The need to clarify fire performance terminology

The need to clarify fire performance terminology

Fire performance is a group of performance arts or skills that involve the manipulation of fire – wikipedia. Fire performance is an umbrella term to encompass the various fire performance arts and includes traditional fire performance, fire juggling, (flaming) object manipulation, fire circus, fire theater and fire dance.
While the term fire performance is clear and well put to use, the terms used to refer to the various types of fire performance arts are not. For example, a term such as fire juggling or fire dance may be (mis)used interchangeably or to refer to performance arts which are neither dance nor juggling. The inability to accurately distinguish between different styles and techniques is detrimental to effective analysis and, as a consequence, the evolution of fire performance as a whole.

Fire Dance vs Fire Juggling

Much of what is currently referred to as fire dance may better be termed fire juggling or (flaming) object manipulation.  When the primary focus of a performance is the object, the performance can not be categorized as dance.  The term fire dance is misused when used to refer to fire juggling and (flaming) object manipulation.

Such a distinction may appear to be of little import, yet the use of fire dance as an umbrella term to include fire juggling & (flaming) object manipulation leaves no term for the combination of dance with fire.  Those passionate about applying dance concepts to fire performance are effectively left without a term with which to refer to their art.  Such a situation is a detriment to the evolution of any art form or style.

Instead of risking what would surely be a losing battle to restore fire dance as a homological term, I proposed the term dance-based fire dance as the term to refer to what should simply be referred to as fire dance.  It is cumbersome and redundant, but it’s clear, leaving little room for confusion and can be useful in distinguishing between styles of fire performance.

Contemporary fire performance (full definition below) blends any number of performance principles and techniques such as theatre, dance, circus, juggling & object manipulation to create hybrid performances.  To refer to these performances as fire dance or fire juggling would be at best incomplete and at worst entirely inaccurate (for example, fire can be combined with theatre in ways which wouldn’t involve dance or juggling).

How to define & distinguish the various styles of fire performance?

Below, I’ve defined the various styles of fire performance. Distinguishing between these will help fire performance to evolve. Not doing so inhibits analysis, discussion and clarity; a veritable crutch for both the creation of innovative performances and the evolution of the art form.

Fire performance:

Fire performance is a group of performance arts or skills that involve the manipulation of fire (wikipedia).  Fire performance serves as an umbrella term to encompass the various fire arts.

Traditional fire performance:

Traditional fire performance was used as a ceremony, to invoke, appease or rappelle gods, spirits or forces of nature.  For example, Ancient Aztecs performed a fire dance dedicated to Xiuhtecuhtli, the god of fire. (wikipedia)

UPCOMING TEACHING EVENTS

INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO SERIES

Learn to fire dance with ex Cirque du Soleil Fire Dancer Srikanta Barefoot. Over 165 minutes of video! Instruction, inspiration and fun! Learn More…

5% DISCOUNT ON PYROTERRA LIGHTTOYS:

We highly recommend Lighttoys LED Props & Visual Poi.  For a 5% discount, visit the Lighttoys website & use our lighttoys promo code: fusionartsandlighttoysrullezz

Hawaii Fire Dance Retreat!  Join us!!!

FEBRUARY 19-25 2023

POI, STAFF & THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CONTEMPORARY FIRE DANCE

Object manipulation:

(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. (wikipedia)

Fire juggling & flaming object manipulation:

Object manipulation where specially designed props are soaked in fuel and lit on fire. (wikipedia).  Techniques may involve juggling & tossing (staffs, devil sticks, juggling clubs, etc) and spinning & twirling (staffs, poi, hula hoop, dragon staff, rope dart, fans, etc).

The primary focus of fire juggling and object manipulation performances is on the skills performed by the object itself, rendering the artist of secondary importance.  The audience is invited to focus on the tricks performed by the object, (ie. yoyo, tech poi, buugeng).

Fire dance: (ie. dance-based fire dance)

Fire dance combines fire with dance (ie. the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, usually to music and within a given space, for the purpose of expressing an idea or emotion, releasing energy, or simply taking delight in the movement itself.– britannica).  The 3 principles of fire dance are synonymous with those of dance;  aesthetic pleasure, self-expression and entertainment – britannica.

Fire dance may be performed as a powerful impulse (improvisation) or as skillfully executed choreography.

Did you know there is a dance-based fire dance group on facebook?  The group is dedicated to the evolution of contemporary fire dance and is the place to both share and connect with other contemporary fire dancers around the world.

Contemporary fire performance:

Contemporary fire performance combines fire with contemporary aesthetic sensibilities and theatrical techniques.  Contemporary fire performance may include any number of elements found within object manipulation (juggling, tossing, spinning & twirling), contemporary circus (acrobatics, aerial arts, etc), contemporary theater and contemporary dance.

Contemporary fire performance draws upon a variety of circus, dance and theatrical principles and techniques to create hybrid performances.

Although performances may be abstract or narrative, contemporary fire performance is often used to invoke emotion through the use of meaning, symbolism & storytelling.

Hawaii Fire Dance Retreat!  Join us!!!

FEBRUARY 19-25 2023

POI, STAFF & THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CONTEMPORARY FIRE DANCE

Contemporary LED performance:

The term contemporary LED performance replaces the term contemporary fire performance when LED instead of fire is used.

Some examples of contemporary LED can be found in Fusion Arts LED circus show Astrea.

Contemporary Fire Dance:

Contemporary fire dance combines fire, dance and any number of theater, circus, juggling and object manipulation principles and techniques to create hybrid performances. It is a specialized kind of contemporary fire performance in which dance is a required element.

Fusion Arts offers instruction in contemporary fire dance in the form of video lessons and contemporary fire dance workshops & retreats in Europe, the Americas and Asia.

Discover more about contemporary fire dance here.

Contemporary Fire Dance

What is contemporary fire dance?

Contemporary fire dance combines fire, dance and any number of theater, circus, juggling and object manipulation principles and techniques to create hybrid performances. It is a specialized kind of contemporary fire performance in which dance is a required element.

In contemporary fire dance, dance principles are of paramount importance (ie. the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, usually to music and within a given space, for the purpose of expressing an idea or emotion, releasing energy, or simply taking delight in the movement itself.– britannica).  Object manipulation techniques (juggling, tossing, spinning & twirling) are combined with dance techniques to create performances in which the dancer is as much or greater a focal point than the objects which he or she manipulates; the body is as implicated as the object.

Contemporary fire dance performances seek to blend dance and object manipulation techniques in a harmonious and connected way.  The relationship between the dancer and the object is a source of inspiration for discovering movements which are complementary to one another (for example certain object manipulation techniques may help a dancer to turn or jump, by transferring momentum generated from the prop to the body).  Such inquiries are of primary interest to contemporary fire dancers.

Special focus may be given to stage presence, atmosphere, choreography, musicality and energetic flow and evolution throughout a piece.  As with fire dance (defined below), contemporary fire dance may be performed as a powerful impulse (improvisation) or as skillfully executed choreography.

