Fire Spinning

by Nora Dunn on November 19, 2009

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When a fellow travel blogger recently wrote about fire spinning in Thailand, I realized in reading it that I have been amiss with you, dear readers.

You see, I have blatantly (and unintentionally) kept you in the dark about a new part of my own life; a hobby that is both relaxing and actively playful….Fire Spinning!


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It all started with friends of mine who spin. When I first saw them spinning balls of fire on chains (called poi) and twirling staffs with the ends ablaze, I thought it looked neat, but didn’t have much interest in it myself.

It wasn’t until I picked up a staff one day to try and imitate a move I had seen that I began to think of fire spinning as something I could get into. The staff felt smooth, was a perfect weight, and I realized with a few tips that it wasn’t as difficult as it initially appeared. Learning new moves felt great, and perfecting the art of making spinning look good tapped into my love of dance and performance in general.

Months and months after I first picked up a poi or staff, I was at an outdoor music festival where some friends were “having a burn,” as they say. There were 200 people gathered around a stage about 50metres away, and on this little patch of grass to the side, about half a dozen people were fire spinning.

“Here, have a go,” said a mate as they relatively unceremoniously tossed me a half lit staff. “The other side didn’t get fueled up by accident, so you’re stuck with one,” he said.

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Ah well, “one’s better than none” I thought, and started spinning the staff, surprised at the heat and size of the one fireball up close. My friends had been careful to teach me about fire spinning safety, our credo being “learn before you burn”. So I felt prepared for this, my first time spinning fire.

And man, was I on fire (pardon the blatant pun). I had that staff spinning like it had never been spun it before.

That is, until I smacked myself in the eye with the unlit end of the staff.

Convinced that I would be toting a black eye for the next week, I glanced up to see who saw my blunder. As luck would have it, if anybody had actually seen my spinning debacle, they had the good grace to pretend not to have.

So I kept spinning, and got back to having fun. Mere minutes later when I was handed a fully lit staff to play with instead, I became confident that nobody saw my eye-poking antics!

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“Yikes,” I thought to myself. “It would hurt a lot more if I poked myself in the eye with fire,” I pondered as I swallowed hard and attempted to track the whereabouts of not one but two balls of fire revolving around my body.

Turns out it’s much easier to spin staffs with both ends lit than one…they’re easier to see!

Since then, I’ve had a few chances to have fun with fire spinning, and to watch those who are much better than me have a go at it too. Fire spinning is a beautiful rhythmic dance that requires skill, courage, and practice. I’m so glad I’ve had a chance to try my own hands at it.

All the pictures above are of me, just in case you were wondering. Here are some pictures of various friends of mine fire spinning:

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Todd November 20, 2009 at 12:35 am

Thanks for sharing great photos

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Barb November 20, 2009 at 3:57 am

Really cool and a whole lot better than my sparkler-spinning on the Fourth of July! ;)

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theprofessionalhobo November 21, 2009 at 9:14 am

Thanks, guys! Just as much as actually spinning fire, I enjoy taking photos of it. I’ve had a few all-out photo sessions, and have dozens of awesome shots, including UV spinning toys too!

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Dave and Deb November 23, 2009 at 7:40 am

Look at you go girl! You are awesome. Thanks for letting us all know about your secret hidden talent. I must take this up one day in the future!

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theprofessionalhobo November 23, 2009 at 11:31 am

Thanks Dave & Deb! It was, of course, your post that inspired me to write about my own fire spinning. Since you’re headed to Asia soon, you may indeed find all the fire spinning toys (and even instruction) you want! If not, then pop by Oz to visit me and I’ll give you the crash course!

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Nomadic Matt November 24, 2009 at 1:40 am

Go Nora! Look at you!

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theprofessionalhobo November 24, 2009 at 7:44 am

Tee-Hee – Thanks Matt! It’s pretty addictive – therapeutic at times, almost trance-like. Who knows – maybe you’ll spot me at one of Thailand’s full-moon parties sometime, giving a show!

