Mass Fire Swinging Routine

I was asked to write and teach a fire swinging routine for presentation at the 16th European Juggling Convention in Leeds, England. The central idea was to involve many club swingers from different nations in a mass, synchronised fire show. After just a few rehearsals the following large-scale routine was performed by 29 fire swingers, all of whom I would like to thank for their skill and enthusiasm. Thanks also to the fantastic hand drummers who accompanied us. As the entire routine is quite short (4 mins), we decided to perform it twice, at either end of the outdoor arena and just before and after the firework display.

The routine is pitched at an intermediate level. Where moves are especially difficult, you may want to substitute a similar pattern. Most music has 4 beats to the bar and you should repeat each sequence in 4:4 time. The count is given representing the number of times to repeat full combinations and you should count just from the right hand (RH). Hints are given after the routine.

If you decide to learn and perform a mass show with other fire swingers, then be aware of each other to keep your patterns synchronised. This routine contains a repositioning of the people (the floor pattern) between sections. The idea is to walk confidently as you change places. The performers begin facing the audience in a wide line, then walk into a circle looking inward. Section C is then swung with people standing in deep lines behind each other. The finale consisting mainly of parallel movements towards the middle of the performance space is designed to focus the attention of the audience as the routine closes.

Equipment: 2 torches each, paraffin fuelled, shaken and lit backstage just before the show. Entrance: Each person has two clubs held high and crossed above their head whilst beating the clubs together (see page 73). Form neat lines facing the audience and give everyone room. Wait with your arms in start position, clubs held straight up at chest level. The number of beats/revolutions is given after the move.

Start: Section A

  1. RH (right hand) solo full-arm circles INWARDS. Stop high in start position. 4
  2. OUTWARD full-arm circles together in synchronous time. 4
  3. Synchronous upper-front & shoulder circles. 4
  4. Transition: double up two outward upper-front hand circles.
  5. Alternating outwards, short reel done up high. Use a wide arm swing down to: 4
  6. Popular outwards reel (combination full-arm and shoulder circles, alternating). Fast 8
  7. Short reel low (alternating lower-front & backs) 4
  8. Short reel low with circles doubled up front and then back. 4
  9. PARALLEL figure 8 hand circles inside & outside-the-arms forwards to the front.
Floor Pattern Walk into a CIRCLE floor pattern while swinging parallel figure 8 hand circles. 16 Face inwards to the circle. We waited until people were evenly spaced in the circles before beginning the middle section. Check the distance between you by spreading your arms out into a star.

Middle: Section B

  1. Synchronous time forward hand circles outside-the-arm to touch the ground. 8
  2. Backward hand circles back up high. 8
  3. 1, 2 with cross-overs between synchronous hand circles outside-the-arms. 16
  4. Begin with RH, alternating, backwards full-arm circles. 4
  5. Transition: slow half pirouette turning R, when R club is high.
  6. Facing outwards from the circle, alternating forwards full-arm circles. 4
  7. Full pirouette to face outwards straight into:
  8. Cross-follow forwards FAST. 4
  9. Circles split in half from the front. Walk with cross-follow to new floor pattern four
  10. PARALLEL LINES DOWN (at least 6 feet apart, clubs in start position). 16

Floor Pattern Walk from the circles into deep parallel lines facing the audience.

Finale: Section C

  1. PARALLEL lower-front & full-arm circles towards middle of lines (i.e.R line left). 8
  2. Two slow full-arm parallel turns. 4
  3. Parallel swing of leading hand between legs (lower backs, full-arm circles). 4
  4. Finish in start position.
  5. Synchronous time, outward full-arm and shoulder circles. Stop high. 8
  6. TOGETHER Beat floor shouting "HUH", rise quickly up to finish with arms out
  7. in a star. Statue for 4 counts. Collect torches in RH. Walk to form two long
  8. LINES ACROSS facing audience.
Bow twice, taking cue from mid person: then slowly walk off from the end of the line.

Fortunately the routine is much easier to perform than it is to read and transform into actual club swinging! However, I recognise that there are some slightly tricky aspects which need some explanation.

Hints on Section A - Vertical Moves in Synchronous and Alternating Time
The first difficult change is from synchronous time upper-front and shoulder circles into the same high pattern but in alternating time (3a Transition). Practise the change by performing just upper-front hand circles with your right hand and then adding an occasional single upper- back circle. Lesson 8 presents other exercises that will help you to learn how to change between timings. In particular, you should try the move shown in Figure 8.1, page 33. The next tricky aspect is to double up the timing on the lower-front and back hand circles, which is move number 7. Do the movement with just a single hand to get the wrist to swing two (rather than just one) circle both at lower-front and back positions.

Hints on Section B - Forward and Backward Directions
This section has two difficult aspects. The first is to rise up from the ground with backward cross-over circles. Expect the backward direction to feel awkward at first, but it becomes smoother after a little practice.

Perhaps the most flashy movement in this section is the full pirouette into the forward cross- follow. Practice full-arm pirouettes as explained on page 14 in order to learn a neat turn.

Hints on Section C - Parallel Movements
When performers are positioned behind each other and deep on to the audience, the effect of club swinging is greatly enhanced. The people directly in front appear to have many arms!

The most difficult transition in the final section is to swing between the legs and then change from parallel movements to an outward, synchronous time pattern. We stopped briefly at starting position to make the timing adjustment.

A loud "HUH" a the end is a signal to the audience that the routine is over and that they should start to cheer. This applause cue is reinforced by the stillness of performers as they statue in a star for 4 counts.

It is safer to alter a normal bow slightly so that the still lit torches are placed on the ground rather than in the air. Wait to blow out the torches at the side of the performance area.

Anna Jillings 1994