What distinguishes contemporary fire dance from fire dance?

Contemporary fire dance differs from fire dance in its use of theater, circus and object manipulation principles and techniques to create hybrid performances. In this way it is akin to the relationship between dance, theater, circus and their contemporary counterparts.

For more on fire dance terminology, check out the blog The need to clarify fire performance terminology.

Contemporary Fire Dance Workshops & Retreats

Fusion Arts offers instruction in contemporary fire dance in the form of weekend fire dance workshops and week-long contemporary fire dance retreats.  Techniques include poi lessons, staff lessons and hula hoop lessons.  Object manipulation is taught in tandem with dance technique so that the entire body is implicated from the start.  Special focus is given to musicality, stage presence, choreography, concept evolution and other performance and technical aspects used for preparing contemporary fire dance for performance. 

Hawaii Fire Dance Retreat!  Join us!!!

FEBRUARY 19-25 2023

POI, STAFF & THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CONTEMPORARY FIRE DANCE

UPCOMING TEACHING EVENTS

INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO SERIES

Learn to fire dance with ex Cirque du Soleil Fire Dancer Srikanta Barefoot. Over 165 minutes of video! Instruction, inspiration and fun! Learn More…

5% DISCOUNT ON PYROTERRA LIGHTTOYS:

We highly recommend Lighttoys LED Props & Visual Poi.  For a 5% discount, visit the Lighttoys website & use our lighttoys promo code: fusionartsandlighttoysrullezz

Examples of contemporary fire dance

Below are a few video examples of contemporary fire dance & contemporary fire dance lessons which Fusion Arts has created over the years.

Dancing with the Fire Staff

In this instructional video series on Dancing with the Fire Staff, ex Cirque du Soleil fire dancer & fire dance coach Srikanta Barefoot teaches techniques for combining dance & staff manipulation.  The series includes a choreography section which encourages students to focus on other dance & theater concepts like musicality & stage presence.

Fire Dance Quartet 2016

From 2015 to 2016, Fusion Arts trained two contemporary dancers to manipulate poi, staff, swords, etc.  The project was presented at Fusion Arts’ annual Fire Dance Retreat in the summer of 2016.

Feel Good Fire Dance 2009

In 2009, Cirque du Soleil Fire Performer Srikanta Barefoot created this video which combines dance techniques with poi, staff & swords.  Filmed in Macau and on the stage of ZAIA, it was one of the first contemporary fire dance videos to appear.

Srikanta was the first contemporary fire dancer featured by the Cirque du Soleil performing over 700 shows from 2008 to 2010.

Hawaii Fire Dance Retreat!  Join us!!!

FEBRUARY 19-25 2023

POI, STAFF & THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CONTEMPORARY FIRE DANCE

Jen & Srikanta Barefoot Duo 2012

In 2012 Jen & Srikanta Barefoot published some of the contemporary fire dance choreography they had been working on together.  Jen has a background in both ballet and contemporary dance.  Srikanta has a background in circus, theater and contemporary dance.  The two began creating contemporary fire dance choreography together in 2009 and continue to create Fusion Arts Fire Shows & LED shows together to this day.

Solo Fire Dance Act 2015-2018

This video features footage of contemporary fire dancer Srikanta Barefoot.  The video highlights the ex Cirque du Soleil Fire Dancers work with the fire staffs.

His solo fire dance act Dancing Fire features contemporary fire dance with the single staff, double staff, fore ropes, fire swords and pyro poi.  There are a couple of more recent clips of Srikanta’s fire performance on the Fusion Arts Instagram account:

Single Fire Staff Performance by Srikanta
Double Fire Staff Performance by Srikanta

FIRE DANCE & FLOW RETREAT – POI & STAFF : FEB 19-25 2023 (OAHU HAWAII)

Learn, Play, Discover & Unwind!

The Fire Dance & Flow Retreat on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Oahu combines poi & staff classes with pristine nature and adventure expeditions.

The event takes place at a private retreat center located in a secluded valley amidst majestic mountains & forests with a 15 minute walk to the beach!

Hauula Beach

Staff & poi lessons are balanced with playing, relaxing and discovering Oahu’s rich natural and cultural heritage.  Participants can choose their level of challenge but overall this retreat is very conducive to taking it easy and enjoying the ride. 

In addition to daily staff & poi classes & nightly fire jams, we’ll explore many amazing places around Oahu (private transportation organised): Pristine beaches, waterfalls, volcanoes. 

Join us for adventure & fun in Oahu, Hawaii!

Ticket & accommodation info

About the Instructors

Srikanta Barefoot
Instruction in Poi, Staff & Dance-based Fire Dance:

Srikanta was the first Contemporary Fire Dancer featured by the Cirque du Soleil (2007-2010), performing over 700 shows using fire poi, fire staff, double fire staff & double fire swords. He has 20 years of experience fire dancing including his position of Fire Dancing Coach and Lead Fire Dancer for Cirque Du Soleil. 

As a pioneer of contemporary fire dance, Srikanta is passionate about combining fire dance techniques with stage presence, story, full body movement & dance!  He has taught poi & staff workshops at locations worldwide since 2003 and has created an Instructional Video Series called Dancing with the Fire Staff to help students learn fire dancing.

Jen Barefoot
Instruction in Poi, Staff & Dance-based Fire Dance:

Jen has a background in ballet & contemporary dance.  She has been an integral part of Srikanta’s teaching since 2011.  She continues to refine both their contemporary style of fire dance and the way it’s taught. 

The two combine fire dance technique with martial arts, acrobatics & dance in their shows as well as in their instructional classes.

About the Retreat Format

Adventure & Discovery Schedule

On Monday afternoon,  join the group for a walk to the beach for downtime & a sunset fire jam.  You can already test out some of the new concepts you’ve learned, or just hang/ do your own thing. It’s an opportunity to both connect with your comrades and to begin enjoying the amazing surroundings.

On Tuesday evening, we’ll have a bonfire & fire jam at the retreat center!

On Wednesday, we’ll set out for a jungle/ waterfall hike followed by a sunset cruise

On Thursday, we will enjoy sunset & a fire jam at one of the islands most beautiful beaches, Waimea Beach.

On Friday, we will stay at the retreat center & have an “in house show & tell”.  This is the opportunity to present your work in a very safe & supportive atmosphere.  Performing is totally optional but it’s a great opportunity to receive constructive feedback from the instructors & to appreciate the different styles evolving in the group.

Program Start & End Times

The February 2023 Oahu Fire Dance Retreat runs from Sunday February 19 to Saturday February 25.

Orientation begins at 4pm on Sunday  (arrive as early as 3pm).

Retreat activities finish with the “in house” show on Friday evening followed by checkout at noon on Saturday.

