Some of Western Australia’s most experienced dance teachers of all styles share their stories of success, failure and overcoming adversity.

Fiona Kranz is a fire spinner and flow artist. Starting her journey as a ballet dancer, she is now an emerging teacher. She speaks to us about growing through pain, learning new things and the danger and beauty of what she does.

I’m Fiona Kranz. I’m a flow artist and dancer. So, as a flow artist I do many props, including fire fans, fire staff, fire hoop and fire palm torches as well. Other props I do are the silk veil fans, LED props such as LED fans and Isis wings. I can also perform the fire poi.

I did ballet when I was young. I probably did ballet for at least six to seven years but then I took a big break, and then I came back before I was thirty. I took a break in the middle due to work; I also had an ankle injury, which is why I gave up ballet in the first place; and then I had a baby. And since having a baby and going through some traumatic events in my life, that’s what actually made me take up dancing as a new style.

I wanted to try something completely different. I have a best friend who’s Pakistani, and I think because I’d heard some of the music she was listening to, that may have been an inspiration for wanting to try Bollywood. I don’t actually know why I decided to go with Bollywood, but for some reason, because I love other cultures as well, I wanted to have a different experience and immerse myself in someone else’s culture, and I enjoy the music. I’ve always loved ballet, and I did actually go back and do ballet classes as an adult as well. So I’ve still kept that up and that is still something that I hold close to my heart.

Flames fly in front of Fiona's face as she waves her fans. The flames are bright and erratic and make her gold sequin top twinkle. Fiona's hair is dark and half of a butterfly tattoo can be seen on her pale skin.
Fire spinning can be dangerous and beautiful. Credit: Haze Captures.

After I did Bollywood, I decided to take it further and be in groups outside of the studio. So I took up jazz and heels, and I also took up lyrical jazz; one of my favourite classes was with Tonia Santoro. And I really enjoyed that. So basically, I guess, my drive to improve myself as a dancer led me to do other styles. As a result of that, I started to do flow arts at some point. I decided that I wanted to do something more creative myself as an individual, so I took up poi. When I picked up a fire fan, that’s when I fell in love with fans, and I knew that was my prop. And then flow arts went from there, as a result of me wanting to be more creative as an individual.

Using Fire

You don’t burn in the house, you have a special place you go to. But, I was definitely afraid of burning myself. Definitely. I mean, that’s why you have to practice before you put it on fire. And you have to be very safe, and you have to make sure you know you’re confident in the moves before you set your props on fire. Particularly fire fans. There are a lot of people in Perth who don’t do fans because they’re very hot on the hands. But I have, through experience, worked out what moves are good to start off with so I’m not burning my fingers.

I burnt myself at Spun Out because the choreography someone else had done for me was not choregraphed in such a way that, at the beginning, if you have hot fans, it doesn’t go very well; as in, isolations. If you’re keeping it still, then you burn your fingers. You have to keep moving, and Shannon, my poi teacher, taught me that. The very first thing he always said was, ‘you will not burn yourself if you keep moving’. You can even bang yourself, bang your clothes or your arm, and not burn yourself; it’s the contact time on your body.

Yes, I was very scared the first time I lit up, it’s always ‘oh my God’, and you completely forget your moves to begin with.

It’s almost as if you need to light up and just get used to the fire first, and then, when you’re used to it, start spinning. There’s a certain period of time, I think, with each prop, that you’re scared of it. Well, even my fire hoop, because I had fire all around me, and I was spinning it on my hips, even though I’ve done fire, I was scared of it to begin with because I didn’t know how it felt. But after a few light-ups, then I was confident with it.

So, I think even every new prop has got it’s own little insecurities until you’ve worked out it feels and where you can put your hands. Like, how far away can you have the flame from your hand? With my hoop when I’m doing an isolation, I can hold right on the edge because the wick will be here [she indicates just near her wrist], I can hold the wick there and it won’t burn me. But to begin with, I was really worried.

Fiona dances on the heach at sunset with her LED fans, thin metal frames with a strip of glowing lights. The sunset glows dark orange and hazy.
Fiona dances with her LED fans. Credit: Haze Captures.

In the last two years I’ve been doing it, I’ve burnt myself badly twice. I mean, it can be quite dangerous. If you are not careful, you can make a mistake. Even the best of us can. I saw the best staffman in the world in a performance in January. He’s literally one of the best staffers. He had his staff slip on him and he ended up with a bad burn on his arm. So it happens to the best of us.

Fire Tribe

I wish I could explain it well, but basically Fire Tribe is the camp through Blazing Swan. Blazing Swan is an organisation that has got different camps that quite often come down to various entertainment groups, so Fire Tribe is one of them, which I’m in.

Every night of the camp, we burn for people. We take our props out, we take our fuel, we go out on the truck, we set up a spot and we put on a fire show for everybody. Quite often we go round to different camps within Blazing Swan and do a bit of a fire performance at the different camps, which is a lot of fun. And there are a lot of other events we do, like they have a dance events where we go to each camp–because each camp has a DJ–they have their own DJ and we all go round to each other’s DJs and dance at Blazing Swan. So Fire Tribe does all these other events, not necessarily fire events, but also, it’s all linked to Perth Fire Group. Fire Tribe is the Blazing Swan subgroup that gathers on a Tuesday night to do circus and flow arts.

So some of the tribes include Fire Tribe, Danceopia, there’s Steampunk Pancakes, and they make pancakes for everybody. Yes, they are a group of people who dress up like, steampunk, and make pancakes. There’s Black Lagoon, and they make coffee. There’s Tribal Tribe and they play the drums. There’s God Says No.

And they all have a themed camp buggy that we decorate and ride around to different places.

It sounds crazy, I know. It’s about freedom of self-expression and decommodification.

You know, there’s no money. Someone even made a free paella last year, like, these big vats, and they just gave it out to everyone. It’s about giving to people.

Why do you dance?

I don’t know why, but it’s enjoyable. It’s good for your mind, body and soul. It’s great to have fitness while doing something you really enjoy. But it’s really good to express yourself through movement.

I do not know why people choose to spin fire. For me personally, I think it’s a bit of an outlet, because I’ve been through some traumatic things in my life. For me, it’s a way to enjoy myself and forget about other things that are going on. Even though it’s dangerous, maybe the fact that it is fire appealed to me because I have nearly died. It’s almost like, I don’t know why, risk-taking or doing exciting things makes me feel good. There’s definitely that risk factor that makes your adrenaline increase.

But fire’s beautiful, as well. For me, it’s a positive thing. People might see fire can be very destructive, but for me fire is also light, and light is also hope. So, I see it as even though it’s a dangerous thing, it is a beautiful thing as well. And I think it’s really beautiful to entertain people with something like that, even if it is dangerous.

This video was taken by Sandy CY.

Click here to check out Fiona’s performance page or her Instagram.

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