Friday, April 30, 2010

The Fire Master

Fireflies - 357
Ben Azevedo

The fire flew around and around, on the ends of two strings held by a man trapped in the center. He wasn’t really trapped though, because he was the one creating the cage of flame. He stepped, skipped, leapt, and danced over the sand in front of the crowd while weaving a never-ending pattern of fiery light around himself.

I had been living in Hawaii for two years now, and I never tired of the fire poi performers. I had even been bold enough to buy a practice pair from a local store. I was a terrible poi dancer though; I gave up after my first attempts led to bruises all over my body. I was just glad I hadn’t tried with actual fire…

The man performing now was a true master. I came out to watch him every week when he practiced on the beach near my house. His “practice” was so good it would draw a crowd of onlookers, usually dozens of people before he finished. Fundamentally, each week was the same, yet he always seemed to change his routine just enough to surprise the audience.

The crowd gasped as he pulled off one of his signature moves, spinning the poi so fast that they burned an afterimage of a butterfly onto the spectators’ retinas. By now, I was used to this trick, so I was mostly amused by the crowds response. But then he did something new, something I had never seen any performer do in my lengthy observation.

The poi seemed to cross and tangle, but somehow stayed in motion. For a split second it seemed he would lose control of the glowing fireballs at the end. Then, in one swift motion, he leaned forward and whirled the poi around his neck. Just as quickly he tilted backwards. The poi leapt up, down, up again, and whirled back into their arcs around his body, completely untangled. The crowd stood in silence for a moment, and then erupted with a cheer. In answer, the poi master sent his fireflies into an even faster dance over his back as he took a deep bow.

Fire Away - Sullivan

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