Fire performance

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Video of a fire performance at Webster Hall NYC
A fire twirler with staff AnnanStaff2.jpg
A fire twirler with staff
A fireknife performer with a fire knife Fire dancer.JPG
A fireknife performer with a fire knife
A fire performer spinning poi consisting of lit wire wool in chicken wire cages, dipped first in paraffin. Long-exposure photography captures the trails created by sparks. Wirewoolpoi.jpg
A fire performer spinning poi consisting of lit wire wool in chicken wire cages, dipped first in paraffin. Long-exposure photography captures the trails created by sparks.
Spinning fire dancers of Udaipur perform traditional dance. Spinning fire dancers of Udaipur.jpg
Spinning fire dancers of Udaipur perform traditional dance.
Fire dancer with a torch TRF fire dancer.jpg
Fire dancer with a torch

Fire performance is a group of performance arts or skills that involve the manipulation of fire. Fire performance typically involves equipment or other objects made with one or more wicks which are designed to sustain a large enough flame to create a visual effect.

Fire Rapid oxidation of a material

Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition.

Candle wick cotton that holds the flame of a candle for a set period of time

A candle wick is usually a braided cotton that holds the flame of an oil lamp or candle. A candle wick works by capillary action, conveying ("wicking") the fuel to the flame. When the liquid fuel, typically melted candle wax, reaches the flame it then vaporizes and combusts. The candle wick influences how the candle burns. Important characteristics of the wick include diameter, stiffness, fire-resistance, and tethering.


Fire performance includes skills based on juggling, baton twirling, poi spinning, and other forms of object manipulation. It also includes skills such as fire breathing, fire eating, and body burning; sometimes called fakir skills. Fire performance has various styles of performance including fire dancing; the use of fire as a finalé in an otherwise non-fire performance; and the use of fire skills as 'dangerous' stunts. Performances can be done as choreographed routines to music (this type being related to dance or rhythmic gymnastics); as freestyle (performed to music or not) performances; or performed with vocal interaction with the audience. Some aspect of fire performance can be found in a wide variety of cultural traditions and rituals from around the world.

Juggling circus skill

Juggling is a physical skill, performed by a juggler, involving the manipulation of objects for recreation, entertainment, art or sport. The most recognizable form of juggling is toss juggling. Juggling can be the manipulation of one object or many objects at the same time, most often using one or two hands but also possible with feet. Jugglers often refer to the objects they juggle as props. The most common props are balls, clubs, or rings. Some jugglers use more dramatic objects such as knives, fire torches or chainsaws. The term juggling can also commonly refer to other prop-based manipulation skills, such as diabolo, devil sticks, poi, cigar boxes, contact juggling, hooping, yo-yo, and hat manipulation.

Baton twirling

Baton twirling is an art involving the manipulation of a metal rod and the performer's body to a coordinated routine. It is similar to rhythmic gymnastics or color guard.

Poi (performance art) balls swung rhythmically on strings

Poi refers to both a style of performing art and the equipment used for engaging in poi performance. As a performance art, poi involves swinging tethered weights through a variety of rhythmical and geometric patterns. Poi artists may also sing or dance while swinging their poi. Poi can be made from various materials with different handles, weights, and effects.

Any performance involving fire carries inherent danger and risks, and fire safety precautions should always be taken.

Fire safety precautions taken to prevent or reduce the likelihood of a fire

Fire safety is the set of practices intended to reduce the destruction caused by fire. Fire safety measures include those that are intended to prevent ignition of an uncontrolled fire, and those that are used to limit the development and effects of a fire after it starts.

Fire Belly Dancer Houston, Texas Fire Belly Dancer.jpg
Fire Belly Dancer Houston, Texas


Ancient Aztecs performed a fire dance dedicated to Xiuhtecuhtli, the god of fire. [1] The Aztec fire dance is performed today for tourists in Mexico. In Bali, the Angel Dance and the Fire Dance, regularly performed for tourists, have origins in ancient rituals. Both the Angel Dance and the Fire Dance originated in a trance ritual called the sanghyang, a ritual dance "performed to ward off witches at the time of an epidemic." [2] Also known as the "horse dance" men perform the dance by holding rods representing horses, while leaping around burning coconut husks, and walking through the flames. French Polynesia, Antigua, Cuba and Saint Lucia are other locations where fire dances are recreated for tourists. The Siddha Jats of the Thar Desert in India perform traditional fire dances as part of the Spring festival. Fire dancing is performed to music played on drums and the behr. There are variations of the fire dancing; men often perform a dance that involves walking on hot coals.A large fire is created and allowed to burn down until it is a pit of glowing embers. The performers then jump in and out of the pit kicking up the embers to create showers of sparks while women perform a dance while balancing flaming tin pots on their heads. Today this ritual is often performed for tourists.

