Mesmerizing Fire Show at Wailua Bay

By Emma Grunwald, The Garden Island newspaper,


KAPA’A — Twice a week, the Hilton Garden Inn Kaua’i on Wailua Bay hosts what it calls a “mesmerizing fire show” for visitors, and it certainly kept that promise on Friday night.

“It was a success,” said dancer Coppin Colburn, who is also the show manager, in an interview with The Garden Island minutes after the final performance.

Friday night’s show featured nine performers ? three drummers, three female dancers, and three male dancers ? executing avariety of seemingly death-defying fire acts.

Audience members Cheri and Steve Burningham, of Utah, said it was “the best show (they) have ever seen on the islands,” noting that they have been to many luaus in their 30-plus visits to Hawai’ i over the years.

“We saw them do a lot of things we don’t normally see,” said Steve Burningham.

“I think part of it, is it was more personable, more interactive, and it was a smaller group,” said Cheri Burningham.

Top: Three dancers complete a routine with flaming torches Friday night at Hilton Garden Inn Kaua’i on Wailua Bay. Bottom: Coppin Colburn, second from the left, watches as another male performer jumps over fire. Photos by Emma Grunwald

Stunts included acrobatic tricks with machetes set ablaze on both ends, tiki torches being twirled and tossed into the air, fire eating, and traditional drumming.

Dancing in the show requires a background in Polynesian dancing and years of practice, but the real test is overcoming the fear of fire.

“It’s real dangerous. Tonight, I think all of us got burned,” said Colburn. “People don’t realize how hot it is. It’s hot, and they think that we use some kind of chemical to protect ourselves. There’s no protection.”

Spectators, including Sammi Hong from Toronto, Ontario, were amazed that the dancers were fully exposed to the flames.

“It’s more dangerous to know that there are no chemicals to protect them. They actually go bare skin,” she said.

Hong was celebrating her last night in Kaua’i with her husband, Mark Lau, and their two young daughters, Emmabelle, 7, and Jaelynn, 4.

“This was kind of like the finale to our trip, and the dinner was great,” said Lau.

Prior to the show, guests heard live music and were served an appetizer plate, a Mai Tai, and a buffet-style dinner that includes pineapple salad, garlic fried rice, pan-roasted fish with Lilikoi ginger butter, and Kalbi Short ribs.

“They did a great job hosting it. And there was a lot of fun that was added to it. And you’ll learn a lot about the island and the culture as well,” said Lau.

Colburn emphasized the importance of providing the audience with historical knowledge of the ancient-style performances, which originate from a variety of Polynesian islands.

“It took me about four years to put the show together because I wanted the stories to be educating and authentic,” said Colburn. “I actually went, and I interviewed people from the different countries. I tried to get as many fire-related dances to add to the show,” he said.

Karim and Steven Treistman, schoolteachers from Houston, Texas, seemed to appreciate Colburn’s efforts. They were glad to have made a last-minute reservation for the show on their last night on the island.

“I saw the sign and I said, ‘We have to end our trip with something really cool,'” said Karim Treistman.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect since I’ve been to a luau before, but this was obviously advertised as a fire show. I wasn’t sure what the difference would be. But I liked it a lot,” said Steven Treistman.

Thankfully, everyone in the audience was just able to relax and enjoy the show on Friday night. But even being a viewer comes with risks.

“We’re in the back over here hoping that nobody catches on fire, and it has happened,” said Colburn, adding that they use a towel to smother the fire in those instances.

“In no way is it commercialized. Everything is authentic. It’s intimate,” he said.

The Ahi Uila Fire Show begins at 5:45 p.m. every Tuesday and Friday night. Tickets cost $159 for VIP admission, $55 to $119 for general admission, and $34 to $79 for admission without dinner. For more information on tickets and prices visit: