As the fire spinning and fire dancing art form keeps growing, more and more artists are looking to learn how to spin fire. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to resources like our Beginner Fire Class where we run students through the process with a hands on approach over a 4 week period of time where they light up multiple times.
It follows that as fire jams become more and more frequent, requests from strangers to borrow other people’s tools to spin fire for the first time also are on the rise.
In an effort to keep people safe, today we took some time to answer the really practical question that has come up for years:
How do I know if someone should be spinning fire for the first time?
Here’s 5 criteria to help you when making a decision of this kind:
- Competence: At the very least, the artist should be able to demonstrate for at least the duration of a burn they can use the tool competently not on fire. Competence is relative and of course you’ll only be able to assess their competence through the lens of your own understanding. Still, if they are obviously hesitant, hitting themselves in the face a lot, dropping the tool randomly or releasing it without much control, that’s not a good sign. Of course, perfection isn’t necessary either. Ultimately, you have to live with watching the person burn themselves, or worse, someone or some thing else, if you lend these tools to someone not effectively trained, so think about that before making your decision to let others use your props.
- Sobriety: I can appreciate that this world is full of intoxicants of all kinds — cold medicine, runner’s high, sugar, adrenaline, love, alcohol, prescription and non prescription drugs to name a few. We feel strongly that being able to remain focused and engaged in a conversation while being able to control one’s self to at least appear sober is a good criteria. Of course, if someone reeks of alcohol I’m certainly not lending them my tool for their first burn, no matter how well they can hold a conversation.
- General knowledge: While we offer a full 90 minute lecture in our beginner fire class based on our Fire Safety Guide you can download for free here, one doesn’t need to know everything in it to be safe. There are a few things we deem important for the spinner to be knowledgeable about including the following:
- type of fuel they will be using — particularly relevant to the various forms of fire play
- type of clothing that will melt vs be flame resistant
- how to set up a depot safely
- Can they touch fire? If a new spinner can’t even run their hand through the flame when it’s on the ground not moving, giving them a prop to put in motion is a whole lot more dangerous and ill advised. Taking the time to coach someone through the process of touching the fire is a huge step in developing comfort for them spinning and we feel strongly this is not an optional thing. While running one’s hand through a candle is a great start, we also recommend they demonstrate their ability to run their hands through a much, much larger flame, particularly if they will be spinning much, much larger wicks than a candle wick.
- Can they put out a fire? Some years ago, a friend was running a fuel depot at a party for the first time and asked me my criteria for figuring out who is and isn’t safe to spin. As strongly as we feel that an artist should have the skill of being able to touch the fire before lighting the prop on fire, we feel more strongly they should be able to extinguish a fire with duvetyne (which is harder to do than a wet towel), particularly if that is all that is available. It is this author’s very strong opinion that you have no business spinning fire until you can attack the fire to extinguish it with just as much aggression as the fire itself and this should be so for all spinners – for their safety and the safety of those around them. (Note: see our follow up article for details on what’s important about these two things)
- Extra Credit: Can they successfully execute a transfer onto their clothing? This only applies to those using fuels that will transfer like white gas and, it’s a huge help to have lived through a few transfers prior to lighting up for the first time.
While this is not a comprehensive list of the skills we think are necessary for fire dancers through time, unless they have the ability to do all of these, we recommend you don’t share your prop. I’m grateful to my friend Shannon for not letting me light up when I wanted to the first time because I certainly couldn’t pass these tests. While it might have been disappointing in the moment, I’m certain it was for the better.
If you’re ready for fire safety lessons via private instruction, want to try Zero to Fire in 4 Hours!, want to join our next beginner class or have other questions, contact GlitterGirl directly or subscribe to our newsletter for mailbox delivery of this and other articles written by Temple of Poi founder and visionary, GlitterGirl, who has been a full time flow arts coach and instructor since 2002. If you seek professional guidance associated with creating a safe performance, obtaining a permit in San Francisco or other personalized coaching, contact GlitterGirl directly for a free consultation (GlitterGirl <that pretty little ‘at’ symbol> TempleOfPoi <daaaaaaaught> com).