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Zazi: first the water, then the flames

PHUKET: I know I’m not the only one spellbound by the talent of Phuket’s firedancers, twisting and twirling burning hot poles and rings with insouciant, fearless ease, and make us all wonder how they do it.

Thursday 26 January 2012, 02:07PM

Fire dancer Zazithorn ‘Zazi’ Ruengchinda.

Fire dancer Zazithorn ‘Zazi’ Ruengchinda.

It was this same amazement that first lured Zazithorn ‘Zazi’ Ruengchinda into giving it a try, and she has now been involved in firedancing for around 10 years.

Zazi is well-known around Phuket for performing at events, including the annual Twinpalms White Party.

The 29-year-old was on her way home from work in Bangkok around 10 years ago when, near her bus stop, she saw a group of people juggling and firedancing in the park.

She made friends with the performers and soon became the secretary of the group, working for them for four years before the mystic lure of the firedancing sucked her in and she began working as a performer.

Zazi uses aluminium sticks dipped in kerosene for most of her fire performances.

She lights the kerosene and the sticks become flaming spears. Hula hoops, the poi (a flaming circle of wick material attached to a chain which she swings) and, especially Roman candles, add to the impressiveness of her performance.
Each performance is around 15 to 20 minutes long.

“I love it. I love the fact I’ve found something that fits my personality. I feel so creative and free.”

She’s fortunate she has had no major incidents while performing – the worst was a second-degree burn when she dripped burning fuel on her pants. Generally, though, she finds it easy to avoid being burnt provided that she’s in “the zone” – where she’s focused and delivering the right energy.

She’s spends hours practising, keeps fit through yoga, and constantly reminds herself that she’s lucky to be alive.
Lucky because she was washed away on Phi Phi island during the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami tragedy.

She was helping run a beach bar and was working as a firedancer on the island at the time.

The wave smashed through her house and dragged her 30 metres or so across the island. She managed to grab hold of a tree and clamber to safety.

The episode changed her outlook, with Zazi now far more enthusiastic about life than she was before.

“It was traumatic, but now I’m far more brave about doing things, because I’m meant to be alive.”   

 –Claire Connell



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