The flow arts are a class of performance arts that focus on the creative use of motion. They generally involve an object that is manipulated in creative and visually appealing ways. Perhaps the most well-known type of flow art is the fire dance. There is just something about the manipulation of fire that makes a person feel and seem powerful, and which commands awe from everyone in attendance.
Maintaining Your Equipment
The main piece of equipment for fire dancing is called the Poi and will usually consist of a wick on the end of a pole or a rope. These will usually be made of a fire-resistant fabric such as Kevlar wrapped around a metal rod. As you might well imagine, the fabric will have to be periodically replaced. Although Kevlar is fire-resistant, it is not totally fireproof, so it will eventually wear away.
This fabric and thread vendor advises, “you can always tell when the Kevlar is worn away because the wick will turn white. The white color comes from the fiberglass core of the fibers.” Although the Poi can still be used after the Kevlar is burned off, it is not safe. Even if the Kevlar is fine, it is important to trim any loose threads after each session If you don’t do this, it can become a safety hazard as the flaming pieces come loose and fly away. I can think of no quicker way to ruin a performance than by setting an audience member on fire. Also, make sure that when you dip your wick, you do not get fuel on any other parts of the Poi. This can lead to an equipment failure and/or an accidental fire.
Apart from the Poi, you will also need fuel with which to create your flame. According to a fire arts magazine, “the most common fuel is Coleman fuel, which is commonly available and inexpensive. Kerosene and lamp oil are also common, as they burn longer than Coleman fuel in spite of giving off more smoke. Whichever fuel you use, you will need a dipping container. A paint can is the most common choice since it can be sealed and re-sealed easily.” Make sure that you keep all of these items outside in a dry but well-ventilated place.
Storing Flammable Materials
Naturally, flammable materials should be stored with extra caution. First of all, store them in a shed rather than in your house. This way, if the worst happens, you will lose a shed instead of your house. Be sure your fuel is stored securely and kept airtight because the fumes are more flammable than the liquid itself. In addition, make sure that you keep your fuels in their original containers, or into approved fuel containers. If you do choose to store your equipment in the house, then make sure that all of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order. Advancements in technology make it easy to secure and monitor your home. These types of security sensors and detectors are essential when storing flammable materials.
Don’t try to put your equipment in a storage unit. Most of the time, it is not allowed. According to storage experts, “explosive, combustible, or toxic items cannot be kept in storage units because they present a safety hazard. Make sure that you look up the MSDS (material safety data sheet) for whatever fuel you are using.”
Although you probably won’t be rubbing your fire staff in the mud, you should consider cleanliness in the storage and maintenance of your gear. You should keep it in a clean place, and it should be sealed up once the fuel has evaporated. This is even more important if you choose to dabble in fire-eating since your equipment will be coming in close proximity to your mouth.
This home and lifestyle center explains, “it’s a good idea to store your equipment in a sealed container and to sterilize with rubbing alcohol after each use. Improper sterilization can lead to dangerous complications in the future.” Don’t seal up anything when it’s damp, as it will be prone to mildew and rot. Fire-dancing equipment is often used in close proximity to others, which is why good sanitation habits are a must.
The flow arts may not be as famous as some other performance arts, but they are growing in popularity and seem set to continue their rise. As such, it is more important than ever that practitioners are properly educated.