The retreat is preceded by a separate event which you are invited to attend.  On Saturday February 18, there will be live music, dance and circus  shows at the same location (including performances by Jen & Srikanta).  More info below.  

All Inclusive Meals

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner is provided for all retreat participants from dinner on Sunday February 19 through breakfast on Saturday February 25.

A shared kitchen is available throughout the week & weekend.  For meals during the weekend which are not provided, there are a few food trucks within walking distance which are really good!

Please inform us of any allergies or food restrictions. Meals are both organic & vegetarian.

Ticket & accommodation info

Preparing for the event

Once you’ve registered we’ll send you an info pack with lots of useful info to help you to prepare for the event. For example:

You will need to bring your own poi & staff or alternatively, you can benefit from a participant discount and free delivery when ordering from the  Fusion Arts Shop.

Take advantage of free shuttles between the retreat venue & the airport.

Tips on what to bring to make the most of your experience

About the Retreat Venue

The Hawaii Spiritual Center is nestled deep in the valley of Hauula in the fabled North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. It is surrounded by majestic mountains and forests. There is a stream that goes through the land and into the nearby pristine beaches about 15 to 20 minutes away on a leisurely walk.

The retreat center fosters Hawaiian culture via gatherings and workshops. Cultivating native and local crops, the HSC has acres of agricultural land.

There is a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere in this secluded retreat space revered by the ancient Hawaii people. There are sacred sites which are kapu, and should only be entered with explicit permission.

There are numerous hikes with beautiful breathtaking views that stems from the center itself.

In addition to daily instructional classes & nightly fire jams, we make the most of being in one of the world most amazing spots!

Hawaii Fire Dance Retreat

Ticket & accommodation info

From Bali to Europe to Hawaii, our Fire Dance Retreats are always an adventure!

“The Fusion Arts Fire Dance Retreat in Oahu has been life changing for me. Never have I had such a magical experience, and Oahu is a one of a kind place to host such a fantastic event! What a gift to share with such incredible and motivating people.”
Chris (Oahu – 02.2022)

“It was great fun.  Best holiday ever!”
Matt (Stromboli – 2015)

“Thank you for a great event and all your energy you spent in my improving.  I enjoyed every single minute and wish I could stay much longer.”
Suzanna (Stromboli – 2015)
“I went last year and this was such an amazing time! Be prepared to work hard and learn tons! Srikanta is a fantastic teacher!”
Jennifer  (Costa Rica – 2012)

Fire Dance & Flow Retreat with Srikanta & Jen: 13-19 FEB 2022 (OAHU HAWAII)

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Learn, Play, Discover & Relax!

The Fire Dance & Flow Retreat on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Oahu combines poi and staff with pristine nature and adventure expeditions.  

Suited for all levels of poi and staff spinners, the event will take place at a private retreat center located in a secluded valley amidst majestic mountains & forests with a 15 minute walk to the beach!

Hauula Beach

Instructional Classes are balanced with playing, relaxing and discovering Oahu’s rich natural and cultural heritage.  Participants can choose their level of challenge but overall this retreat is very conducive to taking it easy and enjoying the ride. 

In addition to daily classes & nightly fire jams, we’ll explore many amazing places around Oahu (private transportation organised): Pristine beaches, waterfalls, volcanoes. 

Join us for adventure & fun in Oahu, Hawaii!

Get a discount! Get an Early Bird Ticket!

Who is welcome to attend?

All levels from beginner to advanced are welcome.

Instructors will offer beginning, intermediate & advanced options for many techniques.  Instructional Classes will take place from 9am to 12pm on an outdoor dance floor which we are building specifically for the event. 

About the Instructors

Srikanta was the first Contemporary Fire Dancer featured by the Cirque du Soleil (2007-2010), performing over 700 shows using fire poi, fire staff, double fire staff & double fire swords. He has 20 years of experience fire dancing including his position of Fire Dancing Coach and Lead Fire Dancer for Cirque Du Soleil.  Srikanta has taught poi & staff workshops at locations worldwide since 2003 and has created an Instructional Video Series called Dancing with the Fire Staff.  Click here for more info & to purchase.

Jen has been an integral part of Srikanta’s teaching since 2011.  As a teacher with a background in classic dance, she continues to help create and refine both their dance-based style of fire dance and the way it’s taught.  The two combine fire dance technique with martial arts, acrobatics & dance in their shows as well as in their instructional classes.

Typical Retreat Concepts

-Improvisation/ Freedom of Movement/ Expression
-Creative and Dramatic Choices- dare!
-Bringing out your own style
-Dancing with the unforeseen- what to do when things don’t go as planned
-Special Focus on Body Movement & Dance
-Techniques for creating interesting and inspiring performances

About the event format

Srikanta Barefoot & his (life & stage) partner Jen are overjoyed to be embarking on this adventure with you.  The Hawaii event will be unlike our other Fire Dance Retreats which are more rigorous & focused on creating & performing dynamic fire dance choreography.  The goal of the Oahu retreat is to learn, discover, have fun & relax.

Periods of exploration & discovery are a necessary process for renewal and regeneration.  Srikanta will be offering a solid curriculum with options for beginning to advanced. We invite you to come with an open mind, ready to explore, discover and see where your inspiration leads you.

As the Oahu event is less structured than our other teaching events, we’ll be more able to adapt to the interests of the group.  We may decide to spend more time on tech, or flow, or performance aspects, or double staffs, or partner poi/staff.  We are also along for the ride ; )

Just as a great tower has a solid foundation, the more solid your foundation is, the higher your potential to soar.  Please verify your proficiency.  If you think you could benefit by learning a few more techniques prior to the retreat, we invite you to check out Srikanta’s instructional video series on Dancing with the Fire Staff, available for download/ streaming and Nick Woolsey’s beginner poi series.  

Adventure & Discovery Schedule

In addition to morning instructional classes & nightly fire jams, we plan to make the most of being in one of the world most amazing spots!

On Monday afternoon, after the morning instruction and lunch, join the group for a walk to the beach. Don’t forget your staff and poi! At the beach we can have an impromptu jam, where you can already test out some of the new concepts you’ve learned, or just hang/ do your own thing. It’s an opportunity to both connect with your comrades and orient yourself to the amazing surroundings.

Wednesday
Trial by Fire – Fire Circles are gatherings of flow artists specialising in interpretive fire dance. They hold classes and skill share at 5 pm and burns at sunset.

On Thursday, we are planning a boat cruise with instructional classes and jams happening at incredible locations upon the way. Depending on the size of the class it is most likely that these will be included free of charge.

Friday, after the retreat
Lunar Vibes Community Retreat.
Lunar Vibes is an Audio Visual Movement Meditation Community Weekend Retreat.
All students are welcome to stay on & attend Lunar Vibes FOR FREE!

