By Jasmine Lammer
Imagine you see some bright lights ahead of you when you’re walking in the night. As you approach, you hear loud, live music. You see groups of people standing around and having a good time, with a few people in the center of the circle. Those people dance and maneuver fire about the area, offering warmth in the cool air. This is the place of the fire dancers.
Fire dancing is the art of playing with or spinning fire using various objects, including poi (a short chain with weighted wicks at the end), fans and staffs. Depending on what group you find, the groups can be anywhere between very social and community-oriented to quieter strictly business groups.
The Santa Cruz lighthouse group is a small community-based group; they take in anyone willing to learn, have fun and even just make new friends. “It attracts people who are very different, and I appreciate that,” 28-year-old Dyami Kaplan replied. “The people who come into it just are drawn.”
“Community is my support system,” Mary Schroeder said. The 26 year old attends Belgium École Supérieure des Arts du Cirque, a professional circus school in Brussels, Belgium. She started out hula hooping fire here in the United States; it gave her direction and something to do with her time.
“Everyone was so open and wonderfully welcome,” she explained. “I immediately became a part of it.” While talking of the friendships in the community, she said, “When in Santa Cruz, we were always planning dinners.” The feeling was always “really positive and just supportive.”
The following clips are pieces of a video filmed by Maury Kendall on Jan. 5, 2010, “the first burn of the year”: