The Firegirl and Her Dancers

*(originally posted at boyatlarge.com in 1997)

…at my Aunt Hue and Uncle Hoang’s 10th anniversary party, I saw the most awkward but, yet, interesting bit of entertainment.  At the first of the show, a lovely young lady, who I was a bit smitten to at the time, was on stage singing. After her song, she went offstage and then two very energetic gals in little outfits came on and danced spasticly all over the stage to some Vietnamese techno music. To finish it off, the first girl came back onstage but, this time, with less clothing but more of a — pardon the pun — spark to her act…


dcrs…after the first girl walked off stage (after singing a beautiful Vietnamese song) the speakers blared some fast-paced techno jolts into the room and then two adrenaline-rushed girls came onstage and were literally all over the place. This took the audience by surprise because, after all, it was an anniversary / wedding reception. The audience wasn’t offended by it, though. It actually brought the mood in the room up a few more notches (not that it was a bad mood in the air in the first place — everyone was having a lot of fun — but after this act, everyone’s reservations dropped and people were a lot more energetic and pumped to dance and sing and have a good time). But, this was only the beginning…fg3

…as everyone watched, we all suddenly realized that the two dancers were a cover-up for what was to come next. While the two ladies danced and distracted the audience, the previous singing girl had gone to the backroom to change into a less — ahem — modest outfit. As soon as she was ready, the two dancers ran off stage to make room for a sparkling, bikini-clad fire twirler — and the fires did twirl. She danced to the same music the two girls had danced to but, only now, rythmically waving and throwing the fire batons around her. And to prove she wasn’t just another pretty face, she also put the burning ends of the batons into her mouth, on her tongue, and seductively across her arms and thighs. She even encouraged the men offstage to come on stage with unlit cigarettes which she would light with one of the burning batons in her teeth. This definitely wasn’t the usual fare you see at an anniversary party…it felt more like a bachelor party…fg4

…much to many of my family members’ surprise, I was quite embarrassed to be watching. My aunt and uncle had asked me to videotape the evening for them so they could look back on the night, and, so, I was responsible for recording our risque little show. Normally I wouldn’t have minded but, earlier on in the evening, my girl-radar tuned me in on this lovely little girl in a pink dress and white blouse. It was one of those moments where I knew nothing would ever become of the situation because of the language barrier, the distance of our homes, and mostly,my spineless nerves but I was going to at least try to impress her that night so she could go home and wonder who that keen-o, neat-o guy was at the party. Well, by the time the firegal had started her act and I had begun taping it for my aunt and uncle (I originally planned on leaving it out but my Uncle Hanh, being the joker he was, pushed me into filming it while he teased me as I was filming), I noticed that I was in clear view of the girl I was trying to impress. I was so embarrassed because I had spent the whole night not paying much attention to any of the other girls in the room (although there were many other beautiful girls there) and just looking over at her and smiling when we made eye contact…and now I had my full attention on the next-to-naked girl on stage…and even worse I was videotaping it (if I had my way, I would have followed the cutie gal around the room all night and videotaped her but I think that might have scared her off). Oh, well, I did get to catch her on video later — she was standing in the background when I was taping my Uncle Hoang at the door wishing everyone a goodnight…fg2

…so, what was one to think of a culture that encourages scantily-clad firewomen to dance at anniversary parties? What kind of an image did I get from a bunch of grown, married men running onstage to have cigarettes lit by the human torch and tipping her while doing so? What does one make of a room full of men and women drinking heavily and just being themselves around each other and less reserved as they seem to out in the streets? I think they are all human just like the rest of us. The Asian cultures are usually seen as quiet and very mannerly and and not the types to expect to “have a good time”…and this is almost very true…but they do have a good time. They just do some a bit differently in different situations, as everyone does. My family has the most fun sitting on the floor in the living having dinner with each other and talking and just being with each other. Others like to sit on their porch on a warm day and just watch the children play in the streets and hear the hustleof the marketplace around the corner. I like to sit back and watch life and capture it on film or in my drawings…the important point is everyone is having fun and everyone is happy. So, whether it be fishing or walking in the country or singing karaoke or even twirling fire in your underwear, the people of Vietnam are just like the rest of the world and they’re having fun.

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