Colwood couple’s flair for fire dancing lights up the night
By day, Michael Hammond is the railing department manager for a decking company and his wife, Sarah, works in marketing at a software firm.
But by night, their flair for a unique visual art fires to life.
“Some people have a hard time believing it,” Sarah says of people’s reactions to their fire-dancing abilities.
They are one of the only fire-spinning husband-and-wife teams – if not the only one – in Greater Victoria. Together they created Primal Fire Productions.
“It’s always good if you have blended goals and activities with your significant other,” says Michael.
The Colwood residents are practising their craft before taking their six-member fire performance troupe on the road for the busy summer and fall months. In the off season they hone their skills, build routines and handcraft the tools of their fiery trade: staffs, hula hoops, poi (wicks attached to chains or ropes) and metal fans.
Michael dips a Kevlar wick into a pot of camping fuel. Sarah follows suit, and after flicking off the excess liquid they head to the lawn.
Michael ignites the flammable ends of their tools with a lighter, and after sharing a glance they begin a fiery dance that is mesmerizing against the black night.
“It’s very hypnotic,” he says. “People can’t look away.”
They are the only fire performers in their families, although Michael’s parents weren’t overly surprised by their son’s artistic choice. Some of his fondest childhood memories involve camping and sitting around the campfire.
“I’ve always enjoyed being around fire,” says Michael, 36.
Sarah learned the craft while backpacking in Australia, and kept expanding her repertoire until she could artfully manipulate a number of instruments. The 34-year-old can spin a hula hoop – with or without fire – for more than an hour, impressive considering she couldn’t spin one as a kid.
Since learning the art about 10 years ago, the Hammonds have passed their skill on to many others. They continue to offer private spinning lessons, though students must perfect their abilities before adding fire.
“I was able to spin non-stop for half an hour without hitting myself,” Michael explains.
“I practised a lot. I wore a big dirt patch in the lawn from moving around.”
While both have been mildly singed by their torches, they’ve only lost a smidge of arm hair at the most.
“It’s more of a perceived risk than actually dangerous,” Michael says.
For more information, visit www.primalfire.org