And, and, and…
And how about a fire jam at a nearby waterfall?! It’s the first year and as such we aren’t 100% sure about what else we will get up to, but the good news is, there are some great choices.  In addition to these fun adventures in nature, we hope to find some cultural activities which give us an opportunity to connect & share with the local Hawaiian people

Program Start & End Times

The 2021 Oahu Fire Dance Retreat runs from Sunday February 13th to Saturday February 19th.

Orientation begins at 6:30pm on Sunday February 13th (arrive as early as 6pm).

The retreat ends at 6pm on Friday February 18th and is directly followed by the lunar vibes festival (details above).

Checkout is at noon on Saturday February 19th.

About the Retreat Venue

Hawaii Fire Dance Retreat

The Hawaii Spiritual Center is nestled deep in the valley of Hauula in the fabled North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. It is surrounded by majestic mountains and forests. There is a stream that goes through the land and into the nearby pristine beaches about 15 to 20 minutes away on a leisurely walk.

The retreat center fosters Hawaiian culture via gatherings and workshops. Cultivating native and local crops, the HSC has acres of agricultural land.

There is a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere in this secluded retreat space revered by the ancient Hawaii people. There are sacred sites which are kapu, and should only be entered with explicit permission.

There are numerous hikes with beautiful breathtaking views that stems from the center itself.

Hawaii Fire Dance Retreat

Meals

Lunch and dinner are provided for the duration of the 5 day retreat. There will be a special dinner on Friday evening. Please inform us of any allergies or food restrictions. There is a shared kitchen which you are free to use. Meals are both organic & vegetarian.

Booking Private Instruction

Srikanta & Jen are available for individual and small group instruction. If you are interested in learning any props not taught during the retreat (ie. double staffs, swords, double swords, etc), workshopping your choreography or show, or delving deeper into any aspect of the week’s poi & staff instruction, please contact us in advance to book your private session.
It’s best to plan these sessions for the days either preceding or following the retreat as the weekdays are packed with group activities.

Private Instruction Rates:
Individual Instruction: 60eu/hr
2 Individuals: 80eu/hr (40eu per person)
3 Individuals: 100eu/ hr (33eu per person) *1 hour minimum booking

Get a discount! Get an Early Bird Ticket!

More about our teaching events

“It was great fun.  Best holiday ever!”
Matt (Stromboli – 2015)

“I went last year and this was such an amazing time! Be prepared to work hard and learn tons! Srikanta is a fantastic teacher!”
Jennifer  (Costa Rica – 2012)
“Thank you for a great event and all your energy you spent in my improving.  I enjoyed every single minute and wish I could stay much longer.”
Suzanna (Stromboli – 2015)

From Bali to Hawaii, our Retreats are always an adventure!

RECOMMENDED POSTS

Choosing Fire Poi which are right for you

Choosing the right fire poi dimensions which will feel right & allow you to pursue your own personal style of fire dancing can be daunting.  There are so many poi specifications to consider including poi length, overall weight, poi head type, handle type… It may be helpful to seek the advice of an experienced artist.

I’ve made a career of dancing with fire poi, (20+ years including 3 years onstage with the Cirque du Soleil).  I’ve always designed & constructed my own fire tools and have been teaching poi & staff & swords for over 15 years.  Questions about ideal poi specs have come up often from my Students but much more so since I began offering my own custom-made fire poi to the public via the Fusion Arts Pro Fire Shop.

Below you will find my revelations regarding fire poi specs over years of impassioned obsession and design modification.  Disclaimer!  Opinions vary even between experienced poi artists. This is largely due to the different styles of poi spinning.  I’ve named the style I’ve developed contemporary fire dance, which I teach at my Workshops and Fire Dance Retreats.  

In addition to my dance-based style, there is also contact poi, tech poi & other styles, each with their own priorities regarding poi specifications.  Ultimately the question of which fire poi are right for you comes down to your own personal style and aspirations.

Choosing Fire Poi Length:

A general rule of thumb for choosing the right fire poi length for you, is to stand normally & measure the distance from your knuckles to the floor, then to subtract a couple centimeters (or inches) to make sure you aren’t going to skim the floor when you are spinning.  This magic number is the length from the edge of the wick nearest the floor, all the way to your knuckles, but is not your total poi length.  For your total poi length you will need to factor in the handle length (see the section on handle type below).  

If you are someone who is going to spin while standing as you normally would (hooray tech poi!), that measurement should be a good starting point. 

But if you are someone who is planning to use levels during your performance (hooray contemporary fire dance!), getting low sometimes & lunging in order to jump, you will want to make sure that your poi aren’t so long that you are skimming the ground all of the time.  In this case, you will want to take that same measurement (knuckles to floor) not while you’re standing normally, but at the level you plan to spin at the most often.  I’d recommend taking a stance which is as wide as you think may be your average when navigating around the stage, then doing the measurement from there.  

Keep in mind, you can always wrap up if you want to do some moves which require a shorter length (like the buzzsaw or anything in the internal plane) but once you’ve decided on total length, you won’t be able to make your poi longer without a redesign.  

Many of the tech poi spinners I know, prefer poi which are a bit shorter, like 10-15cm (4-6”) from the floor.  Having shorter poi can help when doing some techie moves (like contact-handle wraps and things in the internal & wall plane), although it can also make some techie moves more difficult (like isolation).    

My custom fire poi come with two options for chain type; chain & technora.  If you are ordering poi with chain instead of technora, it’s good to always err on the side of too long, as it’s easy to reduce the length with simple tools you may already have at home.  If you are ordering poi with technora rope instead of chains, you won’t be able to easily change the length once the poi are built, so it’s best to have a clear idea beforehand. 

UPCOMING TEACHING EVENTS

INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO SERIES

Learn to fire dance with ex Cirque du Soleil Fire Dancer Srikanta Barefoot. Over 165 minutes of video! Instruction, inspiration and fun! Learn More…

5% DISCOUNT ON PYROTERRA LIGHTTOYS:

We highly recommend Lighttoys LED Props & Visual Poi.  For a 5% discount, visit the Lighttoys website & use our lighttoys promo code: fusionartsandlighttoysrullezz

Hawaii Fire Dance Retreat!  Join us!!!

FEBRUARY 19-25 2023

POI, STAFF & THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CONTEMPORARY FIRE DANCE

Choosing Fire Poi Handle Type:

When I began spinning poi in 2000, there were far fewer choices for poi handle type- single loop & double loop.  These days, I can’t imagine being a newbie and trying to wrap my head around all of the different options.  In the Fusion Arts Pro Fire Shop, I offer 3 types of handles: single loop, double loop & pomgrip handles.  

For more on how handle type affects total length click here

Cirque du Soleil fire performers in Zaia with fire dancer Srikanta Barefoot

Here I am onstage with the Cirque du Soleil where I taught 20+ acrobats & dancers to perform some simple moves with poi & swords as a backdrop to my 5 minute act. 