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Kim P November 26, 2009 at 7:13 am

OH my goodness!!! You always amaze me!

This is so cool and something I could totally see myself doing this to some Deadmau5, Tiesto, Paul van Dyk or AVB(Armin van Buuren) playing in the background. Or perhaps a mash up of all them.

Thanks for giving me something new to add to my list of things to try!

You are too down!

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theprofessionalhobo November 26, 2009 at 10:05 am

Thanks, Kim! The music really helps, and indeed electronic is my preference for spinning. It really gets me moving – which helps when you’re playing with fire!!!
Do try it….just remember….learn before you burn! (smiles)

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Carrie December 1, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Woo-hoo! I’m not surprised that you are a fire-spinning diva!

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theprofessionalhobo December 2, 2009 at 9:41 am

Heh Heh: I’m full of (predictable) surprises! :-)

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Backpacker December 4, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Cool! I love the photos. You got those photos like a Pro. Perfect. I wish I could do fire-spinning also. Will try one of these days. Heading to Phuket next year, have heard some cool fire-spinning activities there, hmm I am excited to try them!!

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theprofessionalhobo December 5, 2009 at 7:34 am

@Backpacker – Indeed, try it! A great way to start is to get a pair of long socks, stick a tennis ball in the end of each, and whamo – you have a set of practice poi! Have at ‘er…

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Dina VagabondQuest April 25, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Wow! I’m jealous :) Next time I see these fire spinners, I will ask them where I can learn it! Have you gotten any burn by it? I sit dangerous? Any burn case you know and how bad?

It must be very awesome to see a half dozen fire spinners in the same time! In one of the picture up there, a girl is having 3 fire staffs in each hands? Wow!

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theprofessionalhobo April 25, 2010 at 9:28 pm

@Dina – The best way to learn is from friends, or to take a course or buy a video. No I haven’t gotten burned, but it IS very dangerous, and I have friends with bad burns from it. I practiced for many months before I ever worked with fire…as the phrase goes: “Learn before you burn”!

The 3 fire staffs are actually fire poi, with three wicks on each poi. It works the same as regular poi – just more fire!

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Dina VagabondQuest April 25, 2010 at 9:28 pm

And oh, I just updated my torch dancing article with a link to this article of yours under the “Related Posts by Others” section. It’s my new program to include related post by others section in my posts.

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Nancie (Ladyexpat) April 26, 2010 at 1:28 am

Love fire spinning. I would be the designated photographer :)

Have fun with your new found hobby!

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theprofessionalhobo April 26, 2010 at 4:28 pm

@Dina – Thanks for the link! I like the “related posts by others” concept…good stuff!

@Nancie – Photographing fire spinning is oh so much fun…playing with settings, shutter speeds & exposures, lighting conditions….it’s a blast! Almost as much fun as spinning itself….

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razedinflames January 4, 2014 at 12:26 am

I am a professional hobo lol… I guess. I have made fire dancing into my job and passion at the same time. Its awesome when the line begins to blur. Check out my baby at http://www.razedinflames.com
Bless-INS!!!

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theprofessionalhobo January 4, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Hi Adam,
Wow – great site! Glad you’re able to turn fire dancing into a career. Just make sure you don’t lose your passion for the art, while working the business side of it (which can happen).
Where is your next performance?

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Kitten.on.fire May 12, 2014 at 11:54 am

Hello, i was online searching if fire spinning would be a good hobby, quite a bunch of my close friends do it, and thinking about taking up fan spinning. I don’t think it helps my boyfriend will spin anything on fire :L and is amazing at it. I’m just afraid il get bored of it. do you think there is any chance il get bored? P.s i remember the first time i was handed a lit staff its defo a nice buzz

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Nora Dunn May 12, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Kitten,
You’ll never know if you get bored unless you try it! Besides which, sometimes we love doing something, and then we get bored after we’ve done it for a while. But I would never not start something because I was afraid I’d eventually get bored with it….

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