Xiuhtecuhtli deity

In Aztec mythology, Xiuhtecuhtli[ʃiʍˈtekʷt͡ɬi], was the god of fire, day and heat. He was the lord of volcanoes, the personification of life after death, warmth in cold (fire), light in darkness and food during famine. He was also named Cuezaltzin[kʷeˈsaɬt͡sin] ("flame") and Ixcozauhqui[iʃkoˈsaʍki], and is sometimes considered to be the same as Huehueteotl, although Xiuhtecuhtli is usually shown as a young deity. His wife was Chalchiuhtlicue. Xiuhtecuhtli is sometimes considered to be a manifestation of Ometecuhtli, the Lord of Duality, and according to the Florentine Codex Xiuhtecuhtli was considered to be the father of the Gods, who dwelled in the turquoise enclosure in the center of earth. Xiuhtecuhtli-Huehueteotl was one of the oldest and most revered of the indigenous pantheon. The cult of the God of Fire, of the Year, and of Turquoise perhaps began as far back as the middle Preclassic period. Turquoise was the symbolic equivalent of fire for Aztec priests. A small fire was permanently kept alive at the sacred center of every Aztec home in honor of Xiuhtecuhtli.

Bali Province in Indonesia

Bali is a province of Indonesia and the westernmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands. Located east of Java and west of Lombok, the province includes the island of Bali and a few smaller neighbouring islands, notably Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Ceningan. The provincial capital, Denpasar, is the most populous city in the Lesser Sunda Islands and the second largest, after Makassar, in Eastern Indonesia. Bali is the only Hindu-majority province in Indonesia, with 83.5% of the population adhering to Balinese Hinduism.

French Polynesia French overseas country in the Southern Pacific ocean

French Polynesia is an overseas collectivity of the French Republic and the only overseas country of France. It is composed of 118 geographically dispersed islands and atolls stretching over an expanse of more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) in the South Pacific Ocean. Its total land area is 4,167 square kilometres (1,609 sq mi).

Modern developments

Limbo (dance) traditional popular dance contest that originated on the island of Trinidad

Limbo is a popular dance contest, based on traditions that originated on the island of Trinidad. The aim is to pass forwards under a low bar without falling or dislodging the bar.

Hooping generally refers to manipulation of and artistic movement or dancing with a hoop. Hoops can be made of metal, wood, or plastic. Hooping combines technical moves and tricks with freestyle or technical dancing. Hooping can be practiced to or performed with music. In contrast to the classic toy hula hoop, modern hoopers use heavier and larger diameter hoops, and frequently rotate the hoop around parts of the body other than the waist, including the hips, chest, neck, shoulders, thighs, knees, arms, hands, thumbs, feet, and toes. The hoop can also be manipulated and rotated off the body as well. Modern hooping has been influenced by art forms such as rhythmic gymnastics, hip-hop, freestyle dance, fire performance, twirling, poi, and other dance and movement forms.

Since the mid-1990s fire performance has grown in popularity. This growth has occurred both for hobby and professional practitioners. Fire skills are performed at raves, nightclubs, beach parties, and music festivals. A festival that is popular with fire performers is at Burning Man, where the fire skills are especially prevalent. Fire performance has become increasingly popular as entertainment at corporate events, street festivals, celebration events and as a precursor to firework displays.

Burning Man annual experimental festival based in Nevada, United States

Burning Man is an annual event in the western United States at Black Rock City – a temporary city erected in the Black Rock Desert of northwest Nevada, approximately 100 miles (160 km) north-northeast of Reno. The late summer event is described as an experiment in community and art, influenced by ten main principles: radical inclusion, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, gifting, decommodification, participation, immediacy and leave no trace. The event takes its name from its culmination, the symbolic ritual burning of a large wooden effigy that traditionally occurs on the Saturday evening of the event.


Fire performance has become more popular through the availability of a wider variety of fire equipment and teaching methods.

Fire apparatus

Fire performance is usually performed with props that have specifically been made for the purpose. Fire torches, fire staffs, fire poi, fire hula hoops, fire whips, and other fire props are all readily available.


Nearly all modern fire performance apparatus rely on a liquid fuel soaked in the wick. There are many choices for fuels, which differ in their specific properties. Fire performers select a fuel or a blend of fuels based on safety, cost, availability, and the desirability of various characteristics of the fuel including for example, the colour of flame, and flame temperature. There is also some geographic variance in fuels used, due local availability and price. Some American fire performers use white gas although most use other fuels due to its low flash point, while British fire performers almost exclusively use kerosene (called "paraffin" in the UK).


Fire performance skills are inherently dangerous and only careful use of the props, storage of the fuel and performance in appropriate spaces will mean that the risks are minimised. Fire insurance policies all require fire performers to carry fire extinguishers, fire blankets or other fire safety equipment.