For more on how handle type affects total length click here

Single & Double Loop Handles:
The standard for years, these are great for learning & many experienced performers stick with them.  The single loop handles offer a ton of different ways to hold your poi and you are bound to find your own unique way which feels the most comfortable to you.

They are limited in two ways as far as I can see.  Firstly, they take a little bit longer to put on and off than ball or pomgrip handles.  Of course this is just a matter of a couple of seconds, so it’s only a consideration if you are like me and choreographing quick transition between fire props during your show. Secondly, you won’t be able to toss your poi (and tosses, although they might seem daunting at first, are really a lot of fun and probably something you will want to try at some point).

Pomgrip Handles:
I spun poi for 20 years before I really began doing tosses (thanks to covid 19’s silver lining and being stuck in Bali with Vojta after our annual fire dance retreat there).  I’d been using some ball handles on my fire ropes as part of Fusion Arts Fire Dance Shows (to allow for quick transitions between props) but my fire poi still had single loop, nylon handles.  After Bali I began using pomgrip handles because I really like the feel.  They are grippy & light weight and offer the possibility to regulate the weight using washers.  They also come in loads of colors, including glow in the dark, which is pretty handy for doing tosses in low light conditions.  

If you order your pomgrip handles from the Fusion Arts Pro Fire Shop, they come built with either a bit of technora & a swivel connected to chain or technora all the way between the pomgrip and the poi head, which makes spinning super comfortable & safe.

Choosing Fire Poi Head Size:

Which size of fire poi head to choose depends on how comfortable you are with the flame & your specific goals or style.  If you have a specific goal, like performing to faster music this can affect your choice as heavier poi spin more slowly.  By the same token, if you like to spin slowly, you will find it difficult to do so with poi which are too light.  

I personally tend to spin slowly with my poi & quickly with my ropes.  I’ve designed my acts this way because the ropes I make (and sell) are super lightweight and create great trails AND because I like the way slower movements look & feel with poi.  I actually have two sets of fire poi which allow me to adapt to different tempos of music.  They are Medium Monkey Fists (80mm/ 3.15” in diameter) & Large Monkey Fist (90mm/ 3.5” in diameter).

I offer 1-2 week-long  fire dance retreats per year, in Hawaii, in Europe & in Bali.  Join us! 

I offer 3 sizes of monkey fist poi heads from the Fusion Arts Fire Shop.

Choosing Fire Poi Head Type:

There are as many poi head types as there are knots!  I personally like the look & feel of the round, monkey fist poi heads.  They feel like my contact poi/ LED poi which makes it a no brainer to switch between props for different shows or training.  The type of wick is important too, which is why I use only knit (not woven) fire rope for it’s superior burn time.  

Fire poi artist in ocean cave

2003!  My hairstyle & poi design have gone through multiple evolutions since ; )

Choosing Fire Poi Chain vs Technora Rope:

Who wants to risk metal burns from chains when there is an alternative that both looks & feels great?  Fusion Arts currently offers technora rope as a replacement for chain on all of our poi & ropes.  

fire dancer in france performing a fire show with fire poi

Ultimately, choosing fire poi which are right for you depends upon your personal goals & style.  After 20 years of building & spinning poi, I know how much every little detail can impact your performance.  I began designing & selling custom made fire tools, to allow others to fine tune their staffrope & poi specifications even if they don’t have the time or resources to design & build their own fire props . You will find even more info about specific fire props on those pages.  If you have any questions, I’m here to help so feel free to contact me.  

; )
Srikanta

Free Fire Dance Tutorial Videos

Below are a few free video lessons I’ve made with the poi and staff.  For more online fire staff lessons, check out my instructional video series Dancing with the Fire Staff.

For more about contemporary fire dance check out the contemporary fire dance page! 

See you at the next fire dance retreat!

Srikanta

Hawaii Fire Dance Retreat!  Join us!!!

FEBRUARY 19-25 2023

POI, STAFF & THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CONTEMPORARY FIRE DANCE

Free Poi Tutorial Videos:

Free Staff Tutorial Videos:

UPCOMING TEACHING EVENTS

INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO SERIES

Learn to fire dance with ex Cirque du Soleil Fire Dancer Srikanta Barefoot. Over 165 minutes of video! Instruction, inspiration and fun! Learn More…

5% DISCOUNT ON PYROTERRA LIGHTTOYS:

We highly recommend Lighttoys LED Props & Visual Poi.  For a 5% discount, visit the Lighttoys website & use our lighttoys promo code: fusionartsandlighttoysrullezz

Poi & Staff Retreat w/ Srikanta, Vojta, Jen & Kevin: April 14-20 2019 (Sommières FR)

***As of Feb 19 2019, the retreat is full. Join us next time in April 2020!***

Get ready for an adventure!

Join a fun and diverse group for daily poi & staff classes, theatrical games, fire/led jams and more with Vojta, Jen, Kevin & ex Cirque du Soleil Fire Dancer & Coach, Srikanta Barefoot. The week-long Intermediate/ Advanced-Level Poi &/ or Staff Retreat in Sommières combines a full immersion in dance-based fire dance with natural and cultural expeditions.

Discover Sommières!

Sommières is a commune in the Gard department in southern France, located at the border with the Hérault department It lies 22 km from Nîmes, 28 km from Montpellier. Wikipedia

“It was great fun.  Best holiday ever!”
Matt (Stromboli – 2015)

“Thank you for a great event and all your energy you spent in my improving.  I enjoyed every single minute and wish I could stay much longer.”
Suzanna (Stromboli – 2015)
“I went last year and this was such an amazing time! Be prepared to work hard and learn tons! Srikanta is a fantastic teacher!”
Jennifer  (Costa Rica – 2012)

About the Instructors

Vojta is a Czech poi pioneer who excels at combining poi tech tricks with dance.  With a style and approach all his own, he has invented some innovative new poi techniques.
Vojta has shared his poi enthusiasm far and wide and taught more than a hundred workshops worldwide. In addition, he’s filmed many inspirational poi videos, including the world’s most watched poi video “The Future Is Now”. Check out Vojta’s videos and personal website to learn more about this talented Artist.

Srikanta was the first Contemporary Fire Dancer featured by the Cirque du Soleil (2007-2010), performing over 700 shows using fire poi, fire staff, double fire staff & double fire swords. He has 15 years of experience fire dancing including his position of Fire Dancing Coach and Lead Fire Dancer for Cirque Du Soleil.  Srikanta has taught poi & staff workshops at locations worldwide since 2003 and has created an Instructional Video Series called Dancing with the Fire Staff.  Click here for more info & to purchase.

Jen has been an integral part of Srikanta’s teaching since 2011.  As a teacher with a background in classic dance, she continues to help create and refine both their dance-based style of fire dance and the way it’s taught.  The two combine poi & staff technique with martial arts, acrobatics & dance in their shows as well as in their instructional classes.

Kevin (bio coming soon!)

Who is welcome to attend?

