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Video of a fire performance at Webster Hall NYC
A fire twirler with staff
A fireknife performer with a fire knife
A fire performers 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.
Fire dancer with poi

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 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 finale 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.

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

Fire Belly Dancer Houston, Texas


One of the earliest mentions of fire performance was at the ceremony of Simchat Beit HaShoeivah during the holidays of sukkot of the Second Temple by the Jews in Jerusalem Circa 10AD - 70AD. It has been said about Rabbi Simeon ben Gamaliel that when he was rejoicing with the joy of the Water-Drawing he would take eight burning torches in one hand and toss them upwards; he tossed one and caught one, and never did one touch the other. [1]

Ancient Aztecs performed a fire dance dedicated to Xiuhtecuhtli, the god of fire.[2] 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."[3] 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. Jamaica, 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.

Another form of fire dancing comes from the people of Polynesia. It is believed that the Maori people of New Zealand would soak a ball attached to string in fuel, light it and perform dancing rituals. "Poi" is a Maori word meaning “ball on a string" making the Maori people the originators of the flow equipment still popular today.[4] See Poi (performance art).

Modern developments

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


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 use paraffin (called kerosene in the US) or the white gas substitute petroleum naphtha.


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.[6]

See also


  1. ^ "The Celebration Of Water Drawing". Retrieved 2021-02-10.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Yamashita, Shinji (2003). Bali and beyond: explorations in the anthropology of tourism. Berghahn Books. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-57181-327-5.
  4. ^ "The History of Fire Dancing". ZenArts. 2011-06-03. Retrieved 2020-01-19.
  5. ^ Zielinski, Alex. "Playing with Fire". Portland Mercury. Retrieved 2023-04-10.
  6. ^ "12 of the Most Dazzling Fire Festivals in the World | Everfest". Retrieved 2020-01-19.