A Foray Into Fire Dancing

There have been many times throughout my life when I thought learning a new skill would be a cool idea. At no point did I expect dancing to ever be part of said learning experiences…especially dancing with an item called a puppy hammer…that was engulfed in flames.

I would like to preface this entire piece by informing readers that I cannot dance. Never could. Probably never will. Imagine a giraffe on a frozen pond wearing roller-blades, blindfolded with two legs tied together and you’ll have an idea of my dancing skills.

Other important prefacing notes: the puppy hammer has nothing to do with animal cruelty or K-9s at all for that matter and no one was (seriously) injured, turned into a human candle, or looking at a future career in the dancing industry during the research process for this post.

To show that this wasn’t my idea, we have to start from the beginning. We have many interesting events and activities here at Sunday throughout the year and of all shows, fire dancing is without a doubt one of the more interesting. Pair that with a fireworks show and you have a pyromaniac’s dream come true. During our most recent visit from one of our skilled fire dancing professionals, a brilliant idea arose in the heads of numerous members of Team Snow. That idea was, “let’s get someone (preferably the least skilled and most likely to endanger themselves) to learn to fire dance.” I will give you a couple guesses as to who that volunteer ended up being.

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It was when I received an email warning not to wear any synthetic materials, which could potentially melt to the skin if I were to be lit on fire, that I got really excited about this entire experience. (Shhh—don’t tell Human Resources about this one.)

For my first foray into fire dancing, I had the pleasure of joining our professional performer and fire taming extraordinaire, Amelia Is. Prior to an impressive fire dancing performance, I was able to catch up with Amelia to dig a bit deeper into the question I’m sure you are all asking: how does one get into an activity like fire dancing in the first place?

Amelia Is, a Portland, Maine native, explained that it was the relatively innocent looking hula hoop that initially led her down the road to dancing with fire. It was 7 years ago when Amelia was first introduced to the concept of practicing her hula routine, this time with it on fire. “I was kind of terrified,” Amelia reasonably admits about her first fire dancing experience.

As terrified as Amelia may have been, she cheated death that fateful day 7 years ago and has been practicing the flammable art ever since. With upgrades from the hula to an array of dancing props including levitation wands, fire fans, poi, the infamous puppy hammer and my personal favorite…the dragon staff (the dragon staff is my favorite simply due to its name by the way. I did not, nor will I ever, get anywhere near the thing) Amelia has put together a routine that is both mesmerizing and purely impressive.

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Amelia’s show included a fascinating display of hooping, creating the illusion of floating fire using the levitation wand, syncing dance and music, all manner of dragon staff twirling and much more. Amelia’s combination of hypnotic music and graceful mastery of both dance and fire are most assuredly a sight to behold.

The adjectives graceful, mesmerizing and impressive all end here…for it was my turn to have a go. After one quick look at myself, Amelia determined that neither the fire fans, levitation wands, nor staffs would ever make it anywhere near my hands (to my suppressed joy). Instead, I would be trying my hand with the poi. Poi are flaming balls dangling by the ends of short chains, resembling some sort of medieval weaponry.

After dipping the ends of each poi in kerosene, lighting them on fire, and handing them over, I pretended I was not phased when Amelia then took out numerous fire safety blankets and placed them directly beside myself. They had previously been set aside and nowhere near Amelia during her show. Both Amelia’s and my own confidence in the results of this learning experience were obviously through the roof.

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I started with a few simply twirls, being sure to keep the flaming ends as far away from myself as possible, I stepped it up ever so slightly to a few combinations of twirls, then Amelia showed me how to twirl the poi between your legs, but I didn’t dare try it. The risk/reward scales were tipped in an obvious direction for that one.

I thought I had an awesome rhythm down (in my head, I was the spitting image of the Polynesian warriors from whom fire dancing originates) until one of the poi came within questionable distance to my nose.

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After a couple minutes of twirling the poi in an obviously unimpressive fashion and a few singed nose hairs, I decided to quit while I was ahead and hand the poi back to the professional. Once it was evident they weren’t going to be witnessing an episode of the human torch, all straggling spectators quickly began to dissipate. A quick check of my person proved that I would not be needing the fire safety blankets or the ambulance conveniently parked around the corner. I had done it. I survived. Most surprisingly of all, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I most definitely will not be hired as a fire dancing performer anytime soon, but to myself, not being on fire was an accomplishment in itself. To ensure personal safety and to spare any spectating children an early-life traumatic memory, I will be leaving the fire dancing to Amelia from here on out.

To catch one of Amelia’s spectacular fire dancing shows, make sure to check out Sunday River’s Black Diamond Entertainment lineup. The remainder of this season’s fire dancing shows will take place slopeside on South Ridge, be visited by our furry friend Eddy the Yeti and be followed by fireworks. Take comfort in knowing that Amelia, not myself will be taking center stage for each show and come out to enjoy the flammable fun.