This Retreat is catered to those whom aspire to take their technique and act choreography a step further.  The poi and staff classes are intermediate/ advanced level and there are specific prerequisites (below).  The retreat is open to hobbyists as well as aspiring & professional artists.

The emphasis of the retreat is two-fold: improving technique with staff and/or poi AND building or refining choreography.

Instruction is given in English while French will be widely spoken as well.

ACCOMMODATION

The accommodation which is provided as part of the retreat package is on the Kedez compound.  The rooms are on the first story with the dance studios and kitchen below.  There are even a couple of trailers outside which can sleep a few people.  Its a great communal space and a fun creative atmosphere.

All participants will be required to share a room with 2-4 people per room (we’ll place you with someone of the same sex, if you prefer or with your friends or partner).   Alternatively, you may choose to find your own accommodation elsewhere.

THE RETREAT INCLUDES:

6 nights of accommodation at an Artistic Retreat Space. The week will consist of a 90 minute staff and/or poi workshop + open studio space every morning and a 2 hour assisted play/ experiment/ jam time every evening, M-F. The evening playtime will consist of different activities from guided individual play & experimentation to group games and activities. Focus will be on incorporating the mornings’ technical knowledge into play & performance, experimenting with movement elements, theatrical presentation & stage presence. The second hour of the evening session falls at dusk and flows into an impromptu glow & fire jam. Students can continue experimenting & playing on their own with unlit props or try out their new moves on fire!

Also included is a trip to the temple-ruin-like Carrier du Bon Temps to explore and jam, plus some built in down time to hit the river and to explore the village of Sommieres. Organic vegetarian meals can be booked (lunch and/or dinner) at 9eu per meal.

On Thursday we’ll have a fire jam at the Carrier and be filming student promos (for those interested in creating a fire or led promo of their act).

Instructional classes are held within 2 spacious studios on the Kedez compound. The studios are available almost around the clock for those who want to continue training or creating their acts.

Workshop Content & Prerequisites

Please do your best to understand the pre-requisites to ensure that the level of instruction is appropriate for you.  To enrol in the intermediate or advanced staff curriculum, please see the prerequisites for Staff Levels 2 & 3 respectively.  

TYPICAL RETREAT CONCEPTS:

STAFF:

  • Stage Presence and Character Building
  • Choreography and Act Building
  • Creative and Dramatic Choices- dare!
  • Maximizing effect: How to get a response from your public
  • Optimizing your training
  • Improvisation- Freedom of Movement/ Expression
  • Bringing out your own style
  • Advanced Fueling and Fire Safety Techniques
  • Research techniques in act creation
  • Creation Tips Technical help- music editing, etc.
  • Dancing with the unforseen- what to do when things don’t go as planned

POI:
– increasing our ability to learn fast by practising coordination, hand independence
– beautifying moves that you already can do (also individually)
– incorporating our body into the motion
– contrast moves, transitions between different planes, crosspoints
– anti-spin based moves (flowers, CAPs, wall plane & wheel plane hybrids and variations, 3Ds, cateyes)
– pirouettes, tracers, negative space
– under the legs, jumps
– hyperloops (orbitals, learning to exit from orbital, infinite hyperloops, looped-turning and plane changes)
– wraps (spiral wraps, body wraps)
– stalls, transitions between all the moves
– advanced butterfly variations
– behind the back moves
– one handed spinning & triple poi basics (from one-handed weaves to one-handed anti-spin patterns)

* note that we probably won’t be able to do all of this due to lack of time and the curriculum will be adapted to the skill level of the workshops participants. Individual instruction is possible.

NEED HELP PLANNING?

Once we’ve received your registration form and payment, we’ll be sending you a Student Orientation Guide with a ton of practical information to help you plan well and get the most out of your experience.  There is a lot of essential info in this guide including tips on getting to and from Sommières, what to pack, etc.

PRIVATE INSTRUCTION

Vojta, Srikanta & Kevin offer a special discounted rate for workshop participants interested in booking private one-on-one sessions. If you are interested in learning triple staffs, swords or double swords, please contact Srikanta or Vojta in advance to book your private session. It’s best to schedule these sessions in advance to guarantee availability.  You will also be able to sign up for free one-on-one sessions with any of the 4 instructors during the week with the specific intent of workshopping your own act creation/ personal choreography.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR APPLICATION*:

***As of Feb 19 2019, the retreat is full. Join us next time in April 2020!***

Please complete the Workshop Application Form.
After clicking on “submit”, you will be led to the retreat payment page where you may pay the 200eu deposit and complete your reservation.
If submitted correctly, we will send you a confirmation email within 72 hours.
*Please read the Fusion Arts Payment and Cancellation Policy for all applications.
Please contact us with any questions or for more information.

TENTATIVE DAILY SCHEDULE:

Sunday April 14th
6:30-8:00pm Student Orientation & Welcome/ Games + Apéro!
8pm Dinner (Organic vegetarian meals are available for 9eu/ meal)

Monday – Friday
8:30-10:00 am: Poi or Staff/ Open Studio (alternating)
10:15 am-11:45 am: Staff or Poi/ Open Studio (alternating)
8:30-11:45am:  Open Studio in Studio A (for those not participating in both poi & staff)
12pm Lunch (Organic vegetarian meals are available for 9eu/ meal)
11:45 am – 6:30 pm: Free Time + Open Studio Space for all
6:30-8:30 pm: Assisted play & experimentation time.  Choreography and Theatrical Workshops. Glow and fire jams.
8:30pm Dinner (Organic vegetarian meals are available for 9eu/ meal)

*In addition to this action-packed daily routine, the group sets out to explore the village, the river and the temple-ruin-like Carrier du Bon Temps.

Monday April 15
13h30-15h Group Hike to the Château of Sommières (Optional but awesome!)
6:30-8:30pm Instructor Presentations (yes, we’re performing for you!)/ Theatrical Games + Performance Concepts Discussion + Jam/ Act Building

Tuesday April 16
6-7pm Student Presentations (Optional)/ Discussion
7-9:30pm Fire Jam at the Carrier du Bon Temps

Wednesday April 17
6:30-8:30pm Student Presentations (Optional)/ Discussion + Jam/ Act Building

Thursday April 18
6pm Dinner
7-10pm Fire Act Presentation, Jam and filming at Carrier du Bon Temps (Optional but awesome!)

Friday April 19
6:30pm We’ll have a party/ Jam at the Kedez!!!

Saturday April 20
Morning: Check out the Saturday Morning Market in the village and gear up for…
12pm Farewell Picnic on the banks of the river

PROGRAM START & END TIMES

The 2019 Poi & Staff Retreat runs from 6:30pm on Sunday April 14th to 13pm on Saturday April 20th.  The farewell lunch on Saturday is optional and just for fun.  There are no activities planned on this day except packing up and saying goodbye.

