuality of out-of-control fires), and plastic wrap (for protecting burns that require hospitalisation). Typically, a metal container (located away from the performance area) that can quickly be sealed (so as to be airtight) is used as a fuel dump; with the lid in place, fuel fires may be extinguished.
During the period from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, fire dancing grew from a relatively obscure and marginalized native tradition, and a talent and skill of the baton twirler or circus artist, to a widespread and almost commonplace occurrence at raves, rock concerts, night clubs, beach parties, camping festivals, cabarets and hotel shows. Many attribute the discipline's rapid growth in popularity to the Burning Man festival, where many thousands were exposed to fire dancing who had never seen or heard of it before. Another powerful force was the rise of internet chat and bulletin board cultures, which allowed aspiring dancers in isolated areas to communicate with the then-limited pool of skilled performers far outside of their geographic confines.
As the number of fire dancers multiplied exponentially, individual performers and troupes began to experiment with new equipment concepts (i.e., beyond the traditional staff, fireknives and poi) and with hybrid performance art concepts. The following is an incomplete list of such show varieties, whose categories are general and tend to overlap.
* Traditional fire shows: Traditional shows often incorporate Polynesian costuming and other cultural elements. Many conform to the guidelines or are inspired by the annual World Fireknife Competition and Samoa Festival.
* Standard modern shows: These usually include performers in tight and perhaps even risqué costumes with elaborate face paint, performing with poi, staffs, and other standard implements. Such shows often include fire breathing techniques as well. Most people think of this type of performance when they think of fire dancing.
* Fire theatre: Such shows are theatrical shows which include fire and fire performance as elements of staged dramatic presentations. Often the fire performance is a small element of the larger show. These shows tend to use more elaborate props and costuming and focus less on technical skill.
* Fire fetish show: Such shows are recognizable by more overt sexuality in the performance and often extremely risqué costuming, nudity, and implied or actual sexual contact between performers, and are often seen as a fusion between exotic dancing or burlesque with fire dancing. Thus, fire fetish refers to a particular style of performance, and not a sexual fetish on the part of the performer, as would pyrophilia.
* Erotic fire show: Such shows may be seen as simply a normal improvised fire dance but with emphasis on sexually arousing body gyrations, seductive facial expressions, an eroticised musical selection (such as R&B or downtempo music), and minimal clothing of the performer, thus promoting sexual arousal or desire in addition to the expected visual entertainment for an audience. Unlike a fire fetish show, this performance is generally more low-key, slower in tempo, and may be performed by a solo dancer in front of a small and select audience, often a spouse or romantic partner. This performance is considered to be an active and visually exciting form of ritual foreplay. However this type of show is usually only enticing to a select audience and is generally unpopular by the mainstream community.
* Ritual fire show: Such shows are usually a fusion of pagan or occult ceremony with fire and fire performance. They focus less on technical skill, and more on the use of the fire dancer to highlight the ritual.
* Fire and belly dance: Such shows are a fusion of Middle Eastern belly dancing (raqs sharqi) and combine elements of fire dancing and belly dancing. Often the dancers use palm torches and fire swords made to resemble scimitars.
* Fire comedy jugglers combine many of the skills of other fire performers but also include juggling, which is rarer in other spinners. The juggler also includes comedy to round out their routines, like lighting their behinds on fire.
Other performance variations continue to emerge as fire dancing becomes more widespread and commonplace.
* Cirque Du Soleil has for the first time incorporated contemporary fire dance techniques in its Zaia production in Macau. Previous Cirque Du Soleil shows 'Alegria' and 'O' relied on the skills of traditional fire knife artists for fire performances. Recognition of contemporary fire dance and modern prop techniques has previously been very limited in the professional circus community. Dan Miethke is the current fire coach and lead fire artist in Zaia.
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