Teuila Festival

The Teuila Festival began on our last night in Samoa. The festival is a celebration of Samoan cultural dance that coincided with the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games also being held in Samoa this week.

The highlight of the evening was the fire knife competition. We watched the preliminary rounds, so we saw former champions and novice dancers alike (and saw a surprising number of flaming fire knives slip from their hands and fly across the stage). All of the dancers performed to the same throbbing drum beat, and entered the stage with only one end of their fire knife lit (knife is a bit of a misnomer though, they were more batons than anything). Their first task was to light the second end: some dancers were able to hold the flame in their mouth, others set the floor of the stage on fire, and as a last resort, some dancers went ahead and lit their lavalava on fire.

Once both ends of the fire knife were flaming, they spun and tossed the fire knife as fast and as high as they could. Many performed the signature move of lying on their back and holding the fire knife in their knee-pit, and then holding up the burning ends with the soles of their feet.

The announcer described spinning the fire knife as a demonstration of aggression, used in pre-European times to intimidate opposing tribes before battle. Though the violence is unfortunate, I do appreciate that traditional Samoan war began with something of a dance off.

It seemed appropriate to end our time in Samoa with the adrenaline rush of fire dancing, especially as a few of my favorite people were heading to Burning Man at the same time, on the other side of the planet, to dance with fire themselves.