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 formidable 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)



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


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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).

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 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 skilfully executed choreography.

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

Check out the dance-based fire dance group on facebook!  The group is dedicated to the evolution of fire dance as dance and is the place to both share and connect with other dance-based fire dancers around the world.

Discover more about dance-based fire dance here.

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APRIL 14-20 2024


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.

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.