The ring of fire: Fire knife performers light up LaVell Edwards Stadium

There is a new addition to the BYU football team this year, although you won’t see them making tackles or catches. These players take the field between the third and fourth quarters of home games, and instead of playing with a football, they play with fire.

National fire knife performers Martin Tevaga, Arthur Tupola, Eldon Scanlan and Lasi Reed have been competing against each other in fire knife competitions for years. However, they now work as a team to hype up the fans and players at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

For Reed and Tevaga, this has been their first time performing at a collegiate stadium. Tevaga stated that he was expecting about 8,000 fans to be there. Once he realized the crowd was made up of more than eight times that amount, he started to get cold feet.

“The atmosphere was unreal,” Tevaga said. “I was already getting nervous knowing that I was going to have to perform in the middle of this field at one point, (I was) so anxious to where I almost cried. The atmosphere was already lit before we even performed.”

Tevaga began his fire knife journey 30 years ago when he was just five years old. After moving from Oahu, Hawaii to Herriman, he continued to practice his fire knife skills to be able to perform at events like these.

Martin Tevaga performing at the BYU/Wyoming game on Sept. 24. (BYU photo)

“I think fire knife dancing gives me purpose, (it) gives me an identity,” Tevaga commented about the meaning of this sacred practice. “I was very proud to represent Samoa as a culture, to represent fire knife dancing and the community as whole.”

When asked to perform at the home games for this season, Tevaga was excited to share this part of his life and his culture. “If I could put it in one word, it’s gratifying.. Taking the things that I’ve learned and I’ve gained through fire knife dancing to perform in front of such a huge crowd.”

Reed felt similar about the experience of performing in front of so many people. “My main purpose is to represent who I am, where I come from and to represent those who have taught me, those who have passed before that have been able to teach me this amazing art.”

Reed also grew up in Hawaii and spent most of his time performing at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Although Reed was unable to learn the art of fire knife dancing while growing up, he was taught after graduating high school and has been fire knife dancing ever since.

Reed emphasized the fact that he does this for his last name and not his first name, something he learned from his training as a fire knife dancer. “You need to make sure that you are doing it for the right reason and that you are gonna leave it all out there,” Reed said.

Lasi Reed performing performing at the BYU/Wyoming game on Sept. 24. (BYU photo)

“Its hard to develop the confidence and the skill to train for performances and then to go out there and do it with no fear because its an actual knife that we are dancing with and then you add fire to it,” Reed said about the chance to perform in front of such a large crowd. “It’s a heightened risk but definitely rewarding to be able to perform in an environment like this where we can reach so many people at one time.”

Not only were these performers impacted by the stadium, but the stadium was impacted by them, especially in the first home game against Baylor on Sept. 10.

“The game was already really close. I like to believe that we helped rile everyone up for the last hoorah,” Tevaga said. “It almost felt like we were a part of that team, we were fighting that fight with them. To see everyone come together, nothing mattered but the fact that we were all there to represent and cheer on the boys at BYU.”

The energy on the field that night was recognized by many, especially Baylor fans. Baylor podcaster Drake C. Toll tweeted about the “death sentence” that is the electricity of the LaVell Edwards Stadium.

The fire knife performers will continue to perform at each home game this season. Tune in to catch their fire knife dancing celebration on Saturday, Oct. 15 against Arkansas at LaVell’s house.

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