In the latest installment of our ongoing series, locals open up about their dramatic life experiences, from swimming with sharks to leaving Earth’s atmosphere to dodging ghosts.
Name: Lauren Çek, dancer
Lauren Çek has been dancing, she says, since she was “less than 2.” She has performed in the corps of Ballet Florida and Palm Beach Opera and then, as a belly dancer, appeared in a video for Pitbull and opened for Ludacris. She dances during peak dining hours at Delray restaurants like Taverna Opa, Taverna Trela and Olympia Grill. Additionally, the Boynton Beach-based dancer has been playing with fire since 2010—a hot topic that left us burning for more details.
“The main thing to remember is that heat goes up. You don’t want to put the fire in sideways or at an angle. You want to put it straight into your mouth, which means that you have to tilt your head completely back, and you need a long enough spoke so that the flame is not burning the hand that’s holding it.
Now that you have the heat going up and the flame going away from you, all you’re dealing with is the base of the flame and the Kevlar wick. The wick itself doesn’t get that hot, and as long as you’re using a high-quality wick that doesn’t have too much external material, like metal or fiberglass, you won’t have any burns. You also have to be sure you have no metal exposed on your stick.
Once you’re assured of all that, you stick out your tongue and guide the wick into your mouth through your tongue. At this point you’re holding your breath, you have everything sealed, and you make a tight seal with your teeth. Then you bring your lips around, but you don’t touch your lips to the metal, because it’s very hot. You give a short gust with your mouth, and you basically suffocate the fire with your mouth.
Sometimes, especially at the beginning, you’ll make tiny mistakes that were obvious looking back. For example, it’s hard to remember not to breathe in through your nose at that moment—and when you breathe in, the flame will go straight into your nose. It’s not a big deal; you just burn off some nose hairs.
Fire doesn’t really feel like anything—it feels like heat. Every once in a while you’ll get a little burn. I have a space in one of my teeth, and it gets me in one of my lips sometimes, because the flame will find its way through the hole. Fire tastes like the fuel, which has an oily, bitter taste. It definitely tastes like something you don’t want in your mouth, but you don’t spend a lot of time tasting it.
Audiences like danger—the idea that something could go wrong. And they like things that seem extremely difficult. So fire dancing seems to incorporate two of those elements. It’s part of the reason why, in my belly dance, I’ll always put fire on my sword if I can, because the sword is already something that scares them, because it’s a real blade. It’s not a sharpened blade, but it’s very heavy, and it does put holes through my veils and clothing sometimes. I punctured a suitcase before. You need to give it a rest after a night of fire eating. If I spend a weekend doing it, I’ll feel like I ate hot soup that got me a little bit. But your mouth heals very quickly. [At the time of this interview], I’ll be at different luaus for private events this weekend, and I’ll probably be wanting ice cream after it’s over.”