Makoa Lukela: on a flaming knife’s edge

Browse By

While Northwood hosts a variety of talented and skilled students, few of them have hobbies that could potentially end up giving you third-degree burns, or even worse. One of these hobbies is the art of fire knife dancing, a polynesian dance that uses a large staff with blades on both ends that are engulfed in fire. In an interview with The Howler, senior Makoa Lukela shares his experiences and the dangers of dancing with a fire knife.

Gabriel Dimaandal: What got you into fire dancing in the first place?

Makoa Lukela: I started polynesian dancing when I was 7 years old, and it was through my uncle and aunt that ran the studio that I really started to get into actual dancing. Eventually, I started getting into fire knife dancing, which is what you guys call fire dancing.

GD: So who taught you then?

ML:  The Asuegas were the ones that gave me the opportunity to learn, but my cousin Keanu was the one who taught me the basics of fire dancing, and ever since then, we have been going over the many tricks that I can do within a show or even a competition festival.

GD: Were there any difficulties in learning?

ML: There were many difficulties. The first of which was learning the basics on a practice knife, which is similar to a fire knife, but it’s going to be wrapped in duct tape and towels so you can have a similar weight on both ends. Later, you start with the actual fire knife, and the hard part is overcoming the heat and actually being face to face with the fire without being scared.

GD: Not only have we seen you firedance, but we’ve also seen you be able to eat fire as well, so how does that work?

ML: There are pads on the ends of the fire knife, and we wire them on but leave a certain space on the pads where there’s no wire so you won’t burn your tongue. It’s hard because the biggest problem we have is the wind, so you point it where the fire is blowing away from your face, and then when you’re about to touch your tongue you kinda blow out a little bit of air so the flame doesn’t really get to your mouth, and then you have a good amount of saliva so it doesn’t hurt at all.

GD: Did you ever manage to hurt yourself while practicing?

ML: Yeah, I’ve hurt my hand a couple of times. There’s multiple occasions where you hurt yourself more than other people because within a fire knife competition or a group dance, you will have to be able catch it right away if you lose control so you don’t hurt the audience specifically. We’re trained so that if it does hit us, we don’t really try to react to it. It’s more like reacting if it goes towards the audience.

GD: If you had to describe your entire experience with fire dancing as a whole with a single word, what would it be?

ML: I would say exciting. The feeling that I get when I do this is more of an exciting feeling, being that I can show other people, my culture specifically, and it’s amazing to see how people react when you have the fire in your hands and transferring it to other spots on your fire knife, touching it on your tongue, doing weird moves that you would probably never think you could do with fire.