Hello lovely readers. I’m writing to you from the comfort of my dodgy motel room in Salem, Oregon. I’m here for just under two weeks, performing a nightly fire dancing show with the Sacred Fire Dance troupe, at the Oregon State Fair.
We’re just over halfway through our 12-day run of shows. The routine is settling in, and the show has tightened up nicely. The crowds are beer-drunk and enthusiastic, the music is loud, and the vendors are just starting to swing by after the show bearing questionable gifts of deep-fried delights. There’s nothing quite like working a state fair.
I’m truly delighted to be part of this.
During the daytimes we’ve been exploring Oregon. We’ve done three television appearances to promote our show. We have petted baby alligators and strolled through the Japanese Gardens. “Best Japanese Gardens Outside of Japan!” claims the enthusiastic sign. (I have to admit it was pretty great). We spent nearly an hour in the local Exotic Dancewear store, “Fantasy,” and got out of there with oodles of sparklies for less than $100 each, after the generous hooker performer discount from the clerks. We even found a swimming pool and did some mermaiding.
Every night at sunset we straggle back to our dodgy motel and put on a pound and a half of makeup before heading over to the Fair site. We spend 40 minutes prepping — unpacking our props and fuel from the mold-and-garbage-scented storage locker, soaking everything in white gas, and then hiking a quarter of a mile to our stage. Our fire safeties and our pyrotechnician are usually already there, rocking out to the 10-piece dance band that has the stage before us. At about 9:30 the band wraps up and our safeties and techs scurry around clearing space on the main stage for our show, to the invariable strains of AC/DC’s “Hells Bells.” I will never be able to hear that song again without my adrenaline levels spiking.
The lights go down as Bon Scott screams his final note, and the crowd gets quiet, then a cheer goes up as we walk onstage and touch the fire to our first props. I plaster a giant smile on my face, and the fire show begins.
The show itself is delicious, with eight jedi-level firedancers spanning three stages. We’ve got two types of flame thrower and several custom handmade props including four pairs of giant flaming fairy wings. At one point we have three simultaneous fire whips sending huge fireballs into the air with each crack. Our finale has all 8 of us burning our brightest, hottest props onstage while fireworks explode just 20 feet above our heads. It’s an incredible rush.
The audience mobs us afterwards, the kids shyly wanting high fives and the parents wanting Facebook selfies. We’ve even got a couple superfans: people who come to see us night after night, sitting in front of each stage sequentially so they get a chance to see absolutely everything.
Our biggest fan is an affable gentleman in a cowboy hat, a huge smile shining out through his thick white beard as he insists on giving each of the girls in the troupe a slightly overlong hug. After we awkwardly wriggle free he slips plastic beaded baubles into our hands, his eyes twinkling as he boasts about staying awake until 4:00 am threading them just for us. He’s been to every show so far, and always tells us that he can’t wait to see us tomorrow night, when we’ll be able to admire his latest sequin-studded cowboy shirt. His collection is impressive.
After the show we wander the darkening fair site taking silly pictures, or spend some time at the local dive bar burning off our adrenaline with bad karaoke. Then it’s back to the dodgy motel to shed our sooty costumes and sleep until it’s time to do it all over again.