shameless self promotion


Bruce Salamandir-Feyrecilde (pronounced "fair child") shows his poi-swinging skills. He goes by the name salamandir, with the "s" lowercase.

He’s seen fire and he’s seen pain
Art becomes therapy after brain injury
November 01 2006

His lips are turned up in a slight smile as Bruce salamandir-Feyrecilde swings the chained balls of fire.

He stares blankly at a tree. It’s unclear whether his expression is one of inner peace or deep focus.

“I don’t know either,” said salamandir of Federal Way. “I’m looking at that tree because if I look at the fire, I freak out.”

Salamandir has been swinging poi since he suffered a brain injury in 2003.

“Everybody told me it would be good therapy,” he said.

Poi is similar to juggling with balls on ropes. The balls are swung in various circular, fluid motions.

The art originated in New Zealand and was used to increase flexibility, strength and coordination.

Poi can be practiced with socks, bean bags, tennis balls or any small object on a string.

Performers often use various glowing items or fire.

Salamandir uses two metal chains with balls of kevlar wicking at the ends. He lights the fire with classic lighter fluid, although several Web sites suggest paraffin or kerosene, noting that alcohol and lighter fluid or dangerous due to their low flash point.

He keeps a fire extinguisher nearby every time he performs.

Besides performing in his yard for practice, salamandir performs publicly with the Seattle-based group Cirque de Flambe.

The Cirque de Flambe performs a circus-inspired act using pyrotechnics.

Salamandir mostly plays musical instruments for the group. When he does perform with fire, he’s part of the Big Boys with Pois act. Salamandir said he rarely performs for a crowd because although it’s an art he loves, he just isn’t very talented.


“I hesitate to call myself a fire dancer because that requires a lot more grace and dexterity than I have,” he said. “The fact that I have a brain injury and I’m still able to do this stuff at all is really amazing.”

In July 2003, salamandir and his wife were getting ready for bed on a Sunday night when he suddenly fell over and started drooling, he said.

“I remember being carried out of the room by the guys from the ambulance,” he said.

He was in a coma for 10 days, he said.

“It’s amazing that I’m alive,” he added.

An arteriovenous malformation had ruptured in salamandir’s brain, causing a cerebral hemorrhage.

The effect was similar to an aneurysm.

“It’s a fancy way of saying my brain exploded,” he said.

According to an article on, some types of cerebral hemorrhages kill 50 percent of people who suffer them. Of those who survive, 50 percent are left with a permanent major neurological deficit.

Salamandir points to the scar that spreads across the left side of his head and the screw that sticks out slightly from beneath his scalp.

“I have a three-inch hole in my head where they removed a blood clot the size of an egg,” he said.

Salamandir said that today, he struggles with language, and his right hand is numb and doesn’t work as well as it used to.

“A lot of times I’ll forget, for example, that I have a right arm at all. It just sort of hangs there,” he said.

Poi is therapeutic because salamandir is forced to use his right arm.

“Not only does it engage both my hands, but it engages both my hands on both sides of my body,” he said.

Besides swinging poi, salamandir plays a variety of woodwind, brass and keyboard instruments for the Fremont Philharmonic, the Ballard Sedentary Sousa Band, the Banda Gozona and The Really Big Production Company.

Currently, salamandir is working on perfecting a flaming tuba act. He was inspired by a video of a man performing with a flaming sousaphone.

He hopes to perform with his flaming tuba next year.