Twenty-four “fearless, creative and supremely skilled” fireknife dancers – 23 men and one woman – lit up the Polynesian Cultural Center on Wednesday, kicking off the World Fireknife Championships.
Competitors came from Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, California, Orlando, Fla., Pittsburgh, and Fukushima, Japan, to take part in the Laie, Oahu, event. Wearing only a traditional lavalava and energized by the rhythmic thumping of 10 drummers, the fireknife dancers displayed a combination of speed, dexterity, strength, acrobatics, stamina, and bravery in twirling, tossing, catching, and grabbing the fiery ends of the fireknives, contest officials said.
Nine competitors advanced to the Senior Division Thursday night: Osmond Atonio of Samoa, Tuika Faumuina of Pittsburgh, Kuinise Leiataua of Honolulu, Malo Matau of Laie, Oahu, Mikaele Oloa of Waialua, Oahu, Falaniko Penesa of Samoa, Nakaya Suguru of Fukushima, Via Tiumalu of Orlando and Matuni Vaiaoga of Orlando.
Also competing tonight will be the next generation of fireknife dancers in two Junior Divisions (ages 6 to 11 and 12 to 17), along with an entertaining, choreographed team competition, including a women’s group of fireknife dancers. Now in its 22nd year, the World Fireknife Championships is a highlight of the center’s annual We Are Samoa Festival.
The competition to determine this year’s champion continues nightly through Saturday.
Each night of the World Fireknife Championships is being live streamed online at new.livestream.com/polynesia-live-event. For more information on the World Fireknife Championships, semifinals visit worldfireknife.com.