U.S. champion fireknife dancers raise awareness, build connections

A public diplomacy grant enabled three world champion fireknife dancers, including Mia Angelo (center) from Myrtle Beach, S.C. to travel to Aotearoa New Zealand for the 4th Siva Afi (fireknife dancing) Festival and Pasifika Festival in Auckland. Siva Afi is a tradition rooted in Samoan culture that incorporates the Samoan weapon nifo oti (war knife) with fire and dates back to the 13th century. The visit demonstrated historical and contemporary connections between Polynesian diaspora communities in the United States and New Zealand. Having studied at Brigham Young University in Hawaii and worked at Disney World in Orlando as fireknife dancers, the U.S. team role-modeled the personal education and work pathways they took in the United States while maintaining their Pacific cultural heritage. The connections made at the festival deepened U.S. relationships with Pacific communities based on shared values, affirming America as a Pacific nation.  

Photo by Ola Thorsen

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