The History of Fire Art in Thailand
We will read in this article the history of fire art in thailand.Read More
” The information in this post has been shared with met through discussions with fire artists living in Thailand, and from some of the original flow artists who travelled, learned and contributed to the creation and growth of fire art as a global practice. Much of this history and knowledge was generously shared with me by the artists at Samui Circus Studio. This post is my way of gathering their knowledge for others to learn the history of the practice in Thailand, as well as the meanings and benefits that people draw from it. “
Contributors: Dr. Tiffany Pollock is a researcher based in Canada. Her work has looked at how performers use dance, music and arts practices as forms of activism, identity creation and as platforms that allow them negotiate the complexities of their lived experiences. She is particularly interested in how communities form through particular arts practices, and how belonging, inclusion and exclusion are created and contested. She has worked with communities involved in many diverse forms of artistry such as fire art, salsa dance, Inuit drumming and throating singing, hip hop (MCing and breaking), among others.
Every evening on the islands, one can see swirls of light along the beaches as performers spin balls of fire on chains and twirl fiery staffs around their bodies to the rhythms of DJs. If you have ever been to Thailand, you have probably seen these fire shows which take place at beaches, hotels and resorts.
Fire art – also called fire spinning, fire juggling and fire dance – is not originally a Thai art form, but was brought by tourists who shared this practice with Thais form the 1980s onward. In fact, we are not sure when exactly this art form “arrived” in Thailand, although oral histories from the first fire dancers, the little documentation which includes YouTube videos suggest that this practice started around the same time as the original Full Moon celebrations at Paradise Bungalows in the mid-1980s on Koh Phangan, and became popular in the late 1990s and 2000s in Thailand. Other dancers have said that it arrived much earlier, and explained that as young hippies travelling in the 19060s and 1970sm learned and brought movement forms that were similar. Still, however, given Thailand’s positioning within regional trade routes, sharing cultures across national borders has been happening across “borders” for centuries.
Many of the surrounding areas in Austronesia had dances that used fire (i.e. Taiwan, Oceania), so there is also the possibility that dancing and spinning fire came to the Thai islands in the South long before tourists arrived. Indeed, some fire artists know people in the Southern most islands who claim to have been doing this art form for over 60 years. The fire art performances you see on the beaches today, however, have emerged from “flow art,” which is a movement practice that was popularized through North American and European club cultures in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Read more about the The Definition of Flow Art
While fire artists in Thailand now typically perform on the beaches for audiences, this is not how the art form originally took root in the country. Rather, it was shared among people informally as a hobby and done through jam sessions in parks and on beaches where anyone could participate and join in. Indeed, many friendships and communities were formed through this way of learning and sharing the art – among Thais, tourists, and expats from all over the world. One central area that is key in the history of fire art in Thailand is Santichaiprakan Park, in Bangkok. This small park sits right on the Chao Phraya River and directly across from the tourist strip – Khao San Road.
Given its proximity to an area where many backpackers stay, it is not surprising that the park became a hub for tourists and Thais to share and learn this art form with each other. Throughout the late 1990s and the 2000s, there were weekly fire jam sessions and shared busking-style performances, and many went daily to play and hang out with each other. The group was a mix of French, American, Canadian, Japanese and other expats, tourists and Thais that came together to share with each other. The park became a hub for flow art in Thailand and the group that formed there were among the first in the country to start doing fire art as an organized practice. This group was led by a master teacher, Pi Oud, who was among the first fire artists in Thailand.
Poppy was part of this group and he now shares his knowledge with the new generation of artists in Thailand.
Video of the beginning of fire show performances :