Fire arts education

There are organized events in various parts of the world teaching fire arts and object manipulation. These events which can be fire festivals or workshops at juggling or music festivals are popular in US, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia.

See also

Related Research Articles

Torch portable light source

A torch is a stick with combustible material at one end, which is ignited and used as a light source. Torches have been used throughout history, and are still used in processions, symbolic and religious events, and in juggling entertainment. In some countries "torch" in modern usage is the term for a battery-operated portable light.

Aarti Hindu religious ritual of worship, a part of puja, in which light or camphor is offered

Aarti also spelled arti, arati, arathi, aarthi is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, a part of puja, in which light is offered to one or more deities. Aarti(s) also refers to the songs sung in praise of the deity, when the light is being offered.

Fire breathing act of making a plume or stream of fire by creating a precise mist of fuel from the mouth over an open flame

Fire breathing is the act of making a plume or stream of fire by creating a precise mist of fuel from the mouth over an open flame. Regardless of the precautions taken, it is always a dangerous activity, but the proper technique and the correct fuel reduces the risk of injury or death.

Devil sticks set of juggling sticks

The manipulation of the devil stick is a form of gyroscopic juggling or equilibristics, consisting of manipulating one stick between one or two other sticks held one in each hand. The baton is lifted, struck, or stroked by the two control sticks, stabilizing the baton through gyroscopic motion.

Fire eating the act of putting a flaming object into the mouth and extinguishing it, either as a part of Hindu, Sadhu, or Fakir performance to show spiritual attainment, or as a sideshow or circus act (starting in the late 1880s)

Fire eating is the act of putting a flaming object into the mouth and extinguishing it. A fire eater can be an entertainer, a street performer, part of a sideshow or a circus act but has also been part of spiritual tradition in India.

Kapa haka Māori performing art

Kapa haka is the term for Māori performing arts and literally means 'group' (kapa) and 'dance' (haka). Kapa haka is an avenue for Māori people to express and showcase their heritage and cultural Polynesian identity through song and dance.

Torch (juggling)

Juggling torches are one of various props used by jugglers. Torches are usually commercially made props that are made of wood and/or metal with a wick attached at one end. The wick is impregnated with a flammable substance and ignited before use.

Fire fan

A fire fan is a fan shaped object usually constructed of non-combustible materials such as welded metal and Kevlar wick that is set a light. They are used for fire performance.

Thiriyuzhichil is a dance ritual performed by Pulluvas in Kerala to alleviate the fear of snakes, to appease the snake and to be blessed with babies. This is more popular in the districts of Trichur, Calicut and Palghat and it is performed in Hindu Temples and shrines meant for snakes. By performing this, the queen of snakes could be appeased. The performer starts dancing holding a torch in his hand using various types of music instruments.


Twirling is a form of object manipulation where an object is twirled by one or two hands, the fingers or by other parts of the body. Twirling practice manipulates the object in circular or near circular patterns. It can also be done indirectly by the use of another object or objects as in the case of devil stick manipulation where handsticks are used. Twirling is performed as a hobby, sport, exercise or performance.

Object manipulation is a form of dexterity play or performance in which one or more people physically interact with one or more objects. Many object manipulation skills are recognised circus skills. Other object manipulation skills are linked to sport, magic, and everyday objects or practices. Many object manipulation skills use special props made for that purpose: examples include the varied circus props such as balls, clubs, hoops, rings, poi, staff, and devil sticks; magic props such as cards and coins; sports equipment such as nunchaku and footballs. Any other object can also be used for manipulation skills. Object manipulation with ordinary items may be considered to be object manipulation when the object is used out of its socially acknowledged context and used differently from its original purpose.

Projection poi is a theatrical branch of kinetic art combining projection and live interaction to create an optical illusion, incorporating prop manipulation inspired by poi, martial arts weaponry and dance. This unique technique allows the audience to see projected light without a screen or surface instead relying on high speed movement and prop interaction with the projector beam to make the light visible. This technique enables images, words, film or animation to appear as if floating in the air.

Meteor (juggling)

A skill toy of Asian origin, the meteor consists of a rope, usually between 5 and 8 feet long, with weights attached to either end. Tricks are performed by swinging, wrapping and throwing the meteor about the body.

Fire staff

A fire staff is a staff constructed out of wood or metal with Kevlar wick added to one or both ends. Fire staffs are used for fire performance.


Slackwire is an acrobatic circus act that involves the balancing skills of moving along a flexible, thin wire suspended in the air, connected to two anchor points. Slackwire is not to be confused with slacklining.


  1. Jovinelly, Joann and Jason Netelkos (2003). The crafts and culture of the Aztecs By. Rosen Publishing Group. p. 17. ISBN   978-0-8239-3512-3.
  2. Yamashita, Shinji (2003). Bali and beyond: explorations in the anthropology of tourism. Berghahn Books. p. 37. ISBN   978-1-57181-327-5.