by James Guiver
This is our page all about fire performing, what it is, who does it, how you can get started and how to stay safe while doing it. If you're looking to hire a professional fire performer you're in the wrong place - check out our fire performers for hire page instead or get in touch with one of our team.
What is Fire Performing?
Fire performing is generally the art of manipulating fire in order to entertain a crowd (in the case of professional performing) or just for the fun of it. Generally it is manipulating an object lit at one or more points - you can see examples of these below (for instance fire staff, fire clubs, fire poi, etc.) In some cases the artist might implement the fire into their costume - for instance as part of a burlesque act or a fire walkabout act.
There are both professional and hobbyist fire performers out there - many of the hobbyists are actually among the most skilled from a technical viewpoint.
What types of fire performer are there?
Professional Fire performing generally breaks down into a couple groups - fire shows and ambient fire performing.
- A fire show - using generally between 1 and 5 fire performers - is either a fully or partially choreographed display generally set to music. Some shows are entirely choreographed with a continuous backing track (perfect for wedding entertainment and large corporate events)- others are more free form (often solo shows) and involve compering and audience interaction - perfect for smaller more personal events or street entertainment.
- Ambient fire performing - this is generally used as a background effect or to meet and greet guests as they arrive to the event. The performer will perform in a freestyle way in a set location or moving from one point to another (for instance as part of a procession) and will generally perform a few sets of between 20 and 45 minutes. Often the performer will use a range of props whilst doing this to ensure the performance stays fresh and engaging. Good performers will also make sure to engage with the audience and where appropriate do a little free form show within his set
Many keen hobbyists will spin just for the fun of it or in groups at fire meet ups.
What is the difference between Fire Dancers, Fire Spinners, and Fire eaters?
This phrase usually refers to a performer who moves with their prop or to a group of performers who create a dynamic choreographed routine with fire. As with anything dance related the term "fire dancer" is often loosely used. We would always recommend checking out a fire performers video before booking them. (Seriously, watch our video - it's awesome)
Fire spinners generally refers to a fire artist who literally spins their prop - most often fire staff and fire poi. A good spinner can make amazing patterns and shapes as they twirl, cross, and isolate their props.
Fire eaters is often used to refer to all fire performers but it refers specifically to the art of extinguishing a lit fire prop (generally a small fire wand) in one's mouth. Many artists combine this with body burning in order to make a longer act.
Fire breathing is the most dangerous fire act - it is the "art" of blowing a fuel onto a naked flame in order to create a large explosive like effect. We at surefire do not condone fire breathing and generally will not take bookings for it - if you would like to read more about fire breathing check out our article on the dangers of fire breathing.
Where can I buy Fire Props?
There are many places you can look to purchase fire toys of different types - we would personally recommend fire toys if you live in the UK as they are constantly updated with new props. Alternatively home of poi is another great option. Our exception to this would be if you wanted to buy a fire staff in which case we would recommend those made by our very own MCP - they are superior in quality and price to anything we've used and created by a true master of the art. If you don't know what a fire staff is see below.
Is Fire Performing Dangerous?
Yes and no. Obviously you are spinning, throwing, twirling, manipulating, or otherwise playing with something that is on fire. And no matter how much the heckler next to you tell you it isn't - yes it is real fire. That said when done in a correct and safe manner fire performing can be done with minimal risk. It is a sad state of affairs that I observe many performers not stick to the guidelines necessary to have a safe experience. If you would like to know more about fire safety check out our fire safety post.
Where can I learn Fire Skills?
The best way to learn would be to find someone already doing it and ask them to teach you - we would always recommend plenty of practice first with the prop UN LIT before attempting it with fire. Generally fire performing looks best in the dark but for your first time trying it in a lit space with plenty of room and some (responsible) people with you is a great idea. If you don't have anyone around you who does it or you have surpassed all of your friends in skill then head to youtube or check out the home of poi tutorials area. A final option is to find a convention or festival near you where, if our experience of the fire spinning community is anything to go by, there will be someone more than willing to take a newbie under their wing.
What are the Different Types of Fire Skill?
It would take forever to add every single fire prop so I have added some major ones - if you think I've missed something crucial feel free to comment with it below or mail me with the prop and a description and I'll add it in 🙂
A stick with at least one wick at each end - or in the case of MCP's custom dragon staff - 11 wicks on each end. They range in length from about 90cm staffs usually used for fast spinning and throwing to 160cm+ staffs generally used for contact moves. Some artists will use two or more staffs at once - with some ridiculously skilled performers managing to juggle up to 5 (I am sure 6 will happen soon if it hasn't already).
Literally a fan of fire generally comprising of a handle spokes and around 5+ wicks. They are waved and spun and when done correctly create a really mesmerizing picture. Fans have a bit of a bad name in the fire performance industry due to the fact you often seem performers just holding them and wafting them about a bit. Don't let that fool you though - there are some awesome tricks that can be done - just search for "tech fans" videos on youtube if you don't believe me.
A rope or chain with a wick on the end - generally spun in pairs (though I have seen people playing with three before). Poi is the skill many people associate with fire performing - next time you see someone doing it make sure to remind them that you saw someone much better than them during your gap year trip to Thailand who could spin "so fast".
Juggling - but with fire. Usually done with torches comprising of a handle and a wick at one end - these are generally spun at least once with each throw. Some people also juggle fire balls which are just a kind of wired framed ball made of wick - these either need to be juggled using thick heat resistant gloves or juggled really fast or both.
A hula hoop with usually around 5 or 6 wicks on it (though some have more or less). The wicks are on prongs around the outside the hoops is used as a normal hoop would be with loads of fancy flourishes and tricks thrown in. Skilled practitioners can use two or more fire hoops at the same time.
A fire torch can either describe a small wand with a wick at the end - generally used for body burning and fire eating (see above) or can refer to a swinging torch which are used in a similar fashion to poi.
A whip where the entirety of it is kevlar wick apart fromt he handle - can make a huge ball of flame when cracked - only recommended for advanced practitioners.
A sword. Made of fire. Apart from the handle, that bit isn't fire.
That's all for now folks - I will be adding more