Suzanne Sugarbaker and pageant contestants across the land aren’t the only ones who love a good fire baton. Native Hawaiian Micah Naruo loves playing with fire so much he ups the ante by adding a knife to the mix. That’s right, Charlie Sheen isn’t the only rock star warlock in town.

Micah is a fire-knife dancer and a featured performer in Cirque du Soleil’s Alegría, which opened in Charleston March 17.

Needing to get to the bottom of this fire-knife business, our opening question: “What’s the difference in a fire baton and a fire-knife?

For the uninitiated, the fire-knife is a three-foot long staff capped on one end by a flaming ball of cloth and by a fiery 13-inch metal blade on the other. Originally utilized as a weapon in Samoan culture, fire was added more than 50 years ago.

“Fire is one of the elements of our world,” he says. “Maybe I’m something of a pyro, but it’s always interesting. I want the audience to feel its power. Feel the youthfulness and the energy. See the beauty, the images we create, and see fire as spiritual, not just something dangerous.”

Fire represents a cleansing of negativity or impurities in the kingdom of Alegría. Spinning, throwing; dancers even balance the fire-knife on their heels. Do they get burned? Everyday.

So it’s true if you play with fire you get burned. Micah has trained for 13 years and he does it without water or fire retardant skin creams. “Everyday my hair gets singed shorter and shorter,” he cheerfully admits. “Everyday we put fire on our heels and let the audience see us burn ourselves. It’s mind over matter and I respect the fire.”

The phrase “feel the burn” suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.

Micah is recognizable by his intricate tattoos – symbols representing his passion for the fire-knife. They represent artistry, family, providence and protection.

Alegría is Spanish for joy and jubilation. It’s a Cirque du Soleil signature and one of the company’s most popular shows. Expect to be transported into a feast for the senses with tumblers, acrobats, aerialists and contortionists.

This is an intimate environment where the audience is close to the performers and they feed off your energy. You’ll be amazed at what the human body can do. These elite performers hail from more than 15 countries, and even include a former Olympian.

Cirque aims to create and evoke emotion. Throughout the show, you’ll be in awe, you’ll be in love, you’ll be overjoyed, you’ll be peaceful, you’ll be fearful, you’ll be inspired…all while at the edge of your seat.

So, come on baby, light your fire.

Alegría, North Charleston, March 17 – 20 ($35 – $90)

Story by: Claire Gibbons

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