When I tell someone that I do fire shows, I usually get an exclamatory ‘Aaaah!!’ as they bring their fist to their mouth signaling fire breathing. Each time this happens a little piece inside me dies and yes, I know it’s silly to be touchy about it. People just don’t know. So even though I don’t like it, I usually just smile and nod. But sometimes if I have the time and the will, I say - I don’t do fire breathing, I do fire spinning. And that opens a whole new conversation piece. I am not surprised fire breathing is the most well known fire discipline, it makes a big bang for a little buck. The basic fire breathing technique is pretty simple (if you ever sprayed water from your mouth onto your sibling in a swimming pool, you pretty much got it) and there are no special props needed.
I’m not a huge fan of fire breathing for several reasons. First reason is because I’m jealous that fire spinning isn’t just as popular. Other reasons include danger, health hazard and amateurism. It’s a bit of a rarity to come across a fabulous fire breather. I’ve seen a handful of amazing breathers who treat their craft just like any other art, with hours of training, but most fire breathers out there are content staying at the ‘party trick’ level of one big ball of fire. So it does make me sad that most people (and many clients as well) think fire show = fire breathing.
Well I’m happy I got that out of the way.
So when a fire show is about other things than fire breathing, it usually contains people manipulating and dancing with objects lit on fire. Oftentimes these objects will be sprinkled or filled with special powders, creating different effects like sparkles and big fire trails. Boom props are tools that are made for spinning pyrotechnics, and charcoal props are made for spinning cages filled with smoldering charcoal. Here are some examples of the most commonly used props and effects:
A lot of people know poi, a.k.a. ‘balls of fire’. In their non-fire form they originated in New Zealand, and spinning poi became very popular in the 90s and spread into the world by various western hippies. I think poi is one of the most difficult props, at least for me. It takes ages to get it right. Here is an example of charcoal poi:
Fire fans are definitely badass! Again it’s one of the fire-related things that is often picked up by beginners because of the ease of use, but when they are used with good technique and combined with dancing, they are such a delicious prop. I think they look extra nice in group performances. For example - Russian : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3KBByY_rSE&ab_channel=Rem
- Jessie Spin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqCrgkqMc9k&ab_channel=JessySpin
As the name suggests, a fire hoop is a hula hoop that has burning wicks connected to the circle. This is one of the tools that feels very different from its non-fire sister. My love for fire hooping only began once I accepted that it’s basically a different tool and I will have to learn it all anew.
Contact staff is super flowy, graceful and I guess difficult. I love to watch people use their body in perfect flow with their staff. In my head contact staff is the masculine version of a hula hoop. They have the same full-body vibe.
Oh hello, gorgeous! Dragon staff may be called a contact staff with wheels, which makes it a little bit easier to use and really cool to watch. It’s a mesmerizing prop that always wins the hearts of the audience.
Double (Tripple) Staff These types of staffs are not used so much for contact with the body, but mostly for spinning and juggling. They ususally give a really dynamic vibe to the show. Here is an example of boom sticks, a.k.a. staffs with pyrotechnics.
And last but not least, fire eating. Fire eating can be very technical and beautiful, it always gives a show a more sensual and intimate feel. Here is a video of one of my favorite fire eating shows: