IN THE SPOTLIGHT: FIRE ENTERTAINMENT

Names: Paul Abel and Shorlet Johnson, Company: Island Fire, Occupation: Pyrotechnic performers

Abel hails from Victoria on Vancouver Island and Johnson is from Roatan, Honduras. When Abel was working  on his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree many years ago, he picked up some tree-planting work in Northern Quebec.

“When I was planting, I met Benoit Chauquette. He was always practising spinning and training for work in the Cirque du Soleil. Benoit taught me and took me to Montreal to train with the Cirque. His father was one of the original creators of the Cirque, back when they were street performers.

“I performed fire dancing from Montreal to Victoria, then went south to Seattle and just kept going to Acapulco. I joined a family circus in Puerto Escondido and travelled all over with them. We went to Belize, Guatamala and Honduras. I spent quite a lot of time in Honduras, performing fire shows and creating sand sculptures. Now I’m burning it up in Grand Cayman! [Laughs]. In my career thus far, I estimate I’ve performed 5,000 shows for over half a million people.”

Johnson, who Abel met in Honduras, has been working as part of the act for about five years. Her specialty is the fire hula hoop, but she also spins fire fans, poi, snakes and the infamous umbrella. The couple is presently choreographing a partner poi segment, where they spin fire around each other in the same space.

When asked which part of his performances he finds the most difficult, Abel says that fire spinning is the biggest
challenge in that it is an ambidextrous art.

“My hardest part to master is making my left hand follow my right,” he reveals.

Abel sports some impressively long dreadlocks, so the inevitable question is, does he worry about setting them alight?

“It’s actually the last thing I worry about,” he replies. “The fire keeps my dreads trimmed and helps keep the frizz down [laughs].”