The boy who played with fire
CULTURE AND CAPITAL DAY REPORTER
If you play with fire, prepare to get burnt.
Burns, scars and numbed taste buds are all in a day's work for acrobat and fire dancer Pascal Ackermann, who wowed audiences at this year's World of WearableArt show.
The 36-year-old from Switzerland showcased his fiery exploits in the Visual Symphony section of the sold-out show, which finished last night.
He moved to New Zealand after completing a four-year violin-making apprenticeship and began working in Nelson, before teaching himself fire poi and fire breathing more than 10 years ago.
''You get together with people and learn off other people.
''Everyone's got their own style. Some are maybe doing it more movement-based or dance-related and some are just trying to do tricks,'' he said.
''I do both. For me it's important to move, not just stand in one place.''
Ackermann said the allure of fire had never left him.
''Fire is a danger. We are all drawn to fire. Wherever there's a fireplace you'll always see someone poking it, playing with it. It's what we do. It's a primal thing.
''I love the heat of it. I love how far you can push it, further and further until you get burnt.''
He regularly gets burnt for his craft, with blisters on his hands, scars on his arms and, once, first-degree burns to his entire face that left him ''looking like Freddy Krueger''.
The solvent used for blowing fire could leave him with a numb jaw and could dull the taste buds.
For three years, Ackermann has been involved in the WOW shows, the first year in a fiery display of Spanish web, in which he was spun around in midair while holding on to a burning rope.
Ackermann achieved a Guinness Book of Records feat for fire-eating in 2010.
While on the set of Italian television show Lo Show dei Record, he set the record for the most fire torches extinguished with the mouth - 89 in one minute.
He tours shows throughout the country with Lyttelton-based The Loons Circus Theatre Company.
Ackermann said it was a constant challenge to make a living on stage, but would continue to do what he loved as long as he was able.
''I love doing WOW. It's a great bunch of people and an amazing production.
''And you get paid what you should be paid as a performer, which you can't often say in New Zealand. It's difficult to make money here as a performer.''
He is developing a solo show, The Lepidopterist, or the butterfly collector, after receiving funding from Creative New Zealand. He plans to tour it nationally next year
- © Fairfax NZ News
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