Three Gaias and a flame thrower | ParkRecord.com

Three Gaias and a flame thrower

Greg Marshall, Of the Record staff

"The most relaxing thing you can do is set yourself on fire," fire spinner Victor Wilson said Thursday evening as he whirled two streamers, lance-like, around his head. "You recognize fire and see that it’s dangerous," he continued. "You move ahead fearlessly." Once focused, he said, "You’re jacked, fire drunk. You can be on fire and not even know it."

Wilson was one of four members of Mountain Fire rehearsing at the Kamas Inn Thursday evening. The troupe, which plans to perform at the Park Silly Sunday Market and the Fourth of July Parade, specializes in fire and belly dancing. They’ve been meeting twice a week to perfect routines.

Wilson has been spinning fire for three years. As he wielded the streamers (the real things are called poi) Sadie Kai George, Lisa Oleson and Karen Wilson danced near him wearing hip scarves adorned with rows of coins that jangled playfully as the women moved. Even though no wicks had been lit, the heat was palpable.

Dancers have to take safety seriously when they play with fire. They keep wool blankets nearby and prefer leather or wool to cotton because they resist flames. At the same time, though, the rehearsal is filled with apropos stories about fire. Oleson mentioned the exhilaration and fear associated with "lighting up for the first time" and how, one time, she lit her hair on fire, which is tied into a ponytail when she spins fire. "It’s a common thing to catch on fire," she offered.

Karen Wilson shared a story about a time when the loose denim fibers around her jeans caught fire and burned her upper thigh. "They’re like wicks," she said.

Mountain Fire’s music is eclectic, anything from traditional drumbeats to classic rock and roll. Oleson, the group’s choreographer, finds her inspiration for routines in the music. "It’s that spark, that light," she said. "Once I listen to the music, I can do choreography. Wilson described music in metaphysical terms. "You embody the music, the earth," she said.

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Oleson and Karen Wilson met each other about a decade ago at a belly-dancing class above Expanding Heart Bookstore. They have been dancing together ever since.

Karen Wilson didn’t have much formal training in dance. Like many others, she saw a row of costumes, beads and bangles, and wanted to do more. But she also liked the implicit message in belly dancing. "It’s about loving your body exactly how it is," she said. "It’s about a group of women working together with no competition."

It isn’t just about baring one’s midsection, Wilson explained. Traditionally, belly dancing was a tradition practiced with women for women. Some costumes have a cabaret-like flair with elaborate beadwork. Skirts and veils are diaphanous and flowing. Wilson said she occasionally has to clear up misconceptions. "There’s a big difference between seduction and sex," she said.

Mountain Fire performs at events and offer private belly-dancing lessons. For more information, call Karen at 640-5228 or Lisa at 513-2056.