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

Choosing a Fire Staff which is right for you

Choosing the right fire staff dimensions which will feel right & allow you to pursue your own personal style of fire dancing can be daunting. There are many variables to consider including length, weight & weight distribution. It may be helpful to seek the advise of an experienced artist.

I’ve made a career of dancing with the fire staff (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 staff specs have come up often from my Students but since I launched Fusion Arts Pro Fire Shop, (offering my custom-made fire staffs to the public for the first time) the questions aren’t just trickling in, they’re pouring in.

Below you will find my revelations regarding fire staff specs over years of impassioned obsession and design modification. Disclaimer! Opinions vary even between professional fire dancers. This is largely due to the different styles of staff spinning. I’ve named the style I’ve developed Contemporary Fire Dance, which I teach in my instructional video series Dancing with the Fire Staff & at my annual Workshops and Fire Dance Retreats.

In addition to my dance-based style, there is also contact staff, acro staff, staff juggling and short doubles, each with their own priorities regarding staff length, weight and weight distribution. Ultimately the question of which fire staff is right for you comes down to your own personal style and aspirations.

Hawaii Fire Dance Retreat!  Join us!!!

FEBRUARY 19-25 2023

POI, STAFF & THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CONTEMPORARY FIRE DANCE

Choosing Fire Staff Length

At the age of 9, I learned an Indian Martial Arts style of staff spinning. In this tradition, appropriate staff length is eye-level. Following suit, I spun with staffs (both single and double) at my eye level (162cm/5’4”) for 10+ years (from age 19-30). When I quit the Cirque du Soleil and began freelancing, it became impractical to fly with long staffs as many airlines charge an additional fee for baggage over 150cm. 

I ended up using shorter staffs which I’d made for my partner Jen. Her eye-level staffs are 142cm (4’8”), 20cm shorter than the staffs I’d always used. Suddenly I was performing with staffs that came up to my armpit level. So what happened? It opened up a ton of possibilities for me. I was able to get into lower stances while spinning vertically which helps a ton for prepping for jumps (you gotta get down to get up). It also opened up the possibility of spinning in the internal plane and to discover isolation patterns which were inaccessible with longer staffs. After 10+ years of alternating between poi and staff as my tool of obsession, double staffs became my favorite for the first time. I attribute my new love to the reduction in length- who knew!

Currently I recommend a staff length at armpit level for those pursuing my dance-based style of fire dance. Because arm-length varies from person to person, it may be more accurate to measure from wrist to wrist when your arms are stretched out in a T.

At this length, you will need to arch back or tilt your plane a bit in order to spin in the internal plane or do isolations. This doesn’t bother me as

wedding entertainment show with fire jugglers in France
I’ve made it a part of my body movement (plus the public likes it when you get close to the fire) but if you feel you would rather do less torso & plane bending you could reduce the length by 5-10cm while maintaining the image of you with a full length staff.
It’s just my personal preference, but I wouldn’t advise reducing the length much beyond that. My rule of thumb goes, if a warrior stance with your staffs makes you look more like a feisty majorette than a warrior, your staffs are too short (I can almost see the hate mail streaming in). Many people (particularly in Europe and Australia) like spinning with short staffs, especially when spinning doubles. While I find 99% of this about as interesting to watch as those guys who direct airplanes on the runway, there are some notable exceptions. Dan Miethke (one of the Artists I profile in the inspirational section of Dancing with the Fire Staff) spins short doubles and hasn’t forgotten the importance of bodylines or the image as a whole on stage.

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 Staff Weight & Weight Distribution

For my style of dance with the fire staff a light weight staff is ideal. That’s because I’m spinning fast, jumping, turning and stopping/ changing the direction of the staff to bring variance to my routine. Because I want to spin a long staff, with as much fire on the ends as possible, strength to weight ratio is of primary importance, which is why I use only the highest-grade titanium tubes to build my pro fire staffs. In fact, I’ve gone to great lengths to research and source light-weight materials, ultimately resorting to the aerospace industry for parts!

My pro fire staffs weigh between 500-750 grams and I wouldn’t want them any heavier. Thanks to the light weight tubing, the majority of the weight is on the ends (in the wick and fuel). This weight distribution helps the staff to stay in plane (think poi). Generating momentum is easy and a matter of giving the ends small pushes and tugs (again like poi).

Contact staffs are often weighted differently because learning the technique works best with staffs which maintain their momentum once in motion. For this reason, many beginner contact staff spinners generally prefer a heavier staff which is weighed more evenly throughout. For this group, the heavier the better and fixing a wooden dowel within the metal tubing is a common design.  However, beyond the beginner phase of contact staff, a lighter staff is preferable as less of an impulse is needed to change planes/ directions.  Pro contact staff spinners have raved about my pro fire staffs because of how lightweight and straight they are (providing a perfect role).  

Ex Cirque du Soleil Fire Dancer Srikanta Barefoot performing with the fire staff

While contact staffers may be happy to adopt my light-weight fire staffs once they’ve improved their control, put a contact staff in my hands and 90% of the techniques I use with my staffs will be difficult if not impossible to do.  The weight distribution is so different!  I’ve had students with heavy contact staffs at my workshops and retreats. They struggle with learning my techniques as foundational things like changing directions and staying in plane are so much more difficult with a staff which is heavy or evenly weighted throughout. 

What are my personal fire staff specs?

I use the same length of fire staff for both single staff and double staff.  Up until 2016 I was using 25,4mm (1″) x 142cm (4’8″) tubes.  My isis wicks made of 6mm rope were 22cm in length.

But in 2016 we created a 4 person Fire Dance Act with 3 Female Artists.  As the 19mm (.75″) tubing is preferable for those with smaller hands I decided to  adapt and allow us all to use the same staffs during the act.  Because their arm spans are shorter than mine, we’ve reduced our staff length by 2cm but to maintain the same amount of fire and weight distribution we added 1cm of wick to each end so that now we are using 19mm x 140cm tubing with 23cm of 6mm rope.

It took some getting used to at first but now there is no going back!  The thinner diameter tubing makes controlling the staff easier. I am able to spin faster with less effort and with greater enjoyment.

 

What will be the best fire staff for you?

By now you have an idea about the elements to consider to create the ideal fire staff.  Before ordering your pro fire staff, have a peak at our past product specs on facebook.  This can give you an idea of what total weight you can achieve by playing with the different elements.  And if you still have questions, send me a message!

Thanks for reading!  Feel free to check out our instructional videos or join us at our next Fire Dance Retreat for an immesion in Contemporary Fire Dance!  

Srikanta Barefoot

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)

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

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

Dance-based Fire Dance

Dance-based fire dance approaches the object manipulation fire arts from a dance-based perspective. Unlike fire spinning or fire juggling, in which the body remains static, in dance-based fire dance, the body is as implicated as the object.
Dance-based fire dance involves movement of the entire body and is often rhythmic & set to music. Creating dynamic and interesting performances is a typical (although not required) goal. Special focus may be given to stage presence, atmosphere, choreography, musicality, energetic flow and evolution throughout a piece.
Join the Dance-based Fire Dance Group on facebook to participate and learn more!

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

Upcoming Teaching Events