You’ve probably seen a fire dancer at a festival or concert with a hoop, staff, poi, etc and thought, “Dayyyuuummmm!”
But did you ever think that they were participating in an ancient past-time that has global culture meanings?
Well, probably not… Not unless you’re wicked smart or hella into fire-spinning anyways.
When you look back in history and explore what fire dancing meant to different cultures, it’s actually quite fascinating. From the Aztecs to the Samoas, fire dancing was a part of numerous different ancient cultures.
Let’s break down the Art of Fire Dancing into two parts, Past and Present.
Samoa Fire Knife: The oldest practice of fire dancing comes from Samoa and is known known as Siva Afi or Fire Knife. The fire knife dance is rooted in the ancient Samoan ritual called “ailao.” It is the flashy demonstration of a Samoan warrior’s battle prowess through precise twirling, throwing, catching and dancing with a war club while on fire.
Aztecs: Ancient Aztecs performed a fire dance dedicated to Xiuhtecuhtli, the god of fire. This wasn’t necessarily a demonstration of spinning fire, but it was more of fire worship through dance, with fire as the central focus during the performance.
Bali Fire Dance: In Bali, the fire dance dates back to ancient rituals. It originated during a trance ritual called the sanghyang, and was a dance “performed to ward off witches at the time of an epidemic.” Sounds a lot like promoting good vibes, right?
During the period from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, fire dancing grew from an obscure and native tradition to a common and popular activity at raves, concerts, clubs, beach parties, camping festivals, and more.
Burning Man, established in 1986, has attributed majorly to the growth and awareness of fire dancing with it’s fire-oriented art and welcoming attitude towards all things that burn.
Around the world today there are organized events structured around teaching fire arts. Fire dance festivals, workshops and retreats are growing in frequency and popularity, particularly in the USA, Canada and Australia.
The Art of Fire Dancing has proven to be important in cultures for thousands and thousands of years. The impact on the festival culture is sure to increase even more as the years go on. Thousands of creative spirits have dared to light up staffs and poi throughout the world in celebration of the most passionate element, FIRE. Hopefully, more festivals embrace fire like Burning Man has done as this ancient tradition continues to flourish.
Bonus: Fire video filmed/edited by our cinematographer Maxx