The Second Generation of Roatan’s Fire Dancers
Since 2017, Villeda trained in fire performance and sandcastle artistry under Paul Abel, a Canadian fire artist who pioneered the craft on the island in the early 2000s. “[Paul] was really creative, and that’s what I liked about him,” Villeda said. He collaborated with Abel until 2021, when he purchased the fire show business from him as Abel relocated to the Cayman Islands. While Abel’s venture was known as Island Fire, Villeda’s enterprise now goes by the name Roatan Fire.
Villeda has been performing fire shows for friends since 2010. His permanent shows are at Boat Bar, Mayan Princess, Infinity Bay, Paradise Hotel and Bananarama. In addition to fire shows, Villeda does work as sign maker, tour guide, and sandcastle artist on the island.
Evelyn and Ronis first practice their performances without fire in the backyard of their Mud Hole home. After dry runs, they practice with fire, fueled by premium gasoline. Sometimes the Roatan Fire duo becomes a trio when the couple’s 21-year-old nephew, Junior Villeda, joins the show.
The artistic choices come with some risks. Flames, fueled by premium gasoline, fly several feet before landing on the sand near the dancers. The fire performers use sun cream as a modest precaution against burns. While the couple says they’ve never had accidents involving spectators, they have suffered a few minor burns over the years. “We apply ice to cool the area and use sulfadiazine cream on the burns,” says Evelyn, showing a round mark on her leg where a fire poi had burned her. “The show goes on. I smile as if nothing happened.”
The artistic choices come with some risks.