Have you ever seen a Polynesian fire dancer?  They're unforgettable!

The best fire, knife and poi dancers on Kauai are members of the Colburn Family!

Before we get into the specifics, let me share a little history of Polynesia fire dancing - which began hundreds of years ago by the people of Polynesia. Polynesia spans over 4,000 square miles with hundreds of islands, and it is generally believed that the Maori people of New Zealand were the first pioneers as the originators of poi.

The History of Poi

Poi is a Maori word meaning “ball on a string.” Maori warriors used poi as a form of exercise to train for battle or hunting. By swinging the heavy balls, they developed wrist strength and flexibility to handle various weapons and tools. This lead to poi as a form of storytelling and dance.

Traditionally poi was never actually lit on fire. Dipping poi balls into fuel and lighting them on fire did not occur until the mid 20th century, as a progression of the Samoan fire knife.

The Samoan knife dance was known as the ailao, an exhibition of a Samoan warrior’s strength and capabilities. This was generally performed with a war club at ceremonial processions of daughters and high chiefs.

The club evolved into a machete, which is the most common tool used today in the knife dance. In 1946, a Samoan-American, by the name of Uluao Letuli, was inspired at San Francisco’s Shriner’s Convention to light his knife on fire. After watching a fire-eater and baton twirler perform, Uluao wrapped some towels around his knife, borrowed some fuel from the fire-eater, and lit his knife on fire for his performance.

Uluao’s fire knife was a success and from there the poi, staff, and hoop were modified to be lit on fire. The first fire poi performances began in the 1950s in Hawaii as tourist attractions. 

More About The Colbourn Family

Polynesian Fire DancingI've seen the Colburn family perform many times!  From large luaus to large shows they put on Kauai (Common Ground, St. Regis, and other resorts) to private shows for weddings and visitors, they are fun, exciting and talented dancers to watch!

The video in this blog I took with my phone on Hanalei bay this 4th of July. Because the Colburns really do embody the spirit of Aloha, they put on this small performance for old friends visiting from the mainland.

As soon as the Tahitian drums started the beat, hundreds of people started to gather to watch these incredible Polynesian fire dancers. If you're coming to Kauai and you want to see great fire dancers, I can't recommend the Colburns more! Check out my videos above.

Hanalei Bay on the 4th of July (like a lot of beaches around the US) is full of friends, and family celebrating, setting off fireworks, and Chinese lanterns.



Posted by Anne Eliason on
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