As darkness falls on the popular beaches of South Thailand, it’s time for these nocturnal creatures to come out and play. Spinning, twisting, dipping and twirling, the fire dancers take centre stage silencing audiences with their danger defiant moves.
Captivated travellers look upon the acrobatic action with one one question in mind – how the hell do they not burn themselves? It’s a feat which requires much skill, whether dancing with the poi, a pair of arm-length chains with fiery balls at either end or the basic stick which is soaked in fuel and ignited at both tips.
A fire dancer spinning poi on Sairee Beach in Koh Tao, South Thailand
Fire dancing Yogic moves – how do the dancers not burn themselves?
Backpackers cough up tips for the talented fire dancers in Koh Tao
Some say that fire dancing has it’s roots in ancient tribal dancing of the Maori’s of New Zealand. The word ‘poi’ in Maori language actually means ‘ball.’ Poi spinning was traditionally an important part of Maori culture and was used as a form of warrior training to improve agility. How poi as a performance art became adopted as a popular form of entertainment in Thailand and other parts of the world is unknown. Yet as you watch the spell-bound fire dancer work his way into an almost trance like state, ancient tribal origins do not seem so far away.
Fire dancers are frequently employed at the many bars and restaurants lining Thailand’s shores. You may catch them practicing their techniques on the beach during the day with unlit apparatus.a To those undaunted by the sport, think again – it takes months of practice to tone the body and hone the skills to fire dance before an audience.
The most deadliest of all fire dancing apparatus is the skipping rope, simply because of it’s seemingly magnetic draw for drunken backpackers. What goes through their heads I will never understand. Trying such a deadly sport requires dexterity and sharp reflex, which are exactly the faculties which are the first to go upon consumption of the dastardly bucket!
Backpackers contemplating the flaming rope at the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan, Thailand
Jumping fire at the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan, Thailand
As the evening goes on more and more daredevil backpackers try their luck at jumping over the flaming rope as it soars high above the crowd. Parents’ advice not to play with fire seems to have fallen on deaf ears for some. And you wonder why so many backpackers walk round with bandaged legs? Leave it to the talented experts we say.
Fire Show at Sabay Bar in Koh Chang Thailand