If you really want to add a spark to your celebration, you can't go wrong with fire dancers. From a single dancer swirling flaming poi around her body to an entire troupe brandishing flaming fans, burning hula hoops, fire whips, and even flaming nunchucks, fire dancers will bring a primal, exotic excitement to your party.
Nearly any party can be elevated to another level with the addition of flame dancers, but your choice of entertainment will really shine if you use it to enhance your wedding theme. Circus-themed receptions will dazzle the crowd with fire jugglers, while weddings with tropical themes can employ tribal dance troupes twirling flaming staves.
Fire dancing not only provides entertainment, but comes with its own dramatic lighting as well. You won't have to worry about arranging the audio-visual side of fire dancers (unless you want to provide your own background music–live drumming and tribal-inspired electronica work especially well) because the medium of fire provides enough of its own spectacle. As the dancers twirl the fire around their bodies, it lights them from all angles and makes for spectacular photographs. The shifting firelight will also flatter your guests. What's more, as the fire whips around, it can add a welcome gust of warm air on chilly evenings.
Types of Fire Dancing
Poi spinning is adapted from a traditional New Zealand dance where weighted balls are swung at the ends of tethers. When the balls are lit on fire, they create swirling "comets" of fire that swoop around the dancer, changing direction as the dancer moves.
Staff spinning uses a flaming stick that burns at both ends. The dancer will twirl it, throw it in the air, or pass it between his legs, leaving twin trails of fire that move at opposite ends of a circle in the air.
Flaming finger fans create a more delicate dance, sprouting from performers' hands with a flaming tip at the end of each fan blade. These can be intricately fanned around the dancer in motions similar to the hand movements of a belly dancer.
Fire hoops are just like the hula hoops you remember from childhood–except these are made of much tougher stuff and have five or six flames jutting out at intervals around the outside of the hoop. When spun by the dancer's body or arms, the multiple fires create an intensely dramatic visual.
Fire dancing comes in many other forms, as well. From flaming whips that leave temporary trails of fire on the floor to flaming nunchucks (yes, the flaming parts hit the body just like normal nunchucks, but the performers are unharmed), nearly any physical prop you can envision can, and has, been set on fire to great effect. If you're lucky, you can find a troupe near you who practices the art of your choice.
Don't forget the old fire entertainment standards like fire juggling, fire breathing, and fire eating. Paired with the newer forms of fire dancing that are currently in vogue, they create a stunning spectacle for your guests. Choose your favorite, or hire them all!
While fire spinning is a spectacular art form in and of itself, when you're hiring dancers for your wedding you should look for true performers. It's not enough to be technically proficient. Look for performers who can dazzle an audience with their stage presence as well as their fire. A great performer will have an easy command of facial expressions and body language to create tension, dramatic expectation, and even humor as part of an engaging show. It is this level of performance that separates true professionals from people who happen to have mastered a difficult skill.
The most important factor to look for when choosing a professional fire entertainer is safety awareness. Only hire fire dancers who plan on arriving with a dedicated safety person. This is someone who has been especially trained in emergency first aid and will be standing by with buckets of water and heavy blankets in case of an emergency. While you may balk at the idea of paying a non-performer for the evening, the peace of mind will be well worth the extra expense.
A word of caution: fire dancing is not a DIY art! The ease and fluidity that skilled dancers exhibit is the result of hours upon hours of intensive dance practice before the movements are even attempted with real fire. Dancers also take safety precautions like wetting down their hair before a performance, as well as wearing only natural fibers that won't melt and stick to their skin if they catch fire. No matter how confident an audience member may seem, never encourage anyone to use the dancers' equipment. If you have hired a professional dance troupe, they will not allow guests to come near the fire except under very special and supervised circumstances. Be sure to supervise young children (and pets) to make sure they don’t wander too close during the performance.
Fire dancing has become a very popular art in recent years, with the unfortunate side effect being an increase in amateur dancers. Amateur fire spinners can pose a danger to themselves and to your party. Just imagine what would happen if a dancer tossed a flaming hula hoop into the air and couldn't catch it before it rolled into the audience. Be confident about your choice by checking your performers' safety ratings ahead of time. Many professionals can be found on international online listings of fire performers.
Fire dancing is often most dramatic when performed outdoors on a dark night, but it can be perfectly safe as indoor entertainment, as well. Simply give the performers a wide, roomy area far away from any flammable materials. An open stage with high, fireproofed curtains is a perfect setting, if you'll be holding your reception in a theater or auditorium. Large, open buildings like converted warehouses are also great places for fire performances, especially if they have concrete floors.
Before hiring fire dancers, as with any wedding vendor, be sure the terms of the contract are clearly understood by all parties. Will the performers expect a deposit to reserve your date? Do they charge travel or overtime fees? Are they reliable and easily reachable by phone or email in case you need to make last-minute contact? Will they come with all of the materials they need for the performance, or will you be expected to provide any yourself? You will need to have a quiet, out-of-the-way space dedicated for the performers so they can set up their materials before the show.
Some fire dance troupes offer tiered pricing options, so you may be able to hire just one or two solo dancers if you're trying to conserve your budget. Be sure to ask about what options are available. It may make sense to hire a whole troupe of performers, but only for an hour or two. You should only work with troupes who are flexible, easy to talk with, and willing to work with your event's specific needs.
Payment is usually expected soon after the show. If you don't want to deal with counting money on your big day, assign a trusted friend (usually the maid of honor or the best man) to make sure that the performers get paid. Although tips aren’t expected, they are appreciated if you feel the performers did an especially good job.
When you hire fire dancers for your party, you will create an exotic, bright, and dramatic display that's guaranteed to "warm" your wedding guests' hearts as well as your own. Don't forget to get in on the action, too! Handing out sparklers after the show will give everyone a little taste of what it's like to be a fire dancer.