***As of Feb 19 2019, the retreat is full. Join us next time in April 2020!***

PRICING:

Early Bird: Register before January 15
750eu Poi & Staff
600eu Poi or Staff
45eu/ lunches Monday-Friday (9eu per meal)
54eu/ dinners Sunday- Friday (9eu per meal)

Register After January 15:
850eu Poi & Staff
700eu Poi or Staff
45eu/ lunches Monday-Friday (9eu per meal)
54eu/ dinners Sunday- Friday (9eu per meal)

Fire Cyr Wheel on Germany’s Got Talent

In 2018 Srikanta performed his fire cyr wheel act for Germany’s Got Talent.
He was treated to 3 YES! VOTES & a standing ovation from both the crowd and judges.

UPCOMING TEACHING EVENTS

INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO SERIES

Learn to fire dance with ex Cirque du Soleil Fire Dancer Srikanta Barefoot. Over 165 minutes of video! Instruction, inspiration and fun! Learn More…

5% DISCOUNT ON PYROTERRA LIGHTTOYS:

We highly recommend Lighttoys LED Props & Visual Poi.  For a 5% discount, visit the Lighttoys website & use our lighttoys promo code: fusionartsandlighttoysrullezz

Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil fire dancers on the stage of ZAIA
Cirque du Soleil fire dancers on the stage of ZAIA

The following interview was originally published on Home of Poi in January 2011

Srikanta Barefoot was hired by Cirque du Soleil in the summer of 2007 to be the featured fire artist, fire coach and to play the character of the Shaman for what was to become ZAIA, Cirque du Soleil’s first resident show in Asia. Over the course of the next 3 years, Srikanta worked to create, maintain and star in the most elaborate fire dance production Cirque du Soleil has ever made.

Why & how did you get involved with the Cirque du Soleil?

I knew for a long time that I wanted to take my art to the next level and thought Cirque du Soleil would be a good way for me to focus on my art without the headache of managing my own career. In December 2006 I sent a short DVD of my act, and received an auto-generated email back from Cirque, saying “thanks, we will get back to you soon, later or never”.

Then, 7 months later, I received a phone call from Cirque du Soleil and was told that I was the artistic team’s first choice. Later, when talking with Martino Muller, the choreographer, he explained that out of all the DVD’s he had seen of Fire Acts, I was the only one he could imagine working with, because I was the only one who actually danced with the fire.

What were your duties during your time with Cirque du Soleil?

My mission was to create the biggest Cirque du Soleil fire act ever using 20+ acrobats and dancers without previous fire experience as background performers during my own 5 minute solo, using poi, staff, double staff & double swords.

I worked closely with the artistic team to develop the ideas and group choreography for the fire act. I worked with the props department to design the fire tools used in the act, trained technicians and artists in fire safety and advised on many other technical aspects of the production.

In addition to performing 6 nights per week as the Shaman and the featured fire artist, I oversaw the one-year apprenticeship of my back-up, Zhen Bo, who is a ballet dancer with a base in Chinese Martial Arts. It was interesting to teach fire to someone with his background and explore possibilities, which neither of us had previously imagined.

Following his incorporation as a back-up, we were given the task of creating a duo fire act, which we performed for several months prior to my departure.

Hawaii Fire Dance Retreat!  Join us!!!

FEBRUARY 19-25 2023

POI, STAFF & THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CONTEMPORARY FIRE DANCE

How did you feel on opening night?

It was intense. I still remember the moments before walking on stage with fire- the intensity of the bass and drums during the previous act vibrating through my body, the feeling of the space around me and the sold-out crowd. Then the tribal drum transition before my act began, technicians on either side of me lit my staff. I ran to the center of the stage, stopped, gestured towards the sky with my staff to cue the music, took a deep breath, and began to dance.

What was the best part of working with Cirque du Soleil?

On a personal level, the best thing Cirque brought to me is my wife Jen, who grew up dancing in Paris with another artist on ZAIA and was in Macau visiting during the show’s premier.

Artistically, the best part was learning how to work professionally within a professional environment.   Performing 6 nights per week over the course of 2 years was a challenging journey, which required me to grow both as an individual and as an artist. I now feel empowered and more confident than ever in my ability to create, coach and perform.

Can you talk about the challenges you faced in working with Cirque du Soleil?

Among the challenges artists faced with ZAIA, including typhoons, injuries caused by impractical costuming and the threat of the show closing, the most significant challenge I found was balancing physical and mental health with the intense schedule of training and performing 8-12 shows per week

How did you remain inspired with performing over 700 shows?

I was lucky to be a solo artist and my own coach, with the liberty to change my choreography at will, unlike virtually every other artist in the show, who had to do the same exact thing every night to remain cohesive with their group and/or pre-programmed automation. I found that cultivating other interests (like straps, the cyr wheel, capoeira and body percussion) as well as working on side projects (such as my “feel good inc” and cyr wheel videos) was an excellent way to keep active and inspired.

Why did you decide not to renew your contract with Cirque du Soleil?

My choice to give up my position with ZAIA was both artistic and environmental. Even though I found ways to stay creative within my act, I felt the potential to grow beyond the musical and artistic confines. Thus, I decided to leave ZAIA for the same reason why I joined Cirque du Soleil in the first place, to follow the natural development of my art. This is not to say that I would not work for CDS again, but rather that I was ready for a new project.

UPCOMING TEACHING EVENTS

INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO SERIES

Learn to fire dance with ex Cirque du Soleil Fire Dancer Srikanta Barefoot. Over 165 minutes of video! Instruction, inspiration and fun! Learn More…

5% DISCOUNT ON PYROTERRA LIGHTTOYS:

We highly recommend Lighttoys LED Props & Visual Poi.  For a 5% discount, visit the Lighttoys website & use our lighttoys promo code: fusionartsandlighttoysrullezz

Fire Cyr Wheel on America’s Got Talent

America’s Got Talent contacted Srikanta in July 2017 to ask if he’d like to perform Fire Cyr Wheel on their show. As an ex Cirque du Soleil Artist and one of only 3 Fire Cyr Wheel Artists in the World, America’s Got Talent was eager to have Srikanta’s Fire Cyr Wheel Act on Season 13 of AGT.  Srikanta accepted to participate and tells his story below.

Disclaimer: The following account of my experience on the USGT show is not to be confused with the AGT (America’s Got Talent) Show. Likewise, any mention of MBC is not to be confused with the US Based Television Network NBC.   Furthermore, any images or videos used to illustrate this fictional story are not to be associated with their source.

Why I chose to participate

Over the years I’ve been solicited to participate on many of these “Got Talent” (USA, Russia, France, Egypt, India…) and I’d always refused. As someone who hasn’t watched tv for two decades I’d only caught glimpses of these shows but it seemed to me that they all focused more on fabricating drama than the actual art. So why did I suddenly change my mind and say “yes”?

First, for free trips back home. I’ve been missing California and the idea of having multiple free trips to visit friends and family (and surf/ skimboard) was attractive.

