Emily Quant of Garrison is a fire-spinning belly dancer. Later this month she will attempt to set a world record for sword-balancing.
Was this the career path your high school counselor recommended?
No! I was going to be a philosophy major, you know, go for the big bucks, then go into one of the sciences. But in college, I realized how much I missed dancing — I’d danced since I was 5 years old. So I danced professionally, including with contemporary companies in New York City. A few years ago, I was no longer performing much. I’m 41; my body was changing. I wanted to keep dancing — I can be a philosopher when I’m 78 — so in 2019 I launched my own company, The Pyro Department.
What prompted you to chase the record for sword-balancing?
I have a ballet background, so balancing was easy. During the pandemic, I had no shows, so for fun I started demonstrating sword balancing via Zoom. People really got excited about it. It took me a year to be able to balance 21 swords at once. It takes a lot of strength. The swords weigh 2 pounds each and at one show I balanced 61. It’s intense. They’re dulled prop swords, but they can still cut me when they fall. I started thinking about doing sword balancing as a show at Renaissance fairs. I thought I was onto something: It’s hard to come up with something that’s not already a world record.
How will you establish the record?
I’m going for most swords balanced in one minute and the most in three minutes. I must balance at least 12 in one minute and at least 30 in three minutes for it to be recognized as the record; that’s difficult! I can position myself any way I want. An assistant will hand me each sword and I place them on my body, one at a time. I must document the attempt on video and have three witnesses. There are numerous rules: limits on the size and curve of the swords, no sticky substances, no skin-drying agents. I’ll make the attempt in Salem, Massachusetts, at the end of this month.
What is fire-spinning?
That’s mainly what I perform. You use metal or wood props with Kevlar wicks soaked in white gas. They become fire props. It’s like having a dance partner without having to hire one. It’s like juggling. You learn the movements and techniques without fire. With repetition, it gets more relaxed, more fluid. I always have a person with me who has taken a course in fire safety. If someone in our field has an accident, it brings everybody down.
Where do you perform?
Mostly in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. About 70 percent of my business comes from thebash.com, where you can book any kind of entertainer, from fire dancers and balloon twisters to singing telegrams, caricaturists and aerialists. People also book me at pyrodept.com. We’ll be performing at the Kingdom Faire, the pirate show in Putnam Valley, on April 30. I wanted to do that show because pirates and swords go great together!