The mission of The Playing Mantis is to improve the recognizability and accessibility of fire dancing to the general public. We plan to do this through direct exposure to performances as well as providing access to instruction. We look forward to working with fire dancers who have developed a broad variety of styles and showcasing the diversity inherent in this unique art.
We further wish to support the advancement of fire dancing as an art form by providing access to quality props. We will provide not only well-constructed and reliable versions of the most commonly used tools, but also encourage and support innovation and the development of new props and skills by the fire dancing community.
Mantis started dancing with poi in the spring of 2001, in an area without other spinners. Without the wealth of online learning resources available today, he was self-taught for 4 years before connecting with other fire dancers up and down the east coast. This caused him to stretch a narrow set of tricks as much as possible, developing an excellent sense of body mechanics and a unique style.
Partly due to the lack of places he could learn more advanced poi, Mantis began cross-training with a variety of props to discover new types of movement. By taking techniques from the martial arts, juggling, and other forms of object manipulation, he found he could stretch his abilities in new ways. A background in puppetry also influenced this process, as it encouraged Mantis to search for the movement potential in unconventional props and integrate these into his style.
Because of this he has been developing new tools and props since the beginning of his training, often designing them from scratch. Inspired by the growth of fire dancing over the past several years, he is pleased to be able to offer his experience to help further the art.
SnapDragon began firedancing in 2006 after watching other fire performers outside of an art gallery. An experienced gymnast, she was excited to learn a new skill to expand her performances. The local firedancing community was happy to help her, and she picked up poi and staff quickly. Since then she has worked to integrate acrobatics into her firedancing and infuse even more energy into her performances.
As her abilities have improved, SnapDragon has begun experimenting with unconventional props, such as the fire jump rope. An incredibly physically demanding prop, the jump rope appeals to SnapDragon personally due to her background in bodybuilding. As a certified personal trainer and gymnastics coach, she is very interested in the fitness potential inherent in many skill toys. She is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with students and audiences alike.