Samoan Fire Knife Dancers

Posted by: Aamir

Oct 11th, 2006 • Category: Eye CandyTags: , , ,

The Samoan fire knife dance (or Siva Afi as it is called in Samoa) is more than a popular spectacle that adds sizzle to a Hawaiian luau*. Itโ€™s a tradition that has been passed from generation to generation, with each adding a new layer of style, boldness and skill.

In 1946, Letuli Olo Misilagi was the first man to add fire to the traditional Samoan ailao, or knife dance after he was inspired by a fire eater and a baton twirler in San Francisco. The ailao, a fierce traditional dance that involves twirling of the nifo oti (war knife), was a foot stomping pre-war ritual in Samoa used to psyche up warriors. It was also used to challenge and intimidate enemies or celebrate victory in battle.

Today, of course, the Samoan fire knife dance is a power packed performance in Polynesian revues or luaus. There are fire knife dance competitions held throughout the Pacific, including the annual World Fire Knife Dance Competition in Oahu. Each May, competitors from around the world gather on the islandโ€™s North Shore to display their fire knife skills.

One must get rid of the fear of getting burnt in order to excel in this dance. Sometimes accidents do happen. The performers get burn wounds from twirling fire knives if their concentration is disrupted even a little bit. To protect them and help minimize burns, performers often wrap a moist towel on their heads and sometimes tie wet banana leaves to their wrists, neck or ankles.

Some performers are skilled and talented to handle two fire knives at the same time and some are content with just one. It is like juggling; Your brain needs to be able to control actions of left and right hand independent of each other. For most people, this is not the case. Let me prove it to you.

Raise your left hand above your head and pat your head. With your right hand, rub your tummy in a circular motion. Try doing both simultaneously. Some people might be able to work both hands independent of each other, but lot of people end up either patting their tummies or rubbing their heads. If you think you aced it, switch hands immediately. If you find that you are patting your tummy and rubbing on your head at the same time, you are not alone ๐Ÿ™‚

Fire dancing requires one to be of a sound body and mind. It requires a tremendous amount of concentration along with physical flexibility in order to perform these dances.

One more brain coordination test for you. Sit on a chair, lift your right leg and rotate it clockwise. Now, raise your right hand and draw the number 6 in air. See what i mean? ๐Ÿ˜‰

This dance routine is performed to upbeat rhythmic drumming, hand clapping and singing. A dance troupe can include from 2 to as many as ten rows of dancers. Most of the time, it is the men who play with fire while the women dance around gracefully.

The dance recalls stories from the past, from farewells to loved ones, to great fishing expeditions and war campaigns.

Here are some videos (PS: Found them on YouTube, so credit goes to whoever posted them)

*Luau = A luau is the ultimate “feel good” Hawaiian celebration that incorporates favorite Island traditions as well as modern-day amenities. In ancient times, Hawaiians held traditional feasts to mark special occasionsโ€”the birth of a child, a successful harvest or victorious battle were all reasons to honor the gods who showed them favor. These celebrations were called ahaaina (“gathering for a feast”). The term “luau” actually came much later and refers to the edible taro leaves that are used to wrap the food before being placed in the imu (underground oven). More on Luau’s here


Posted by: Aamir

Oct 11th, 2006 • Category: Eye CandyTags: , , ,
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  1. Reflex
    October 11th, 2006 at 08:32:


    Amazing fire in motion captures! :O

    And thanks for sharing your impressions ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Corinne
    October 11th, 2006 at 12:35:


    One word Ari: Wow! I am in awe at some of these shots!

  3. priya
    October 11th, 2006 at 13:45:


    Ari: Stunning pictures. It reminds me of Indian villages where they do at times during festivals.

    You have captured pretty well and thanks for sharing:-))

  4. Priyankari
    October 12th, 2006 at 05:15:


    Absolutely awesome! have no other words to say! u really lucky to watch such a ceremony, good that u have shared it with us:)

  5. samuru999
    October 12th, 2006 at 05:27:


    Thanks Ari for this great post!
    I really enjoyed it!
    Hope all is well!
    Take care!


  6. Saira
    October 12th, 2006 at 06:24:


    Your pics are really impressive…i try to be good at photography…but am too bad at it…and ya linking you to my blog..:)

  7. Suji
    October 12th, 2006 at 10:41:


    Amazing as usual Ari. Great that you let us get a peek into so many different cultures and their unique ceremonies. Thanx. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Gangadhar
    October 12th, 2006 at 14:39:


    Amazing pics,Ari!! loved all of ’em..

  9. kathy
    October 13th, 2006 at 00:18:


    I love watching fire, and good looking guys with knives! great photos. I’m patting my head and rubbing my belly and my toes are clicking the mouse! do i pass?

  10. dumbdodi
    October 13th, 2006 at 09:53:


    Picture quality is not bad at all…its very natural and real

    Awesome post..I love this ethnic stuff

  11. samuru999
    October 14th, 2006 at 00:23:


    Hi Ari
    Just stopping in again to say
    Hope your week has been good!
    Have missed seeing you at my place.
    Drop in and say “hello”
    when you can!
    Have a great weekend!


  12. Aamir
    October 14th, 2006 at 20:07:


    Reflex, thanks. did you have fun with the impressions? ๐Ÿ˜€

  13. Aamir
    October 14th, 2006 at 20:17:


    Kathy, you are funny. ๐Ÿ˜€ lol. Now quickly switch positions; rotate your foot clockwise, click mouse with your hand rub your cheek; all at the same time ๐Ÿ˜€

  14. Kimberley
    October 15th, 2006 at 01:38:


    I check daily to see what wonders you have posted! Im always glad to see your new ones..This is SO interesting there is so much talent there my goodness I couldnt imagine myself even attemptng that! You captured these wonderfully. You always say theyre not that good or I didnt capture them like I wanted..I wish you could see your work through everyone elses eyes. Your work is GREAT! These are no exception.

  15. Joel Reynolds
    October 15th, 2006 at 04:23:


    Great stuff, Ari
    You’ve frozen the action perfectly. Your pics are awesome.

  16. starry nights
    October 15th, 2006 at 04:31:


    Amazing pictures and such talented sure have to be brave enough to play with fire.

  17. Sidney
    October 15th, 2006 at 14:06:


    Awesome and amazing !
    I am in awe! Excellent!

  18. photo-effe
    October 15th, 2006 at 21:05:


    Amazing fire in motion, gret captures

  19. V N
    October 16th, 2006 at 02:44:


    WOW is the word!!

  20. Ash
    October 16th, 2006 at 02:56:



  21. Saira
    October 16th, 2006 at 05:24:


    Yeah ur right and i very well understand that…but whenever i try to click something it never turns out to be what i actually wanted..:D :D…so i dont mess with it and leave it to the others to click…:)

  22. Anonymous
    October 18th, 2006 at 04:45:


    Pardon the pun, but these photos are HOT! Great work! Keep clicking away! c”,)

  23. trinitystar
    November 1st, 2006 at 09:19:


    Spirit of fire … captured well. :o)

  24. Aamir
    December 27th, 2006 at 03:32:


    photo-effe. Thanks. I could not find your blog though??


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