By MCSA Rose Forest, Navy Public Affairs Support Element Det. Hawaii
In the amphitheater of Honolulu’s Kakaako Waterfront Park, fire cuts through the darkness painting circles and arches before twisting away again. At first glance, this is rather alarming, but when the fire lights up the performer who masterfully dances with it, the look on his face is complete control.
This is Honolulu’s famous fire jam. Founded more than nine years ago, it has grown to be a city-sanctioned event that is known far outside the borders of Oahu.
“We have people come to watch us perform from all over the world,” said Jerimiah Simpson, one of the founders. “People will come to visit and hear about us and come out for a night. Most people haven’t seen anything like this before, especially not for free.”
One of these fire dancers is Aviation Ordnance Airman Lawrence Taylor. Taylor is attached to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The Sailor said he loves his job, and dancing with fire. Taylor said he is one of several Sailors stationed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam who are performers at the fire jam.
“I guess the Navy and fire don’t usually go together,” said Taylor. “But with all the safety precautions we take I feel comfortable, and it’s a way to express myself. This is my outlet and I love it.”
Taylor lights his staff, takes the stage, and begins — spinning fire in wide circles before dragging it along the ground, creating a line of flame on the concrete.
“You find such a different kind of focus doing this,” Taylor said. “Everything turns into a blur but the fire, what you are doing, is in perfect focus.”
Often, there is live music or a DJ and young children gather to watch the performers dance with a very dangerous partner.
“Yes, fire can be dangerous, there is no doubt about it,” said Simpson. “But safety has been our number one concern from the beginning. We have fire blankets and fire extinguishers in the hands of people who know how to use them, and we rotate out so no one gets tired.”
In the nine years since its inception, a community has grown around this performance art.
“You definitely see a community here,” said Micah Thrasher, performer, “not only in the dancers but in the people who come out week after week to see us perform. You get to meet some really cool people.”
For those interested in these performances, they occur every Thursday from about 7:45 to 9:45 p.m. in Kakaako Waterfront Park in the amphitheater.