Fire Dancing
Entertainment: Poi, Fire Dancing
Created 2/16/2002 - Updated 10/18/2002 

Ready for another boring night of mind-numbing television? No? Looking for a new hobby? Perhaps you'd just like to liven up your next party?

You've come to the right place. Welcome to the wide world of Poi. Some call it fire dancing.

Meet Holly (left) and Jennifer (right), humbly self described as enthusiastic, dedicated, fun, and perhaps slightly insane -- but not the "best" fire dancers in downtown Sacramento, California.


Without the fire dancers, the salsa would have made the party, but with a boom box on the sidewalk and these two flame whirling Wanda's, you have yourself a real night.


According to Jennifer, safety comes first. Take alcohol, for example. Fire dancers do not drink until after the performance. In fact, they like to perform early so they can then drink the rest of the night.

"I love doing this, I want to keep on doing it. I don't want to set an example for someone who is not going to take it seriously," said Jennifer.



Jennifer first saw this done at the Burning Man festival, and then learned more on the net.

She and Holly fashioned chains and used tennis balls with lights before graduating to fire.

For beginners Jennifer recommended

Once you are ready, you can special order the Kevlar (above).

Besides buring yourself and your entire neighborhood down, are there any dangers?

Well, yes. When asked if all Fire Dancers have asthma, Jennifer replied, "I can feel it already..."

Kerosene is the best fuel because it has a high flashpoint and a slow burn rate.

Jet Fuel is a form of Kerosene.

Kerosene is complex mixture of hydrocarbons from a variety of chemical processes blended to meet standardized specifications.

Kerosene produces Carbon Dioxide as it burns and like all combustion, it requires oxygen. x

Flashpoint (ignites) between 38 and 41C (100-106F). Boiling range of 160 to 300C (320-572F)

In a jet engine, it is the gas temperature resulting from the combustion of fuel determines the engine's thrust. The temperature is controlled by adjusting the air to fuel mixture. x | x

By spinning the burning balls, the fire dancers add oxygen to the Kerosene fire. This causes the fire to burn brighter and hotter. Without this forced addition of oxygen, the Keroscene would burn at it's boiling point.

In the case of jet fuel, the burn temperature would be from 160 to 300C (320-572F). This won't melt the steel pieces holding the Kevlar together. For comparison, low-carbon (mild) steel retains 80% of its yield and ultimate strengths at 240 C. (465 F.) x | x Corrections welcome on all of this stuff.

Having read the above, Mike Temple Brady, a variety artist who has been handling fire for 10 years in performance wrote in with these corrections. (Watch a movie of Mike and other hot entertainers here. Amazing stuff!) Mike writes that the best fuel depends on the performance envionment.

- 1K Kerosene (also called crystal pure or refined kero) is a great fuel- clean, bright and long burning. You can purchase this at some gas stations.

- Retail kero is not so pure, smokes alot, and is not approved for indoor performance by the Ca. State Fire Marshalls.

- White gas (camp fuel- coleman's, camplite, etc.) is the most common fuel for jugglers an fire eaters

- Lamp oil or white gas/lamp oil blends are most common for poi, staff and torch spinners who work indoors. The blend gives the long burn of lamp oil and the quick light of white gas without the flash danger of straight white gas.

Mike also added an important safety note: "Ca. Fire Safety Code requies 10-15 feet between fire and fuel to prevent accidental ignition." Also fuel (especially white gas!!) must be sealed during the performance. More safety tips here.






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