A Dance with Fire
Have you ever wondered what happens when you combine the passion of tango with the beauty of fire? The beautiful Iva Petkova craftily demonstrated what that combination looks like at a mutual friends’ wedding. The result – a breathtaking performance, exhilarated audience and an elated married couple who will never forget Iva’s fiery gift.
How did you become involved in the art of fire performance?
During my penultimate year at high school I had a Spanish teacher for my sports classes and he showed me what a poi was. I was interested and he started teaching me how to use it. During our first lesson in one of the parks in the city of Sofia we encountered a Bulgarian guy who turned out to be a part of a group of people in Bulgaria who deal with fire performances. I started learning from them as well. Also, the learning process involved copying from fire performance videos in YouTube.
When was the first time you performed with actual fire and not just the poi?
I tried it for the first time in the summer on the beach in Bulgaria. That was approximately a year after my introduction to poi. At this point I could do only three elements, but it was so cool! Especially the moment when the fire was lit! When I moved with it I could only hear the sound of the fire moving in the air as well as the music.
To me dancing with a fire poi is an addition to the music and not just technical elements. Most people perform to drum and base or house music and try to use the most technically challenging elements without moving the whole body. To me it is about listening to the music, feeling it and improvising to it with my whole body.
What makes you want to dance with fire?
For the last six years I have been dancing with a fire poi for pleasure – my own or that of a wonderful just married couple. The best feeling is to dance with a fire poi on the beach because I can be barefoot and close to nature.
On the other hand, the music itself is something that greatly inspires me to dance with a fire poi.
I would never turn that into a work engagement, though. It is simply a hobby. If I have to do it as a work engagement when I am not in the mood it would be extremely unpleasant to me, especially if I dislike the music.
How did you conceive the idea of performing to “Libertango” at Nadya and George’s wedding?
Well, this was actually my second wedding performance. The first one was at my cousin’s wedding. The celebration was on the beach of “Gradina Camping”. I bought the long types of poi called “snakes” for that particular occasion. They create these images of giant wings when used. I had no choreography and simply improvised. When I started dancing a crowd gathered around me, but I could not see the people’s faces because it was dark. I could only hear the music and the moving fire. Later my mother told me that the crowd had cheered and applauded me.
Then, at her bachelorette party, the bride – Nadya, shared her dream to have me perform with fire during her upcoming wedding. I decided to create something to tango music.
How much time did it take to create the choreography?
The organization was around two weeks. During the first week I did not have a lot of time to think of choreography. I was looking for the right song. The groom – George, had once asked if I had known what tango was. So, I asked him to send me some tango songs. One of them was “Libertango” and soon I found a version which was the right one for me and my activity. The tempo was the right one because the original is very fast. It would be very tiring to use the original due to the centrifugal moment while swinging the tethered weights of the fire poi.
Anyway, when I found the right version and imagined the fire performance I was practically shaking with emotion. My adrenaline surged and the condition was one of absolute euphoria.
I realised that for this occasion I do not want to improvise and be limited to five things I know how to do really well. I definitely wanted to include more elements. The choreography up until the moment when I change the fire poi took approximately one week. As for the second part, I had particular things I wanted to do, but for example the moment when I fell on my knees was not choreographed.
Having said that, I would like to stress that to me the beauty and the aesthetic of the performance is more important than the number of elements performed with the poi.
Would you like to learn how to dance tango? Do you listen to tango music?
I used to have a desire to learn and to dance tango. But I have been dancing boogie, lindy hop and charlston and I find them more social, dynamic and energetic than tango. The people who dance boogie, lindy hop and charlston seem so much fun and so colourful. To me tango is more serious.
I think my idea of tango is strongly influenced by movies. For example, the tango dance in “Moulin Rouge” is so impressive. The emotion is so strong and the dance reflects the plot and the lyrics of the song so well.
To be honest, the thing that probably prevented me from engaging in tango is somehow the lack of fun and leaders. I know it is very difficult to find a partner. I also think that this is a dance you want to share with a special person. You need to have this shared energy. It seems to me that tango is this emotion of desire, it distills the very moment of desire.
Would you like to perform with fire to tango music once more?
I would perform again with fire poi to tango music with great pleasure. The music gives me such excitement. Years ago I wanted to learn how to dance tango because of the music and the way it reflects emotion.
Moreover, people were so impressed with my idea to perform with fire to tango music. And for me it was a great challenge.
Tango is very convenient in terms of rhythm and rhythmic variety. To me performing with fire is about expressing the emotion of the music while dancing. Fire is complementary.