Ahead of Nasimi’s Extreme Festival of Fire Full-Moon Party, we had a chat with David Knox, the 30-year-old leader of UK-based fire-dancing act Flame Oz, three of whom will be performing at this week’s beach session. Think fire breathing looks like fun? Think again.
Dave gave up fire breathing a long time ago.
‘Fire breathing is 100 per cent the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done, and I don’t do that any more. None of our group do. It’s an uncontrolled fireball. You’re putting fuel directly into your mouth, which I think anybody with half a brain would realise is not a very sensible thing to do. It’s really yucky – it gives you diarrhoea, it rots your teeth, it’s potentially cancer-causing, it makes your breath smell like fuel – it’s horrible! It’s the only time I’ve ever seen serious accidents.’
But he believes his job is about as dangerous as cooking.
‘I’ve performed well over 1,000 shows in my lifetime and yes, I have to admit I’ve definitely burned myself once or twice, but I’ve also burned myself trying to get baked potatoes out of the oven. It is possible to burn yourself, but I’ve been playing with fire for more than 15 years, and you tend to burn yourself less and less. You get a thick skin about it, though unfortunately not literally.’
Fire performance isn’t what it used to be.
‘One of the principles with which we founded our group was that we wanted to take fire dancing from what it used to be, which was dreadlocks and hippies on the beach, and techno music in Goa and Thailand, and turn it into a really sellable, corporate thing. We wanted to raise the level of skill and raise people’s appreciation of the art, and we really do think there are fire arts. Our show is all about synchronised, choreographed, don’t-start-a-fire routines.’
He still gets the jitters.
‘I think you’ve got to switch jobs if you don’t get a little bit nervous before you go on stage. Butterflies in the stomach lead to a really good show – I really ride off that energy. I think people immediately see the level of innovation, technical skill and performance skill that our group has, and that’s what sets us apart. We’re a very respected group in the community, because we pioneered this stage presence and this level of technical, choreographed fire dance.’
Some props present bigger problems than others.
‘Being lifted above an audience by crane and spinning fire was probably one of the gnarliest things I’ve ever done. It was in a nightclub in Italy – it was 100 per cent safe and it looked absolutely fantastic. I flew over the audience spinning fire. But sometimes just getting on the stage is a mission. It can be very dark backstage!’
The pros outweigh the cons.
‘If people come out and see a show, they tend to understand why it’s such an exciting risk to take. The audience always wants us to succeed, but everybody knows in the back of their mind that there is a risk. That’s why it’s so exciting to watch. As for me, I get to travel a lot more than most people, which is fantastic, but the best part is that during every single gig I do, people smile at me. My job is to make people happy, and that is incredibly satisfying.’
Flame Oz will be performing at Nasimi’s Extreme Festival of Fire Full Moon Party on December 16.