Second, the idea of the competition appealed to me. I was assured by USGT that it was a fair competition and I liked the challenge of doing something amazing in 90-120 seconds.

Third, at this point in my career I have so many tricks up my sleeve and the idea of being able to share them all was appealing.

USGT was open to having me perform solo, duo or with other Fusion Arts Artists and I was excited to share our Fire Dance, Light Dance and Cyr Wheel Acts with the American Public.

First Steps

The first part of the process is a couple of phone interviews in which USGT gathered various info about me and my life story: Growing up on the California Central Coast, discovering fire dancing, running away with the Cirque du Soleil, living in Macau, meeting and marrying my lovely performance partner Jen, and the current juggling act of living as a Freelance Artist and father in the South of France.

By the second phone call it was painfully clear that USGT had decided to omit a large part of my story in favor of creating a persona based upon my early life experiences. I had shared that I grew up going to school in an alternative (yoga) community which was centered around the teachings of a silent Indian Guru. Baba Hari Das gave me the name Srikanta when I was born and introduced me to the staff when I was 9. At the age of 19 I began applying my prior knowledge of Indian Martial Arts with the Staff and mixing it with dance, acrobatics and my own natural way of moving.

For USGT, that is where the story ended. During the second interview they weren’t interested in my experiences with the Cirque du Soleil, my life as a Freelance Artist or life in France.

Fast forward to March 2018 and I’m on my way to perform for USGT in LA between performing Fusion Arts Group Fire Dance Show in Marrakesh and my Classic Cyr Wheel Act in Paris.

Welcome to the Fake

The day of the filming was a marathon. USGT requires contestants to arrive in the morning and to wait all day, in costume until their segment is called for filming. During this time, USGT films various B roll sequences with the contestants backstage. They set up multiple scenarios in which contestants are asked to pretend to be meeting another contestant, or pretend to be warming up, or pretend to be waiting in the waiting room.   Each contestant is also interviewed by USGT.

All of these dialogues are fabricated. What you don’t see on tv are the coaches who constantly interrupt, to ask you to say what they want you to say or focus on whatever it is which matches the persona they’ve created for you.

In the interview and dialogues with other contestants, as soon as I’d talk about my life as a professional Artist or my 3 years and 700+ shows with the Cirque du Soleil they would cut me off saying “Talk about growing up in a yoga cult and your love for Nature”.   There were certain lines they would try to feed me again and again but I had to refuse as it felt disingenuous.

The best such moment was when they asked me to pretend to be focusing myself in the moments before stepping on stage. The nice lady looked at her notes for who I was supposed to be and said…”OK do whatever you do before you go onstage…hmmm, let me see (reading notes)…oh yes- meditate”.

It’s a lonely moment when you are the only one laughing out loud at a joke none of the producers or people behind the cameras get or think is funny. I tried to explain that I don’t meditate before going onstage but this just seemed to confuse them.

In the end I tried to appease them with some improvised tai chi/ wushu warm ups, but I’m afraid it may not have met the “yoga flame” persona they’d created for me.

When they took me close to the stage to film a b-roll segment, I was alarmed by the noise & commotion coming from the audience. People were out of their seats and seemed extremely agitated. It felt like a riot but my friends who came to see the show later explained to me how it works. In fact, USGT hires a bunch of animators who draw reactions from the public. They even offer prizes and monetary rewards for people in the audience to do ridiculous things.

All of the fabrication and fake made for a strange 14 hour wait prior to stepping onstage. I tried to strike up a real conversation with someone else in the waiting room but I discovered that the majority of the people you see in that room are not waiting at all. They are paid to be there so that the room looks full.

My Performance

My moment of glory came at last and I performed a 1.5 minute version of my Fire Cyr Wheel Act. All 4 Judges voted yes. They praised my grace and musicality, with one Judge saying “this is exactly what this show needs”.

I went back to my hotel room that night, happy to know I’d be coming back home to California again soon. I flew off to my next shows in Paris and made it back home to Montpellier. Then, as I awaited the confirmation for my next travel dates, things began to smell fishy.

Although my assigned producer at USGT had confirmed my LED Cyr Wheel Act for round two, he wouldn’t confirm my dates.

He wrote it wasn’t sure that MBC would place me even if the judges had voted YES.  This came as a surprise to me. Before agreeing to participate, I had been assured by this same USGT producer that the competition was fair. “It is in the hands of the judges” he wrote. But ultimately MBC chooses who stays and who goes.  

The Let Down

Sure enough, just 3 days before I thought I’d be flying back to LA, I received an email saying that MBC had decided not to move forward with me as a contestant on the show.

It was frustrating and a huge disappointment. I never would have participated if I’d known the competition was rigged (decided behind the scenes not by the jury but by the MBC show producers).

Meanwhile they’ve got clips of my interview and act in the commercial for this season’s show. I can’t say that I feel good about having volunteered my time and money to do this unpaid promo for MBC.

Of course they don’t tell you why you weren’t chosen to continue but I have my theories.

First and foremost, I think my unwillingness to play the cliché persona they’d created for me must have been paramount in the eyes of those who’s job it is to create a drama of the show.   The Cult-Grown Half-Indian Half- Californian Fire-Guru was not to be. It’s funny because if they had simply told me up front “OK, Sri, this is the role we want you to play on the show” I likely would have accepted the part and had fun with it.   But as they chose instead to try to manipulate me on the sly, I rebelled against it. Lesson: Play the game or you’re out.

It’s sad to imagine (as MBC must) that the American Public is so simple as to only be able to relate to stereotypical personalities on television. I wonder if this is MBC’s assessment or the truth.

What is the point of a show about Art if the Artists identities are deliberately obscured and their talents hidden by the camera’s constant panning to Judge and Audience reactions?

I admit that as someone who hasn’t watched tv for two decades I am hopelessly out of touch with tv culture. As an expat of more than 10 years I may also be out of touch with mainstream American Culture. But I do believe that a Talent Show which reveals Artists for who they are, and showcases their talents could work without any need for fabricated dramas.

It’s my conviction that people are curious and like to discover new things.   So why does USGT keep feeding their viewers fabricated personalities based on stereotypes? In my opinion, this is a lack of leadership on the part of the direction of these “Got Talent Shows”. They fall back on the familiar because they know it works- its safe and it sells.   For all their talk of inspiring people, money is the bottom line and they are either too afraid or too greedy to offer anything else to the American Public.

RECOMMENDED POSTS

UPCOMING TEACHING EVENTS

INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO SERIES

Learn to fire dance with ex Cirque du Soleil Fire Dancer Srikanta Barefoot. Over 165 minutes of video! Instruction, inspiration and fun! Learn More…

5% DISCOUNT ON PYROTERRA LIGHTTOYS:

We highly recommend Lighttoys LED Props & Visual Poi.  For a 5% discount, visit the Lighttoys website & use our lighttoys promo code: fusionartsandlighttoysrullezz