The ABC Performance Guide: Fans & Fan Dancing Part 2

Welcome once more to the ABC Performance Guide. This week we are continuing our study of fans and fan dancing.

Silk Veil Fans
Silk veil fans are another popular choice when using fans in burlesque, and as with the other kinds of fans we looked at last week (ostrich plume, boa and pheasant feather fans) they create a completely different visual spectacle of their own. Generally mounted on bamboo staves, the fan part is composed of a long flowing length of silk which can be manipulated to create beautiful waves of fabric. Veil fans are very lightweight compared to their feather counterparts and when used properly, they can create a stunning, almost ethereal visual that seems effortless and flowing.

Fire Fans
Fire fans have become much more common in burlesque performance in the UK over the last 10 years. Fire fans can be a fixed metal frame or collapsible metal staves. One the end of each stave is a Kevlar wick, which is dipped in a flammable substance, such as liquid petroleum and then lit. This creates a dazzling spectacle of flames, which can then be manipulated via different movements. Unlike feather fans, they are not used in a hide and reveal fashion, but can be used for fakhir (body-burning).

Cat Aclysmic poses with fire fans. Image copyright Stuart Crawford.
Glasgow-based fire performer Cat Aclysmic. Image copyright Stuart Crawford.

However, mostly they are used to create movement and shapes around the performer, with the added edge of danger created by the element of fire. (Health and Safety note: fire fans require special training and should not be attempted alone if you do not have a background in fire performance. If you are interested in working with fire in performance, there are a number of reputable (and insured) teachers out there, including Jaggy Events (Scotland) and Red Sarah (London). Additionally, fire performance requires special liability insurance, which can be taken out via Equity).

DIY Fans – Themed
We have seen all kinds of themed DIY fans over the years – burlesquers really are an imaginative bunch. One of the most common themes, is fans composed of dollar bills mounted on staves, for routines set to ‘Big Spender’ and other such songs. The use of (fake) money / notes is effective, as they tie in the fans with the theme of the chosen backing track, whilst also remaining light-weight enough to be easily manoeuvrable without appearing clumsy, Generally used in a similar way to classic feather fans, in a hide and reveal style piece.
Fans made out of fake flowers are another popular idea and can look beautiful, with the mingling colours and different types of flowers interwoven around each other. Depending on the size of this type of fan however, they can end up very heavy and thus limit the style and type of movement that can be achieved so be careful not to overload them if making yourself, as it can render the fans clumsy looking when used in performance if they are too heavy.

That brings us to the end of this week’s blog. Tune in next week for the final part in our Fans & Fan Dancing special, when we’ll be looking at different kinds of technique for the most popular fan types, as well as pitfalls to watch out for when creating a performance based around fans.

If you missed Part 1 of our guide to Fans & Fan Dancing you can find it here: Fans & Fan Dancing Part 1.