Taiwan Fun Magazine, May 2004


Modern Fire Dance: Playing with Fire at the Orange Cafe

By Joe Duffer Translated by Enoch Tseng

     Orange refers to the fruit not the flames, but it just as well could for this hip, funky, artsy cafe is the home of modern Taiwanese fire dancing. What exactly is that? It is not swinging pots to bongo drums and ukuleles on the beaches of Tahiti; it's in your face performance art timed to the dubbed out, chilled out, head nodding music typically played at the caf? If you heard it on the radio or seen it at a ClubMed luau then you're not going to find it here.

     What makes this show special is the intimacy of the performance. The small audience--usually 20 to 25 people--is only a meter or two away at all times. At several points in the show an unsuspecting participant gets a thrill as the fire is swung, on coiled up long chains (poi), within inches of their heads.

     Paula Hsieh, one of the three sisters who own and run the Orange Cafe and self-taught guru of the dance, headlines the show with a near flawless and totally seductive performance: twisting, spinning, and flipping her body in perfect balance with the swinging poi. Jackie Chan would be impressed!

     Six or seven amateur dancers perform in all, both local and foreign, many of them customers taught by Paula, and all for the love of the dance. The performers create their own interpretive dances with poi, flaming staffs, and burning devil sticks.

     Mike Ryder ("da-zhu-tou" to his friends) is one of those performers, and the only one in Taiwan to perform with flaming devil sticks. He learned the art in New Zealand while a teenager, practicing on mountain tops and performing at raves and private parties. Mike and the other dancers--Kevin, Charlie, Ivy, Yilin, and Mouse--have performed for President Chen Shui-bian and other dignitaries.

     The show has also inspired many copycats around Taiwan--so much so that Paula Hsieh is considering opening a fire-dancing school.

     The troupe is available for private performances, and can be seen every Friday night from 10 pm to 11 pm on the small, triangle shaped, rooftop at Orange. Admission is NT$80.