Dancing Fire Ferrets

At 10 years old, Reddawolf Rayne
was dreaming of fire.

She could see the flames swirl
and fly around her, wrapping her arms in blazing glory, spinning bright
streamers into the night as she danced within them. At her 11th birthday, her
dreams sparked into reality. Reddawolf danced with the flame. And her mother
beamed with pride.

“Redda got her first set of fire sticks on her
birthday,” said Raiven Rayne, Redda’s mother and the leader of the Dancing Fire
Ferrets of Edmond. “She lit them up that night. All she wants to do is play
with fire, but she respects it. She’s careful with it. People are shocked when
they learn about it, but she’s learned the skill responsibly.” The art form is
known as fire poi, the Dancing Fire Ferrets are a ragtag team of blazing
personalities with names just as strange. In fact, Reddawolf, now 13, and her
sister Alexis, 16, are Oklahoma’s youngest fire poi performers. The sisters,
along with their mother, uncle, father and close friends, are members of a
performance dance troupe that specializes in the spinning, flipping,
choreographing and dancing with fire.

Fire FerretsPoi is a type of performing art
that uses equipment by the same name. Poi involves swinging tethered weights
through a       variety of rhythmical and
geometric patterns, and those who master poi also sing or dance while swinging
their poi.

The art originated with the M����ori
people of New Zealand, and globally, the growing popularity of poi culture has
led to a boom in the styles practiced, the tools used and the definition of the
word “poi.” Fire poi simply means those tools are blazing with flames while the
performers spin their magic and dance within it.

The Dancing Fire Ferrets are
made up of mother Raiven and her two daughters, Raiven’s husband Sean Tiulli,
Arder Fuego (which translates literally to “to burn the flame”), Raiven’s
little brother Moku the Ninja and Rafe Knight.

The dance troupe creates beauty
with music and burning light. “Basically, we play with fire and dance with fire
and fight with fire and breathe fire,” Raiven said. “Fire is a very spiritual
element for us. It is beauty.”

The Fire Ferret’s dream started
three years ago at an event by the Society for Creative Anachronism, which
recreates the Middle Ages. Arder saw another group performing fire poi, and the
bug bit. “Arder had done it since he was 14, so it was easy for him to pick up
a set and start dancing with it,” said Raiven. “We were all there and thought
it was neat.”

Globally, people have worshipped
fire and performed with fire for centuries. In New Zealand, the M����ori people
are credited with creating the art of poi and used the dance as a form of
storytelling. Ancient Aztecs performed ritualistic dances with fire to appease Xiuhtecuhtli,
the God of Fire. In Hawaii, the Samoan people use a flaming machete to perform
a dance known as Ailao. In Edmond, the Dancing Fire Ferrets do their own
stylistic performances.

A Family that Flames Together Stays Together

Once Arder started the poi
craze, the other members of the Ferrets caught on quickly. Raiven and Rafe got
a set and started working on them. Redda had to practice for an hour a day
every day for two months with regular practice poi before she was allowed to
move into fire. Sean Tiulli was the last to come on board. “I didn’t want
anything to do with it. I refused,” he said. “I said, ‘I’m not going to get
burned.’ Then one day I’m walking around looking for devil sticks (hand sticks
used for juggling another stick), and I found the poi sticks. I was hooked.”

Although he was slow to embrace
fire, once Sean was in, he was in all the way. He began practicing daily to
perfect the devil sticks. He ordered a fire version of the sticks, and during
his first try, he didn’t burn himself—only singed his arm hair a little bit.
“He got the fire bug,” said Raiven. “Once you get started performing with fire,
it’s like an addiction. Everything you see, every song you hear, you keep thinking
‘I can dance to that.’”

When Raiven’s oldest daughter
Alexis moved back to Edmond, she saw her family perform for the first time at a
party where they’d been hired as the entertainment. That sultry May night, the
fire bug bit her too, and Alexis became the newest member of the Dancing Fire
Ferrets.

The Fire Show

Watching the Dancing Fire
Ferrets is like watching something alien and magical. Their bodies blend into
the night so only the long, swaying flames are really visible. The
music—ranging from Medieval tunes to pounding techno punk—throbs with the
flames, and audiences are mesmerized. The Dancing Fire Ferrets perform at
events, fairs and private parties. Everywhere they dance, they inspire new
followers and fire dreamers. At each venue, they sell out of practice poi every
night.

But the dance takes practice—and
bravery. “My oldest, Alexis, does a move where she drops into the splits, spins
the burning poi around her wrists, holds the poi ball in her hands and then
jumps up and releases them,” said Raiven. “She’s never been burned badly, but
every single one of us have very short hair—because you singe your hair a lot.”
Safety and protection are stressed. Besides basic fire safety tools like wet
towels and extinguishers, Raiven always has a special burn first aid kit
wherever she goes. “I wouldn’t recommend lighting anything on fire, especially
poi, for at least six months,” she said. “This takes a lot of practice. You do
get burned sometimes. You have to respect the fire and know what you are doing.”

“Some families have movie night or game night.
We spin fire,” Raiven said. “It’s something we do together as a family, and
it’s something we all enjoy.”

For
more information about the Dancing Fire Ferrets or to book a show, contact
Raiven Rayne at 405-698-4927 or find them on Facebook at the Dancing Fire
Ferrets
.

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